Scaffold Signs (page 1)

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The photos and links at these pages are meant to accompany an article that I wrote for the Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal. This section is organized alphabetically by state.

In the early 1900s, with the dual development of electricity and the automobile, thousands of rooftop signs were erected on rooftops around the country. At the time, they were called "sky signs." They have come to be known as scaffold signs because of their prominent steel supports. By my definition, these are the open type with freestanding letters rather than sign panels installed on scaffolding. These signs were often installed on rooftop corners, to be viewed by pedestrians and motorists from two directions. Sometimes, twin signs were erected on opposite sides of buildings, making them hard to miss. These signs became symbols of pride and stability in the downtowns they inhabited. Most commonly, they featured all caps, block letters and advertised for hotels, banks, insurance companies, corporate headquarters, car dealerships, and theatres. Early scaffold bulb signs were frequently updated later with neon. These same signs are now giving way to either LED bulbs, backlit plastic letters, or entirely new business names. There are roughly about 200 vintage scaffold signs still on display.

Birmingham, AL
The WBRC television station was established in 1949. The station moved to this location in 1954. This sign might be from then. For more, see this website. [map]

More Alabama Scaffold Signs:
City Federal (Birmingham)

Freeman Center
Hot Springs, AR
First Financial Bank
El Dorado, AR
The Freeman Center shopping center sign might be from the 1950s. [map]

The First Financial Bank sign is installed on the roof of the Exchange Bank which was built in 1927. In the 1950s, the sign on the scaffolding advertised for Lion Oil. I don't know when First Financial moved into the building or when this sign was built. For more, see this website. [map]

Hotel Gadsden
Douglas, AZ
Motel Du Beau
Flagstaff, AZ
Downtowner Motel
Flagstaff, AZ
The Hotel Gadsden was built in 1907. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1929. This rooftop sign is probably from then. It was definitely there by the 1940s. For more, see this website. [map]

The Motel Du Beau was built in 1929 as Du Beau's Motel Inn. It was the city's first motel and is still operating. The sign was built in 1934. [map]

The Downtowner Motel was also built in 1929 on what was then Route 66. At that time, the motel had small rooftop and projecting signs. In 1934, the federal government realigned Route 66, one block north just above the train station. This prompted the Downtowner, then known as the Nackard Inn, and the Motel Du Beau to immediately build 60-foot-tall tower signs in order to be visible from Route 66 and downtown.

The oval panel on the Motel Downtowner sign originally boasted the AAA-approved logo. In 1957, when the motel was renamed the Nackard's Downtowner Motel, new "Downtowner" letters took top billing and the "Nackard" letters were moved below and installed vertically. At that point, the sign was lit with gold, white, and blue neon. Much later, the AAA logo was repainted with the room rate. The sign has not been lit in decades and the motel now houses the Grand Canyon International Hostel. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

Hotel Beale
Kingman, AZ
The Hotel Beale was built in 1899. These twin rooftop signs have been here since at least 1940. The hotel has been closed for many years. [map]

Hotel Congress
Tucson, AZ
2012: 2019:
The Hotel Congress was built in 1919. This rooftop sign was built around 1940. In 2018, the "100" neon letters were added to the sign to celebrate the hotel's 100th year anniversary. For more, see this website. [map]

Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge
Yuma, AZ
The Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge spans the Colorado River and was built in 1915. The bulb sign has been there since at least the 1930s. It was restored around 2002. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

More Arizona Scaffold Signs:
Hotel Monte Vista (Flagstaff)
El Trovatore Motel (Kingman)

Padre Hotel
Bakersfield, CA
El Rancho Motel
Barstow, CA
The Padre Hotel was built in 1928. It was extensively renovated in 2010. This neon scaffold sign on the roof was either restored or replicated at that time. The letters originally read "Hotel Padre" and later were changed to read "The Padre". For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

The El Rancho Motel was built in 1947. The sign was installed then. It was built by the Electrical Products Corporation. In 2022, the motel was devastated by fire. It's not known yet what will happen with the property or sign. For more, see this website. [map]

Borrmann Steels
Burbank, CA
Borrmann Steels was founded in 1919 in Oakland, CA. At some point, the company moved to Los Angeles. By 1953, this location had opened. The business is still operating, now as the Borrman Metal Center. [map]

Hotel De Anza
Calexico, CA
C&H Sugar
Crockett, CA
The Hotel De Anza was built in 1931. I believe these two, twin signs were installed then. For more, see this website. [map]

This C&H Sugar sign was installed in 1956 on the side of the company's refinery and headquarters building. The sign is 180 feet wide and was built by Electrical Products Corp. (EPCO). The "C" and "H" letters are 24 feet tall and composed of scintillating bulbs. In 2015, the 900 incandescent bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs. I don't believe they flash any more. The rest of the neon text flashes on and off. The C&H stands for California and Hawaiian Sugar Company which was founded in 1906. For more, see these websites: 1, 2 and 3. [map]

Gas [gone]
Fresno, CA
This towering Gas sign had probably been there since at least the 1960s. There was an operating Valero gas station at its base until the end. In 2016, the site had been bulldozed and the sign was destroyed.

Farmers & Merchants Bank
Long Beach, CA
The Farmers & Merchants Bank was built in 1923. The rooftop sign may be from then. It was restored in 2011. For more, see this website. [map]

DC Jets
Long Beach, CA
The Fly DC Jets sign was built in 1956 and installed on top of the Douglas Aircraft assembly plant. "DC" stands for Douglas Commercial. The sign used to read Fly DC-10 Jets" but the "10" was removed later on. From 1997-2006, the building housed the Boeing Company. In 2013, the building was leased by Mercedes-Benz which intends to keep the sign. These photos are from 2013. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

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