Seattle's disappearing neon history
Why it matters: While Seattle's not known for neon the way cities like Singapore and Las Vegas are, the city's collection is recognized as important due in part to the influence of early neon artist Bea Haverfield.
- He catalogs them by neighborhood and street in a way that makes it easy to do a self-guided tour.
What they're saying: Technological advancements in the form of much cheaper LED lights and plastic tubing are largely responsible for neon's disappearance, Hucke told Axios. But there are still unique, handcrafted pieces around.
- "It's history that's in plain sight but is largely overlooked," he said.
Between the lines: Many Pacific Northwest companies replaced their neon signs during the '70s and '80s following campaigns to ban them because they were considered "tacky" and "garish," said collector John Bennett of John Bennett Properties.
- But Bennett loves them. One of his favorites is the Kitsap Lake Drive-In sign now on display in the Trigger Building on 1st Avenue South.
Be smart: In addition to its iconic outdoor sign, Pike Place Market has dozens of indoor examples you can see in less than an hour, said Hucke.
- Market Street in Ballard, Broadway on Capitol Hill, Fremont and the International District, where you can find neon signs with Chinese characters, are worth a visit, too, he said.
- The Add Bardahl oil sign in Ballard, the Wonder Bread sign at 18th Avenue and South Jackson Street and the Buckaroo sign at the Seattle Tavern and Pool Room in Georgetown are other classics, he said.
- Aside from the Elephant signs, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Globe on Elliott Avenue West is the only other neon sign designated as a city landmark, Sarah Sodt, Seattle's historic preservation officer, told Axios.
1 fun thing: The founders of Capitol Hill-born Top Pot Doughnuts named their business after buying a "Top Spot" sign that was missing the middle "S", said Hucke. They added a coffee pot and called it good, he said.
What we're watching: Fletcher Blazek with Seattle-based Western Neon says neon is enjoying a resurgence.
- The Bar at Bombo, The Bar at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Post Pike Bar & Cafe and Skillet Diner @ Post Alley all have new neon, Blazek said.
- And in the coming weeks, installations will be unveiled at The Victor Tavern on 6th Ave., Cole's Tavern on the Mukilteo Speedway and Pike Brewing at the Seattle Convention Center.
Through Sept. 30, Axios readers can use "NEONLOVE10" for $10 off every copy of "Seattle Neon."
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