Thursday, March 10, 2022

Neon signs: fabulous topic for March meeting Guest Speaker

Diane Smith brought us Jay Mark for the March meeting guest speaker. Who knew neon signs were so historical and artistic? Thanks to Diane Smith who enlisted our March guest speaker, Jay Mark, to educate us on the value of these iconic landmarks. The Diving Lady and Buckhorn Baths were two that he discussed.

Many signs have been destroyed over the years, but Mesa Preservation Foundation is working on saving them. We were privileged to see Donofrio Candy and Rose Bowl neon sign in the back lot at the AZ Heritage Center, ready for restoration.

Diane explained,"Jay Mark takes us on the fascinating journey of neon--from novelty to clutter to a newly appreciated art form in a span of less than a century. Motorized transportation, a national highway network, and a gas called neon converged at a propitious time in the early 20th century to become a unique communication tool that forever changed the American roadside landscape. Later, governments aggressively outlawed or discouraged its use, and now neon signs are recognized as an art form worth preserving. Jay teaches, writes and works in the fields of historic preservation, history museums, public transportation, urban planning and public policy. His passion for preservation has been recognized by many, including winning the Arizona Historical Society's Al Merito Award. After Jay speaks, Nathan Samoriski, AHS Collections Manager, will take us outside to view the Rose Bowl and Donofrio's signs, and tell us how the signs became the property of AHS." 

Diane Smith introduces guest speaker Jay Mark

Fundraisers were held to support the restoration project. 

To give perspective: Divers are 9 feet to 15 feet. Each letter in MOTEL is 6.5 feet tall.

Over 1,000 turned out to re-light the Diving Lady

Jay gives the history of Buckhorn Baths

Signs are preserved at Neon Sign Park in Casa Grande

Nathan Samoriski, AHS Collections Manager, explains the history of the
Donofrio Candy and Rose Bowl neon signs.

Back lot of AZ Heritage Center

Jay Mark shows the detail on the 1920 Donofrio Candy neon sign

Renee Donnelly visits with Marge Jantz who was instrumental in
creating the Casa Grande Neon Park.

Jay Mark points out areas that birds and other critters can enter
the signs leading to destruction.