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Neon Signs Around the World are Facing Extinction - or P...

Neon Signs Around the World are Facing Extinction - or Preservation?

The retro neon signs that adorn old businesses are becoming more and more rare in our cities. Even in New York they are seen as an endangered species. The Guardian recently wrote about how “Subway Inn” on Lexington Avenue was added to the list of the deceased. “New York used to be synonymous with neon

Farine Five Roses sign Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The retro neon signs that adorn old businesses are becoming more and more rare in our cities. Even in New York they are seen as an endangered species.

The Guardian recently wrote about how "Subway Inn" on Lexington Avenue was added to the list of the deceased. "New York used to be synonymous with neon signs - today they are nearly impossible to find," they deplore. In New York, these old signs, whose origins go back all the way to the 1920s, often disappear with property owner shifts, reported the journalist Adrian Brune.

The latter furthermore reveals that an organization, the aptly named Let there be Neon, has been fighting since the 1970s to recycle and save them.

Neon signs in Las Vegas, Nevada

At home, we can always count on Heritage Montreal, which has waged war since 2006 in order to defend the famous "Farine Five Roses" of Montreal. Since then, the sign shows up literally everywhere, from the walls of trendy restaurants to the postcards showing off the city.

But here too, these old signs are on their path to disappearance. In a post published in the fall, the Heritage Consultant Martin Dubois asked if cities should not do more in order to ensure the preservation of these old signs.

He highlighted that the rules governing billboards were "difficult to reconcile" with these signs that are "often too large and too garish" to "conform with the regulations aiming for harmony, integration and uniformity."

In the meantime, it's hard to imagine the Saint-Roch district without the "Wok'n Roll" sign or Rue Cartier without its "Provisions."

How are neon signs treated in your community? Are they historically preserved? In your opinion, which signs should absolutely be preserved in your city? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally published in French on Le Devoir, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Bora Mici has a background in design and online writing. Most recently, she has worked as an online contributor for DC Mud, Patch.com, GoodSpeaks.org and WatchingAmerica.com, covering urban planning and visual and performing arts in the Washington, D...

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