Ten iconic signs to set your sights on in SSLJan 05, 2021 12:34PM ● By Bill Hardesty
By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]
In the past year, South Salt Lake City has worked on revisions to the city’s sign code. One part of the code is to designate certain signs as iconic and protected them from removal. This reporter went on a hunt for iconic signs, some neon, and others not, and found at least 10 notable signs.
Lisa-Michele Church of Relentlesshistory.com said last year, “Historic treasures should be preserved because they add beauty and fun to our lives, because they reflect the creativity and vitality of long-time family businesses, and because they remind us of earlier days when more care, effort, and personality went into a sign’s design. A unique sign became inseparable with the business’s identity and resonated with customers.”
The list certainly is not inclusive and if you have another suggestion, tell us, or better yet, tell the Community Development Department.
The 10 iconic signs of SSL (in no particular order):
Ritz Classic Lanes Bowling Pin: The Ritz Classic Bowling Pin sign was erected in 1958 when Verne McCullough opened Ritz Classic Lanes at 2265 S. State St. The pin is 90 feet high and is known as the largest bowling pin in the nation. Initially, the middle rotated letters with “Classic” on one side and “Bowling” on the other. At the base, it advertised a coffee shop, a sports shop and 54 lanes. With 54 lanes, the Ritz Classic was the largest bowling establishment west of the Mississippi at the time.
During a windstorm, the sign tipped over and damaged 20 cars at the dealership next door in 1959. The sign has undergone many changes over the years. An explosion destroyed part of the bowling alley in 1967. The owners chose to build a skating rink over the damaged lanes. The sign was changed to read “Skating” on one side. In the 1980s, the rink was removed and more lanes were added, and “Classic” replaced “Skating.” In 2015, the bowling alley was closed, and the sign soon fell into disrepair. The sign was removed in 2017. However, as part of the permitting process, SSL required the Ritz Classic Apartments builders to restore the sign. A new sign based on the old one created using LED lights instead of neon by YESCO, which built the original sign.
Bonwood Bowl: Bonnie and Woodrow (Woody) White opened Bonwood Bowling in 1957. The name comes from combining their names. At the time, there were 18 lanes. The bowling craze took off, and the Whites added 10 additional lanes and a lounge in 1958. In 1972, Bonwood added 14 lanes. This addition gave Bonwood Bowing 42 lanes making it one of the largest in the state.
Outside of the bowling alley at 2500 S. Main is a sign with an 8-foot bowling pin and ball and “Bowl” spelled in neon letters. In 2018, an alleged drunk driver hit the sign.
The White family, who owns and manages the Bonwood Bowl, decided to restore the sign rather than replace it.
“The Bonwood Bowl sign is very important to the streetscape of South Salt Lake. It represents a unique and creative design that is unlike any other sign or building feature to be found there,” Church said in 2019 at the ribbon cutting for the restored sign. “Because it has been there more than 60 years, it is a familiar and iconic visual that people associate with this area of the city.”
Standard Building Supply: At 220 W. 2700 South stands a large neon hammer with a direction arrow to the old home of Standard Building Supply. The hammer was installed in the ’50s or ’60s. When it was working, neon light outlined the hammer giving it a bluish hue at night.
Standard Building Supply was founded in 1948. They were acquired by Sunroc Corp., a subsidiary of Clyde Companies, in 2008. In 2009, Sunroc divided its operations and created Sunroc Building Material, which changed its name to Sunpro in 2019.
Town & Country Market: The old fruit neon sign still marks the Town & Country Market location at 2840 S. Main St. The sign was installed in the ’50s and still works. However, because the market isn’t open at night, the sign is off.
The Town & Country Market was initially an open-door fruit market for the farmers in the valley. Dennis Michelson bought the market over 30 years ago. Now the market is a deli specializing in made-to-order sandwiches.
Siesta Motel: A neon sign advertising the Siesta Motel, 3109 S. State St., looks to be from the 1950s. The neon portions of the sign are covered with plastic to protect it from the weather. It still lights up every night.
Century Theaters: The Century 21 (aka Century 6) sign needs repair, but it reminds people of the dome theaters built around 200 East and 3300 South. The first dome theater (Century 21) opened in 1967. It had 985 seats and an 80-foot curved screen, which was the second largest in Utah. The dome ceiling was 155 high.
In 1969, another dome theater (Century 22) was built across 200 East. In a few years, the theaters fell victim to the trend of splitting large theaters. Century 22 was divided into two screens and Century 21 into three.
Over the years, the theaters were not maintained well, and severe water damage forced the theaters to close. In 1998, both buildings were demolished, making way for a parking lot for the Century 16.
Parker Theatre: The classic cinema marquee at the Parker Theatre, 3605 S. State St., has undergone a few changes over the years.
The building was originally named the Apollo Theater and open Dec. 31, 1946. It had 500 seats. In 1963, it was renamed the Avalon Theater. The theater mainly showed second-run or classic films, with a hypnotist show on Saturday night. The theater was the love of Art Proctor. After closing as a movie theater, it was used mainly for concerts.
Joanne and Tom Parker, founders of the Salt Lake Children’s Theatre Company, did extensive renovations in March 2012. The theater reopened as the Utah Children’s Theatre.
They added to the marquee by adding “The Children’s” running vertical and “Theatre” running horizontally. Earlier this year, the theatre was renamed Parker Theatre and replaced Children’s.
Busy Bee Bar & Grill: This now-closed bar and grill, 2115 S. State St., was known for its garlic burger and the unique neon sign. The sign doesn’t light anymore, but the tubing spelling out the name harkens back to the ’50s or ’60s.
Spiking Tourist Lodge: The sign at the Spiking Tourist Lodge isn’t neon anymore. The neon tubing was removed around 2010. But the iconic golden railroad spike is still part of the design.
The motel was open around 1946, and the sign was erected around the same time. For many years, in the ’50s and ’60s, the motel’s advertising tagline was “Look for the Spike.”
Chinatown Gate: The Chinatown Gate isn’t old (it was built in 2011) nor is it neon, but it is iconic because of its design and placement on State Street. The gate uses colors and architecture in the traditional Chinese style.
The gate welcomes people to an Asian focused shopping center covering 5.7 acres and includes over 100,000 square feet of shopping and dining space. The Chinatown Supermarket anchors the Chinatown Plaza. It is the largest Asian grocery store in Utah with an 18-foot-long tank and fish-market-style presentation.