Saved from the Scrapyard

Portions of the old Warshaw and Simcha’s signs on display at the 2007 Main Madness street fair

I wrote a bit about Montreal signs a few years ago, including the memorable Logo Cities project, ghost signs, street signs and the fight to save the Farine Five Roses sign. Montreal’s linguistic diversity, penchant for kitsch and urban palimpsest have given it an exceptionally rich signscape.

Unfortunately, a decade of renewal and redevelopment have done away with some of the city’s most interesting signs. Farine Five Roses might have been saved, and the Guaranteed Milk Bottle restored (and re-graffiti-ed), but the signs that disappeared from the landscape include the St. James’ Church neon sign, the Warshaw sign and the magnificent Simcha’s sign (which you can see above in one of our title graphics).

Luckily, some of these signs have been brought back to life — or a kind of half-life, like the kind enjoyed by Lenin and Chairman Mao. Thanks to Matt Soar, the man behind Logo Cities, five iconic signs from Bens Delicatessen, Monsieur Hot Dog, the Monkland Tavern, Warshaw and the Paramount cinema are now on permanent display inside Concordia University’s journalism school. “It turns out that lots of people have personal stories that involve signs in one way or another. Signs from local businesses in particular will spark all kinds of memories and conversations,” Soar told the Montreal Mirror.

Despite that personal attachment, though, there still isn’t much recognition of the heritage value of signs. Most still end up in the junkyard when they outlive their usefulness. The problem is that, despite their artistic or cultural value, signs serve a utilitarian purpose. Keeping them alive when they are no longer relevant can be difficult. It works for landmark signs like the milk bottle or Boston’s Citgo Sign, but there’s often no practical way to keep smaller signs intact without a costly and legally complicated attempt at preservation.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday May 23 2010at 07:05 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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