West Roxbury's waving chicken, other neon signs to make public return on the Greenway

Fontaine's sign and sign for the European

The Rose Kennedy Greenway has started installing a series of eight old Boston-area neon signs between India and State streets.

The signs, all from the collection of neon-loving Dave Waller of Malden, date as far back as 1925. Locally, Bostonians may remember the waving chicken outside Fontaine's on VFW Parkway in West Roxbury and the European.

The chicken is being installed today.

By exhibiting these signs together and amidst The Greenway’s permanent Light Blades, the Conservancy is creating a new geography of light.

The exhibit is one of three based on the theme of light planned for installation along the Greenway this summer.

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Comments

The irony...

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The irony...

The Greenway has intentionally stifled any sort of unique architecture. And redevelopment with fancy towers has been the death of independent local businesses. But now they're taking all the historic quirky signs and putting them in a sign museum.

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How has the Greenway stifled

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How has the Greenway stifled unique architecture? What control do they have over the planning process? Sure you're not talking about the Aquarium?

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I know what you're saying

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...but maybe instead of cynicism, we should seize this as an opportunity to re-awaken awareness of how delightful architecture can be once we brush off the residue of the worst impulses of the late 20th century (and pull away from the worst of the 21st). "Remember when..." doesn't have to end with just remembering.

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Did the Greenway stifle the architecture?

Or did the organizations that had intended to build unique architecture on the Greenway (Mass Horticultural Society, New Center for Arts and Culture, Boston History Museum, YMCA) just find that they could not raise the money needed to build there?

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I'm having trouble finding a

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I'm having trouble finding a reference. But there was some discussion a few years ago about how the Greenway Conservancy made sure only bland buildings were allowed to be built, so that interesting architecture wouldn't distract people's attention from the Greenway itself.

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Perhaps the wrong location?

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The Christian Science Center has aggressively discouraged competition to their complex.


They've made it clear to neighbors anything attractive in sight of them will go down in endless legal nuisance suits (well, maybe not endless as their sect is now coughing up blood - financially.) They even constructed a building specifically to block sight of Horticultural Hall when it was saved.


The Greenway just seems plagued with lousy funding mechanisms.


Their proposed tenants suffer the same weaknesses; a lack of funding or widespread mandate to create new installations on top of challenging sites (isolated parcels directly above interstate highway tunnels.)

I'm not aware of the Greenway folks or their constituents having any specific views on neighboring architecture beyond the functional concerns of light/wind/access.

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Boring Buildings

The Greenway isn’t the only area that has seen a lack of interesting architecture. Look at all the new buildings being built in the Seaport District, they all look the same! Talk about boring!

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Zoning?

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There's zoning in Boston?

I thought the BPDA just made up the rules on the fly.

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The European

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I loved the pizza at the European. And those little jukeboxes at each table. They had a maitre'd with a slight resemblance to Sean Connery who always wore a tuxedo and ruffled shirt who seemed to have been there since Day One. He was like an institution. In it's later years the European started catering to the tourists from Faneuil Hall and went somewhat downhill.

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European

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His name was Chuck!

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What a great project!

Signs like this are so wonderful to appreciate, even if they no longer have meaning. Kind of like the Citgo sign!

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Sadly, no, because...

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...if I recall correctly (from a news article I read many many years ago), they dismantled that sign with the intent of having someone receive it, and put it in a boxcar in the nearby rail yard for temporary storage. But when they went to retrieve it, the boxcar was gone and they never found out where it went.

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Repurposed?

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If I recall correctly, it had been stored in a boxcar in the Allston yards which went missing (1980s?), thereafter it (sadly) probably became a Chevy for a while and now is likely a Hanjin shipping container or maybe is scattered in a thousand landfills as a bunch of small metal parts of stuff we threw away. (see The Story of Stuff)

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I heard that one got trashed

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The original plan for the Coca-Cola sign was to set it aside and reinstall it after the old bottling plant building was demolished, but it never happened. I remember reading years ago that the sign was sitting in a dump somewhere, in pretty mangled condition. I'm sure that it didn't get rescued by Mr. Waller.

It used to be at the junction of Soldiers Field Road and Cambridge St. (Allston), next to the exit from the Mass. Pike. There's a hotel on the site today.

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I love a good tacky sign

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What a nice throwback and ironic since in the 70's people ran campaigns to get rid of "tacky" signs and billboards.

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Anyone have the sign for the

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Anyone have the sign for the Naked Eye? That one had lots of waving too.

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I don't think it was the

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I don't think it was the spelling that caught their I.

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I did manage to save and

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I did manage to save and restore the Naked i neon sign. You can see it displayed at West End Johnnies on Portland St, altho the naughty part is displayed privately elsewhere. - Dave Waller

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The Allston Tower of Pizza

...on Harvard Ave near Glenville, had a wonderful neon sign in the late 60s/early 70s, of course with a flashing Pisan tower. I suppose the sign is as far gone as most of us were back then.

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Two memorable signs....

....from the pre-neon era made a lasting impression on me since we passed them all the time on the Central Artery en route to visits and holidays at my granparents’ in Medford. One was a huge animated sign of the Anheuser-Busch eagle logo which took up most of the side of the Garden facing the highway. The other was for Handschumacher franks and was atop one of the buildings in the Quincy Market area. The display ended in a geyser of white lights after spelling out the name. These were the type of sign which lit in a sequence until the entire display was revealed and often flashed. With the Budweiser display, the eagle’s wings flapped at the end— very hypnotic to a kid in a station wagon stuck in traffic

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Wow, I'm one of those other

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Wow, I'm one of those other kids sitting in the back of a station wagon loving the sites as we sat in traffic.
My favorite was catching the drive-in at Neponset. We always hoped we'd catch a risque scene as we drove by.

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I remember the Eagle sign.

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Also, although I would not wish it back, I do miss driving through the city on the Central Artery high above the streets and among the buildings. There was something Jetson-like about it.

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And 50 Years From Now . .

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Can we look forward to a nostalgic exhibition of Valet Parking and Guest Access Only signs from the 'old Boston' of 50 years ago?

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"We Buy Ugly Houses!"

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Gosh, remember plastic signboard stapled to telephone poles? Those were the days...

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Signs Signs Everwhere

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There are about 6 or 8 neon signs from the collection installed in Downtown Lynn. Come on up , take the Blue Line right into downt...oh, sorry, take the Blue Line to Wonderland and hop a bus to downtown Lynn. See the new murals, and the old neon, never mind the rest of the blight.

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So ....

... once one gets to downtown Lynn -- how does one find the art... ;-)

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Oh!

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Is Mr. Waller the gentleman who had an exhibit of his collection at what used to be the Museum of our National Heritage (what are they called now? The Scottish Rite Museum?) a number of years back? That was wonderful.

He purportedly has the old Naked I neon sign; would give my eye teeth to see that on display again.

Ooh! Cannot wait to see this exposition.

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