When the old 16-by-seven foot Canadian Furniture neon sign first came to Blanchett Neon, it was in rough shape. Rusty pieces of metal housed pigeons and their droppings, and the paint had long since peeled away.
Months later, thanks to over 100 hours of volunteer labour from employees, the sign is restored to the bright red, yellow and black of its heyday – and is ready for what will be a celebration of the history of neon signage in Edmonton through an outdoor museum downtown.
Blanchett Neon president Daryl Blanchett said restoring the sign required welding sheet metal, spray and hand painting the lettering, and wiring and preparing 20 units of glass tubing for neon gas.
The original sign was a beacon for the company, part of the Edmonton business scene since the 1930s and for 60 years to come.
“The double-sided, cantilevered-style of this sign meant we had to put structure first, and aesthetics second,” said Blanchett. “We liked the challenge of restoring the sign using the same methods as back then—hand-painted decals and the neon glass—but they would’ve used lead back then. And everyone who worked on it signed their name. This will be unique in Canada.”
Blanchett said his is the first sign completed.
“We can hang the neon tubes now—we’re ready to go.”
The museum is set to light up by next spring.
“The area is already experiencing revitalization, so I’m excited the neon museum will become part of that vibe,” said Barb Ursuliak, Street-As-a-Venue officer with the city.
Names in lights
- A dozen neon signs will come back to life on the side of the Telus building at 104 Avenue and 104 Street.
- Local sign shops and members of the Alberta Sign Association are volunteering supplies and man hours to restore the vintage, well-remembered signs from decades past, including Mike’s News, Cliff’s Auto Parts and The Princess Theatre.