Having been to the historic, beautiful city of Boston several times, I feel confident in saying that it is a town full of people who are passionate about their traditions. And it makes sense, since the town has managed to preserve much of its antiquity, most of which played a very large role in the formation of our country. So it was no surprise, when researching signs in Boston, we discovered a sign that the people of the city have literally fought to save: the Citgo Sign. At 60 feet high by 60 feet wide, it is the largest sign in all of New England and has come to symbolize more than just the company it advertises. For the people of Boston it represents tradition, victory, and affection.
Originally built in 1940, the sign first read “Cities Service.” However, in 1965, when the gas and fueling company changed their name to “Citgo,” the sign with the company’s new name and “trimark” symbol was constructed and remains the same to this day. This double-faced Pylon Sign now has 9,000 linear feet of LEDStripe units; however, before a six-month renovation in 2005 that cost roughly one million dollars, it contained more than five miles of neon tubes! No wonder when the technology became available, they upgraded the sign’s illumination to conserve more energy. Later in 2010, the sign underwent another interior transformation, when the LED lights were replaced with a more environmentally friendly version of LED’s. The new lights blazed brightly for the Fenway Park fans during the 7th inning stretch of a September 17th game.
An even more important renovation took place in 1983, and if the sign didn’t already symbolize the town’s history before this renovation, it is likely that is most certainly did afterwards. In 1979, Governor Edward J. King turned the sign off in order to conserve energy. Five miles of neon uses a lot of electricity! Without being cleaned and used, by 1983, the sign began to look pretty beat up and Citgo wanted to have the sign demolished. Once word of this spread, Bostonians protested for it to become a landmark of the city. A landmark it did not become; however, the public’s affection for the sign won out, and the sign was refurbished and re-illuminated for the first time in over four years.
A substantial victory indeed, for the sign is part of the Bostonian culture. It is both functional and meaningful in its uses. It is used as a navigation tool for those who find themselves lost in the city or for those who want to know where Fenway Park is. (This would have been very good to know a few years back when I was lost in downtown Boston at night, trying to get to Fenway Park. Seeing that towering sign illuminating the night sky guiding me to my destination would have been like following the North Star home. But now I know for next time!) Furthermore, since it can be seen behind left field, when the Red Sox hit a home run, fans watch the ball head straight for the sign, or rather, they “C-It-Go!” A fun play on words that Citgo probably didn’t intend, but it ended up becoming a tradition none the less. The sign is also the 20-mile marker in the Boston Marathon.
Being that it is such a part of the city of Boston, in 1983, it was named the “Object d’Heart” by Time magazine. It has, towered over the city for over 50 years, withstood five 85 mph wind hurricanes, and overcame a potential demolition becoming more beloved than it already was in the process. And although it was never officially named a landmark, the city’s affection most certainly considers it a Landmark Sign and so do we!
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© Landmark Signs Inc. 2013
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