Wednesday, September 24, 2008

in memory of those that have went dark..

I promised. This, I am sure, is far from complete. These were just a few examples of classic/older neon that have went dark in Columbus, to the best of my knowledge. The exact dates when they were last lit..I don't know. I don't know if I have ever seen some of these lit. The Super Duper sign on S. James Road, profiled earlier this month, can be part of this list as well. I will keep on the lookout for any other signs that have gone dark, or better yet, dark signs that have came back to life (as we see in this post). All pics were taken the afternoon of Tuesday, 9/23.

Mike's Carryout, Hamilton and Livingston. The top part of this sign actually is still functioning and can be seen in a post from last November, the Tommy's Pizza sign. It appears this could have been a drive-in sign, and looking at old property records, the small strip center that Mikes and Tommy's makes up is part of the same property that goes behind a gas station and onto Livingston Avenue, like an old drive-in theater would. But the property appears somewhat small. If anyone knows the history of this area better than me, please let me know!

The Livingston Theater. As long as I have lived in the Columbus area, this place has been closed shut and the sign dark. From the records I could gather it appears the theater was built and opened around 1947 and I have no idea when it closed, but it appeared to have changed hands in 1973 after being held by the same owner for over 25 years. Then it went through some sort of 'renovation' or addition in the later 1970s. Judging by the state of the building, my guess is that it closed sometime between 1973 and 1977. About ten years ago a fitness club that catered to gay men opended up in a refurbished part of the building, which also contained stores, and had been subject to threats and vandalism. Gotta love the open mindedness of pre-2000 Columbus, Ohio! This is in a densely populated mostly African American neighborhood known for a high crime rate. I was there to take the picture and I didn't feel in any sort of danger. It is a shame such a beautiful building
could just sit there to rot, though I know part of it has been used for medical offices fairly recently. And that awesome ancient neon! I would LOVE to go back in time to about 1955 to see what that place looked like lit up in it's neon glory!

Reeb's Restaurant, at the corner of Champion and Livingston. It is hard to find good information on businesses that have long been closed and in inner city areas of Columbus it seems. From what I can gather about Reeb's, is that the building was built not long after the turn of the last century. The Reeb family owned this property from as early as the 1920 (quite possibly earlier) until the 1950s. From looking around the internet and old Columbus themed literature, this was a popular restaurant throughout the 1940's, 50's and 60's. I have no idea when it closed but the last time it appeared in the city directory was 1986. So it is quite possible that the building has been abandoned and empty for well over twenty years. Very common in these older urban neighborhoods. My guess too, is that it had an absentee landlord and the property was forfeited to the state. Considering how long it has been vacant the sign is still in reasonably good shape. Like I mentioned before, I would love to hop in a time machine, take a stroll down Livingston Avenue in it's better days, and see places like the Livingston and Reeb's lit up brightly onto the street.

Well I was obviously wrong about this one being dark! The Lincoln Theater on E. Long Street was a cultural center of sorts for the local African American community in the first half of the twentieth century. The Lincoln (formerly called the Ogden, I believe) was opened in the 1920s as the Harlem Rennaisance was taking place in New York and across the country. This proud black neighborhood sadly started to decline in the 1950s and the theater of course went through the usual life cycle of classic American theater buildings: open, heyday, decline, porn, close, decay. The theater closed in the 1970s and was left for the birds, spiders, and vagrants. I remember hearing rumors here and there about the theater being restored as far back as the late nineties. When my daughter was in a daycare in the area, I would frequently pass by the theater and wish I had taken a picture of the building and sign before the renovations actually started. Which was last year, when the city of Columbus took ownership of the property for a sublease to a local theater company. I guess work has been slow and was scheduled to reopen about now, and has been delayed til spring of next year. The old neon sign, sadly, was taken down in favor of a new sign complete with digital video message board. While I am sad about the sign, I am not sad that this place may again be a thriving center of culture and may spur further development and restoration in the area, known as the King-Lincoln district (named after Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln). Now that I know that the theater is going to reopen and the sign functions, I will have to drive by after dark to see if the neon also lights up. That could be part of the Long Street/northern downtown photo tour I intend to do soon.

The Broadmoor Super Market, Broad and Weyant near Whitehall and the Town and Country shopping center. Cool neon and an interesting perspective on parking, as far as the orientation of the letters. While the market is very much open, the I have never seen the neon aspect lit.

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