Maplewood History: Let’s Bring Back the Great Old Signs of Maplewood!

In the Delmar Loop, entrepreneur Joe Edwards has been responsible for creating some of the most interesting signage on a streetscape anywhere. With his wonderful restoration of the two story sign on the front of the Tivoli Theater, his electronic billboard on Blueberry Hill, his huge rotating moon on top of his Moonrise Hotel, his neon peacock sign on the facade of his Peacock Diner and a personal favorite, the neon pinup on the Pinup Bowl, he has created a streetscape of visual delights. No wonder the Delmar Loop was designated as one of the 10 Great Streets in America by the American Planning Association.

In Maplewood we are a bit impoverished in the signage department. We have the vintage, landmarked, neon Paramount Jewelers sign. In the Greenwood historic district (located at Greenwood and Sutton) we have a ghost Hardware sign on the side of the former Milligan’s Million Article store. They are very nice and we’re lucky to have them but we could have so much more. We have some wonderful signs in our historic photographs. We should be looking for ways to reinstall these where they once entertained and lured the sidewalk strollers.

Wouldn’t it be great to see the Katz Drugstore sign back on its original perch at the corner of Sutton and Manchester? A small storefront nearby had an amazing Art Deco explosion that created much visual excitement? Empire Supply had a great pouring paint sign. The People’s Bank had a neat one too. Citizen’s Bank had a great clock.

One of the best I’ve written about before. The marquee of the Maplewood Theater should definitely be restored. The original letters which we still have in the city garage could be icons to generations of Route 66ers. A lightweight welded aluminum frame describing the shape of the original marquee could be mounted on three poles and installed a foot away from the theater building. In that manner ownership issues could be avoided.

Our downtown is booming. Joe Edwards’ signs contribute so much to his streetscape. Shouldn’t we bring back some of our own?

Maplewood's Paramount Jewelers sign has been declared a county landmark by the Historic Building Commission of St. Louis County.

Maplewood’s Paramount Jewelers sign has been declared a county landmark by the Historic Building Commission of St. Louis County. Doug Houser photo.

The People's state Bank building still exists in the 7100 block of Manchester. Wish that sign were still around. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

The People’s State Bank building still exists in the 7100 block of Manchester. Wish that sign were still around. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

The first Maplewood Bank building that was once located on the NE corner of Oakland Terrace and manchester is sporting a couple of great signs in this photo. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

The first Maplewood Bank building that was once located on the NE corner of Oakland Terrace and Manchester is sporting a couple of great signs in this photo. Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

 

A closeup of one of the signs in the previous photo. These neon signs up and down the street created a nostalgic landscape of light that is presently much desired.

A closeup of one of the signs in the previous photo. These neon signs up and down the street created a nostalgic landscape of light that is presently much desired.

On the NW corner of Oakland Terrace and Manchester, the original Citizen's Bank building had a fabulous clock. The Western Auto sign is also terrific. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

On the NW corner of Oakland Terrace and Manchester, the original Citizen’s Bank building had a fabulous clock. The Western Auto sign is also terrific. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

How about this great sign on the Empire Supply building? It would be wonderful to have it back. Most folks know that Empire Supply is one of the old timers in Maplewood. In business since 1931 when the Empire State Building opened in New York. Hence the name. still in the Loomstein family, this photo is courtesy of those nice folks.

How about this great sign on the Empire Supply building? It would be wonderful to have it back. Most folks know that Empire Supply is one of the old timers in Maplewood. In business since 1931 when the Empire State Building opened in New York. Hence the name. Still in the Loomstein family, this photo is courtesy of those nice folks.  Want to know more? Read the plaque in the sidewalk or better yet go in and talk to them.

OK. It's not neon. This carved stone was part of the once great Maplewood Bank building located on the NE corner of Sutton and Manchester. for years it had lain in the backyard of Bob Scheidt's mother's house. it recently disappeared probably during the estate sale after Bob's mom passed away. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this stone, please let me know. I'd love to get it back. I've always had a plan on the backburner to display it somwhere prominently as a cherished piece of a building we should not have lost. Doug Houser photo.

OK. It’s not neon. This carved stone was part of the once great Maplewood Bank building located on the NE corner of Sutton and Manchester. For years it had lain in the backyard of Bob Scheidt’s mother’s house. It recently disappeared probably during the estate sale after Bob’s mom passed away. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this stone, please let me know. I’d love to get it back. I’ve always had a plan on the backburner to display it somewhere prominently as a cherished piece of a building we should not have lost. Doug Houser photo.

The aforementioned Maplewood Bank building. This was the second building occupied by the bank. This bank later was renamed the Pioneer bank. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

The aforementioned Maplewood Bank building. This was the second building occupied by the bank. This bank later was renamed the Pioneer Bank. Courtesy of the Maplewood Public Library.

Katz Drugstore. What a sign! The building still survives at the NW corner of Sutton and Manchester. It also has a plaque in the sidewalk but the plaque is located on the south side of Manchester. Who wouldn't like to have this sign back? Courtesy of Andrew Rochman.

Katz Drugstore. What a sign! The building still survives at the NW corner of Sutton and Manchester. It also has a plaque in the sidewalk but the plaque is located on the south side of Manchester. Who wouldn’t like to have this sign back? Courtesy of Andrew Rochman.

And here is the number one street sign that should be restored as closely as possible to the original - the marquee of the Maplewood Theater. I have given all my thought s on this in a previous post that you can read by clicking here.

And here is the number one street sign that should be restored as closely as possible to the original – the marquee of the Maplewood Theater. I have detailed all my thoughts on this in a previous post that you can read by clicking here.  Courtesy of Wanda Kennedy Kuntz.

12 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Let’s Bring Back the Great Old Signs of Maplewood!

  1. Loved this article. I agree totally. My residence is U. City…and the lighted signs do make a difference. Keep it going! Nora

  2. Manchester Rd in Maplewood looks so “FLAT” when you drive down the Rd. Its all just blends together and you never really notice anything special…we don’t need a hundred signs, just enough to make the place “POP” a little ,so it looks like a fun place to hang out…we don’t need it to look gaudy or flashy…just “COOL”..after all, our taxes have gone sky high, we may as well get something out of it!! I live right off of manchester and have often thought this area needs more unique signage…lets vote new people into office with an open mind an see if we can’t change a few of these old school ways of thinking…Come On You Younger Maplewoodians…Step up to the plate..It’s your town too!!!

  3. I love the look of old signs! I wish they’d bring them back too. I worked in the sign industry for 7 years (’06-’13), and I’m pretty confident that they could re-create the look within the specifications of the city. Look what we did with the Fox Theatre–That was a fun one to make! (Obviously that one is more than 15″ away from the building, but my point is that the old style can be re-created) The problem is the willingness of business owners to pay for it. Signs are quite expensive, especially the more interesting ones. Also, neon is not energy efficient at all and expensive to keep lit. However, nowadays they make LED tubing that looks like neon. Manchester would sure look awesome with some old signs! I hope someone starts a trend!

    • I hope someone starts a trend too, Tracy. You make several interesting points. As you state, the Maplewood code would never allow for the restoration of the Fox Theater’s magnificent sign. I suspect a good case could be made for a variance should someone want to restore the marquee of the Maplewood Theater. I don’t know how we could keep all of the sign designs from getting out of hand if we relaxed our code…but someone does. Look no further than U.City. Other than the giant Tivoli sign, there is no historical precedent there for Joe Edward’s other terrific signs. His Blueberry Hill sign is flashing and animated. The Moonrise Hotel sign is animated and of a large size. Your information about the LED’s replacing the neon is a very useful tip. Much thanks for your comment.

  4. Replying by email a fellow whom I much respect, Tom Bakersmith, had this to say:

    “Thanks for the post about the old signage. As I think you know, I am always interested in the old. “Ghost” signs. Two big problems in bringing back the types of signs of old:

    The Maplewood Code has very stringent requirements regarding signs. Examples:
    May not project more than 15 inches from the building. As Empire Supply’s does.
    No flashing or animated signs – like the old Katz sign.

    Non-conforming signs which were in existence at the time the current ordinance was passed, are “grandfathered”.

    All sign proposals are reviewed by the Design Review Board.”

    I certainly hope our DRB will have an enlightened approach if one of these sign resurrections ever gels.

  5. Hi Doug – wow, would I live to see those signs restored and displayed! I can’t imagine they are just gone. The Katz sign I remember very well – very flashy!

    • That would be a real coup if we could someday get the big cat back. Thanks for your comments, Wanda.