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

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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.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Doug, LED neon is apparently the answer to recreating the neon look. Check out the Shamrock Court in Sullivan Facebook Page or Roamin’ Rich Facebook page. Rich has been restoring the Rt 66 court to better than it ever was while keeping the look and feel of the place like it was back in the 1940s. Lots of neon and all done with LED. I expect that the cost is better and durability much better. Neon is subject to hail damage and the LED probably is not. Also look at the Boots Court Facebook page. Carthage MO. Famous iconic Rt 66 motel. The neon is amazing.

    Doug Smith, Corp Ad Photographer, retired

    • PL and Doug, You are exactly right. Neon has long been out of the picture. LED is the way to go now. When I was working with our former community development director Rachelle L’ecuyer on the promotion of Route 66, I joined the Route 66 Association of Missouri. They have been working with a lot of businesses such as the ones Doug mentioned to restore or replace those old beautiful signs. It’s a great organization that does a lot of good. Anyone interested in Route 66 should check them out.

  2. My son owns an up and coming sign business in Houston Texas. They do an amazing array of signage throughout that area. Looks to me like much of the lamented signs here are supported with neon. My son tells me that many ask about neon for their signs. He tells me that not only are there VERY few sources for that kind of work but it is HUGELY expensive when you contract one. I believe that he has had only one business pursue it further once they learned of the complications for production, length of time to produce and huge cost. (They do about half a million in business annually…all kinds, all sizes, all kinds of locations interior & exterior…some requiring artwork.)

  3. Does the library have a picture of the Powhatan theater on Sutton, between Elm St. and James St. it was always my favorite.

  4. It would be great to have a “sign-a-thon” or sorts- maybe at a Maplewood event or some kind of art event. I used to take my daughter to Dreamland Shoes, on Manchester, when she was little. I think we bought nearly all her shoes there. I can still visualize the sweet woman who worked there. By the way, Katz probably was one of the main drug store chains in the 50’s. I don’t know how long it survived, but I remember there was a Katz drugs store with the same logo in north city. My grandparents lived on Blackstone during that time and as a young child (born in 1951) I remember seeing it. Nearby Wellston also was a triving business area back there- My uncle had a shoe store, Lee’s, on what was then Easton Ave. Ah, the good old days!

    • Ellen, My mother grew up in Wellston a few blocks from their business district. Thank you for sharing your memories.

  5. I grew up in Maplewood, ’44-’62. I’ve lived in Franklin County since ’05, Crestwood before that for 27 years and bought a house on Rannells after getting out of the military in Dec of ’65 and lived there 11 years. I was a Maplewood resident through the “build an apartment building on every corner” and lastly during the destruction of the business district so they could build a K-Mart.
    It seems to be a volatile place now, businesses coming and going, sounds like infighting and ego pumping in the city government and that’s a quick way to take it back down the skids. I grew up in a perfect town for the period and I wonder how it is now? Great schools, no apartments on every corner and pride of ownership on the homes.
    I think re-establishing history is a great thing. The sign code doesn’t sound very reasonable to me for some reason.
    Maybe we could just return Maplewood to 1954 and enjoy it. Everything is too sterile and dull today all over.

    • Hey Don, I’ve lived here since 1975. I’m working on my 49th year here. My wife and I love it. As you know, it’s a small town. We’ve had several of the same neighbors for decades. Some folks will always find something to complain about. We have a few of those too but not too many. A short walk takes us to the Sutton Loop Park and the shops and restaurants on Manchester. Once I took one of our dogs out for a walk around a couple of blocks. When I got back my wife asked if I had talked to anyone. I hadn’t thought about it but I had talked to 12 neighbors. On another walk, my neighbor’s daughter yelled my name from the window of her school bus as it went by. Priceless. And I haven’t even mentioned Scheidt Hardware. We’re staying as long as we can.

  6. Let’s Make the Old Signs of Maplewood Great Again! All jokes aside, I really hope more people start to take notice of the beauty in old, nostalgic signs! And Maplewood needs to update their regulations so they can be brought back to life! Thanks for keeping this topic alive, Doug. ❤️

  7. As a longtime resident of Richmond Heights, I depend on Maplewood for my “community’. Richmond Heights lacks the charm, central location and businesses to make it a place to “hang out”. You guys just need a louder voice. Who’s on the Design commission and in City Hall who would jump on board?

    • But RH has far fewer crazies/loons than Maplewood! Just watch a few of those city council meetings from Knapper’s regime to get a sense of the cult-like lunacy with your own eyes and ears.

  8. Love the idea, but I’d like even more to allow the new businesses to put up their own big signs! Having styling requirements is fine, but it would be nice to allow them their own character.

  9. I agree with you Doug Houser and Cindi Griffin the scene in Maplewood is build-outs done on the cheap, look at the whitewashed Turret building on Sutton the entire complex was sold to me as a condominium I was lied to and duped into investing my money. Maplewood is on the decline. I remember trying to save the cyclone on the original Maplewood Planning Mill. Then-Mayor Mark Langston told me, “It would cost too much”. What Maplewood has is too many building owners that are using real estate speculating for an investment portfolio: too much (Hype and Lying) and very little respect for the true nature of a Historic Cityscape. A leadership of politicians making decisions on how to advance their career in politics. Samo as Jean-Michel Basquiat signed on his Graffiti. Think about this, elect a Mayor and then the Director of Community Development resigns then replace that Mayor with a different Mayor and have the new City Manager resign, and the next election term re-elect the Mayor that was voted out. “Who’s on first? No, who’s on second, it’s a comedy”! I was told by Barry Greenberg “Maplewood does not want to be what Joe Edwards did in University City, “The Loop”.

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

  11. 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!!!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

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