If I had to describe myself with one word it would be artist - a visual artist and an artist with words. My artwork is included in Ohio Online Visual Arts Registry. I'm working with various galleries in the Midwest to promote my oil paintings and abstract light photography.

 

Inspirations for Home Design

 

American Sign Museum – Cincinnati

Advertising Favorites on Display *

© Becky Linhardt 2012

The American Sign Museum has a new home in a historic factory building. “Our first location was like a starter home,” said Tod Swormstedt, founder. “We’ve gone from 4,000 square feet to almost 19,000. I now have the space and the displays to match my original vision.” Swormstedt leads the morning and afternoon tours to talk about the signs that he has saved. His knowledge of the sign industry is based on years of work in publishing with the industry magazine, Signs of the Times, based here in Cincinnati. 

In the late nineties, Swormstedt realized that there was no museum devoted to signs. He knew the history and had many contacts in the sign business. After giving the idea of a museum some thought and talking with sign makers, he developed a plan for the American Sign Museum. Swormstedt was not a sign painter, nor was he a collector of signs. He is a hard-working visionary and found many supporters within the sign industry and the business community. Frisch’s not only said yes to giving the museum the early Big Boy outdoor logo sign shown above but they had it refinished before delivery. It is very impressive.

During tours Swormstedt explains that the early bulb-lighted signs were followed by neon signs and then lit plastic signs. “What most people do not realize,” said Swormstedt, “is that behind the plastic vacuum form letters the light source is neon, shaped to fit the letter form. Fluorescent bulbs can be used behind a sign panel but will not fit behind curved letters.” 

In late June of this year, the American Sign Museum moved to their new location in a sprawling complex of buildings that in the 1930s was the home of Cincinnati’s Fashion Frocks and during World War II was a factory producing parachutes.

In some areas the ceilings reach a height of 28-feet which allows the museum to display inside both a full-size McDonald’s outdoor sign and a Howard Johnson’s sign that would have dominated the roadside visuals in their hometowns of Huntsville, Al and Utica, NY respectively. Those two HUGE neon signs loom large on the Main Street that Swormstedt knew he wanted to create once he found a space large enough to hold his vision.

To display the assortment of smaller sign, he visualized storefronts highlighting a themed display. He brought in 29 of the best window sign painters to recreate new lettering on the windows, each to match a specific era of time.

Swormstedt developed his own sign repair shop at the new location and recruited a neon sign company to set up shop in the building with windows facing into the museum. When you stroll along Main Street you can stand at their windows looking into the shop to see what is in production. You may even be able to watch the sign-makers bend the glass tubing for a neon sign.

As he was organizing the construction of the Main St. facades he had a pleasant surprise. When they went to save/remove the neon ROHS sign from a former hardware store in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine district, they found out that the whole storefront was going to be remodeled and the porcelain panels, windows, and front door were also available. The beat-up front door shows the scars of years of use but adds to the ambience, an extra treasure found.

The American Sign Museums has a collection that spans the history of sign-making from about 1890s to the early 1970s. One wall has show cards from the 1920’s when theaters were independently owned and had a show card artist on staff. The collection also includes a number of beautiful gilded signs and an intriguing salesman’s sample portfolio of gilded sign styles that has a special display mount that allows you to see both sides of a glass “page.” It’s a delightful one hour for the tour – plan for additional time to explore on your own.

American Sign Museum:1330 Monmouth Street,Cincinnati,OH45225

513-541-6366 or www.signmuseum.org 

* “Foodie” BONUS:

Terry’s Turf Club, one of Cincinnati’s favorite places for a burger, has been featured in a number of national TV food shows. Its large collection of neon and bar signs adds to the fun. The hamburgers are great but the place is small, and no reservations are accepted so expect a wait.  All of the tables are set at bar height. You may have people standing behind you and you may be seated elbow to elbow with strangers, though you will not be strangers for long. Is it worth a few hassles? Oh, yes!

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        As a travel writer it is my responsibility to select the best places, events, and experiences to present to you. Most travel has been on my own though some has occurred on sponsored press trips. Travel listings here will be more informal than my published articles.

 

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