Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign
The Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign is a rooftop sign
at 511 South Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, CA.
The Bekins Storage Company Roof Sign, which today reads “A.
American Storage Co.,” may well strike viewers as unusually
large. Mounted 60 feet above the street, the rectangular sign is
32 feet long and 12 feet high and is visible for several blocks
in both directions along Pasadena's South Fair Oaks Avenue.
Bordering Route 66 when it used Fair Oaks Avenue from 1926 until
1940, the Bekins sign’s size made it impossible to miss, even
from the window of a passing automobile.
represents the influence that automobiles had on businesses all
across the country. The owner installed the original Bekins
sign, which used light bulbs to spell "STANDARD FIREPROOF
STORAGE CO," the same year that Route 66 was routed past the
building. In 1929, its owner replaced the bulbs with neon and
the text became "BEKINS STORAGE CO."
signs this high and this large to be read from passing cars.
They were meant to be viewed from a distance and at cruising
speeds. This particular sign represents not only the ascension
of automobiles as the chief mode of transportation, but also the
introduction of neon to signs in Los Angeles in 1923. Scale,
speed, and the flash of neon created a whole new way of
attracting attention and customers.
projecting signs had an early association with theaters, movie
palaces, and department stores, all dependent on attracting
large crowds. The Bekins sign illustrates the adoption of
bigger, flashier signs by other businesses as well. Large
illuminated signs became more practical and widespread with
turn-of-the-century advancements in electrification. They became
a near necessity when commercial establishments could no longer
rely solely on foot traffic for business by virtue of the
increased mobility of customers.
The early decades of
the 20th century saw more and more signs designed to be visible
from greater distances, at greater speeds, and during the night.
Signs and lettering grew, and locations of signs became more
prominent. The Bekins sign, colorful, large, high, and
elaborate, exemplifies the impact of transportation on
commercial history. Because of its significance, the National
Park Service listed it in the National Register of Historic
Places in 1997. Today, the sign is Pasadena’s only pre-war
example of the once-popular massive projecting roof signs
designed to attract customers in automobiles.