When you're walking around feeling down and out/pondering the mystery of a dame with a chip on her shoulder and a case that just might not be what it seems, there's nothing like a backdrop of neon signs to get you in the right mood. And since we do that type of thing a lot, we got to thinking: What are the best neon signs in Denver? The coolest? The moodiest? The most elaborate? We put our best detective, Arts and Culture editor Susan Froyd, on the beat, and she dug up these leads, complete with locations and history. Photos and slide-show by Stephen Cummings.
The sign for Candlelight Tavern, 383 South Pearl Street, was erected in 1954, and to this day it still retains some of its original parts. Not all damage is caused by natural disasters, Troy Hanley, manager of the Candlelight, says, "People will climb up it and then it will needs to be fixed." The liquid neon sign at Pete's Kitchen, 1962 East Colfax Avenue, has been there since 1944. Gina Belearde, a fifteen-year veteran, says "The sign is prolific. It's on everything from our uniforms to our menus, to our awards." It's hard to miss this Denver's landmark, the neon sign at Pete's Satire Lounge, when driving down East Colfax. Mickey Knopp, a long time employee at the lounge located at 1920 East Colfax Avenue, says, "There's people down here all the time doing paintings and taking pictures of the sign." Interestingly, this more than fifty year-old sign is actually not owned by The Satire Lounge, but it is rented from Gordon Neon Sign Company instead. Billy's Inn first opened at 4403 Lowell Boulevard in 1933. Three years ago its partners decided to give the place a facelift -- including fixing up the old sign. Asked what the average cost of upkeep of the neon sign is, Christopher Mohaupt, operating partner of Billy's, simply replies, "it's not about the money, it's a labor of love." He also noted that without the help of his partners the Larimer Associates none of this would be possible. Compared with a lot of the other neonsigns in Denver, The Hornet's ten year-old sign is still a baby. Although a younger sign, it is still one of the more noticeable ones on Broadway. The Hornet is located at 76 Broadway. Sam's Bar & Lounge is located at 6801 Leetsdale Drive. Sid Maniatis, one of the owners, says, "Both the sign and the bar have been in the family for 40 years." The sign we see today has changed a little from its original form. It used to have flashing marquee lights on the arrow, but they had to be replaced with almost all neon because the flashing was too distracting to drivers. The Landmark Mayan Theatre at 110 Broadway was once owned by Fox Broadcasting Company. The sign has been there since about 1930, which is when the theater was built. "A lot of thought went into the design of the place," says Tim Cloran, the Mayan's manager, "with the sign being the finishing touch on the building. The sign is to the building what those old tail lights were to Chevys in the 40's and 50's; it's hard to imagine the building without it." The Duffy's Cherry Cricket sign was erected in 1966 by Bernard Duffy, the original owner of the bar. Kathy Huddleston, general manager and fifteen-year veteran, says, "I've always said if I ever left The Cricket, that sign is coming with me." At the golden age of 66, the sign for Don's Club Tavern is as old as the bar. While some parts of the sign remain original, some had to be replaced. "A good rain storm will knock out half the sign." explains John, the general manager. Don's uses a local company for its service maintenance, which costs a about $1,500 a year. Located on 740 South University Boulevard, this gas neon sign was installed in early '50s, after a remodel in the late '40s. What Patrick Dire says holds true to a lot of things: "It's been there for so long we kind of take it for granted."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.