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A Fan of “Googie” and Retro Design? Help Fund the Beer Depot Sign Restoration

Topics: Editorial & Opinion | Add A CommentBy admin | January 11, 2013

Why a decidedly unsentimental futurist and fan of progress (ME) supports the restoration of this vintage sign, and why you should too.

Over the last year and a half or so, I have somewhat quietly spearheaded a campaign to preserve a classic “Doo Wop” or “Googie” era sign in the town I live in; the iconic Beer Depot sign, which blew over in high winds in 2011. The project was in the homestretch recently when it hit another snag, something I’ll get to in a moment. But first, a little background on why I would use the platform of my pop media and satire site to plug the final phase fundraiser we just launched for the sign. When a friend learned of my little project the other day, they asked me why I was putting so much time into it, knowing fully well that as much as I appreciate vintage design, I’m as much about progress as preservation, depending on the scenario. I had to ponder their question for a moment to give an honest answer. Although I definitely have a fascination with twentieth century design, from the Art Deco era right up through the era of Googie Architecture, in the end I think my pursuit was as much about beating bureaucracy and making a stand against “unjust power”, which in this case took the form of an insurance company. My joy in challenging stale, lazy authority and arrogant institutions goes way back. When I was dropping out of high school, the juvenile court officer that the school had assigned to “process” me for my juvenile behavior – which consisted entirely of NOT doing something, i.e.: going to school – showed me what he was writing at the top of my report out of frustration at how the system seemed to have missed a beat with me. It said “I would agree with the school counselor’s simplistic assessment that Ian has authority issues, if it weren’t for the fact that he doesn’t seem to recognize any“. Then he signed my walking papers, and I was done with high school at sixteen.

So when a client of mine came to me almost two years ago asking if I could help tackle the city government – which was blocking the restoration of the sign even though it was on a property designated as historic by the local Historic District Commission – I guess part of the reason I said yes was simply for the joy of challenging authority. Little did I suspect that later this would lead to spending a bunch of time in court when the insurance company refused to pay on the policy for the sign. But to be honest, it was quite gratifying to beat them. I certainly make no secret about my feelings about the insurance industry.

So here in the homestretch, after all the tedious bureaucratic challenges with the city (in the end, the folks at the city were helpful by the way!), and after the tedium of watching an insurance company wiggle through the “we’re not gonna pay” dance in court, it’s a little disheartening that precisely because of that shortfall in funds, we’re doing a fundraiser to finish the sign.

If we had known about this issue with the insurance policy at the outset, we might have done a fundraiser much sooner, like maybe when we got the last round of press. About a dozen supporters of the sign suggested it early on, but my client felt it was sort of their conrtibution to local preservation to foot the bill themselves.

They’ll still fund this last 20% or so ONE way or another, but if you’d like to show your support and speed things up, you can donate via their Indiegogo campaign.

Below is the sign in its former (slightly in need of restoration) glory:

Photo by dwacphoto.com