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Sputnik sign once enticed travelers to stay at the Bel-Aire Manor motel.
Sputnik sign once enticed travelers to stay at the Bel-Aire Manor motel.

Sign Museum

Field review by the editors.

Springfield, Illinois

Ace Sign Co. has been around since 1940, and the family that runs it has been in the sign-making business since the 1880s. It wasn't until the last quarter-century, however, that the company started salvaging and restoring old signs otherwise destined for the dump. The best examples of these efforts, now numbering nearly 100, serve as idea-generators for the staff, and are on display in the company museum, which is open to the public as a guided tour.

Original Cozy Dogs from a famous Route 66 eatery.
Original Cozy Dogs from a famous Route 66 eatery.

Visitors are shown the different rare glasses that can be made to glow, and the remarkable durability of porcelain enamel, and how early sign makers had to master how to hand-paint letters and images backwards on the inner surface of glass. Well-known Route 66 relics include the "Sonrise Donuts" sign; a 1953 neon Pepsi bottle cap, 12 feet high; the "Sputnik" sign from the Bel-Aire Manor motel; and the original, weathered, Tropics Dining Room neon sign, which the company has replaced with an exact replica.

Big Boy statue welcomes visitors to the Sign Museum's gallery of neon.
Big Boy statue welcomes visitors to the Sign Museum's gallery of neon.

In the field of road archaeology, the glass tubes in an old "Motor Inn Parking" neon sign reveal that the last word was originally "Storage," suggesting that the term "parking" a car is relatively recent, at least along this section of Route 66.

Sign Museum

Ace Sign Co. Sign Museum

Address:
2540 S. 1st St., Springfield, IL
Directions:
Ace Sign Co. Sign Museum. South side of the city. From Route 66/S. 5th or 6th Sts, turn west at the stoplight onto Ash St. Cross the train tracks, then turn left at the stoplight onto 1st St. Drive a half-mile. You'll see a brick school on the right; the sign company/museum is across the street on the left.
Hours:
Tours M-F at 10 am and 2 pm. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
217-522-8417
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Pinky: Elephant with MartiniPinky: Elephant with Martini, Springfield, IL - < 1 mi.
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Muffler Car Parts PeopleMuffler Car Parts People, Springfield, IL - 1 mi.
In the region:
Shea's Gas Station Museum, Springfield, IL - 4 mi.

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