Trying to pick our favorite signs in the Neon Museum is a bit like trying to pick a favorite child. Sure there may be qualities you favor about each, but that doesn’t make one more special than the other.
With about 120 signs in the boneyard to choose from, it’s particularly challenging to narrow it down to just 10. The signs and their stories live on in this veritable graveyard, each one as engaging as the next.
But in the interest of making this a readable blog post, we took a little poll and came up with the following list of Neon Museum signs we love. Click on the images below, if you want to see a larger version.
The Moulin Rouge sign
It’s pretty crazy to think that it wasn’t that long ago Las Vegas casinos made racial “exceptions” only for entertainers (i.e., Sammy Davis Jr.). Advertised as the “first major interracial hotel” in the nation, Moulin Rouge set the standard for other hotels in Vegas to loosen up their segregation policies.
Designed by Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada sign creator Betty Willis, we like how the swooping letters of “Moulin Rouge” have been cleverly arranged by Neon Museum curators to read “In Love.” It’s the perfect backdrop for creative wedding photos and an epitaph for how we feel about vintage neon signs.
The Yucca Motel sign
The Yucca Motel opened on Las Vegas Boulevard in the early 1950s. The building was demolished in 2010. Reviews on Yelp, referring to the motel as “a hooker/hyperdermic needle/cockroach haven,” probably didn’t help to save it. Fortunately, The Neon Boneyard acquired the vintage Yucca Motel sign soon after the demolition.
Viewing the sign up close, you can truly appreciate the workmanship of the sign which exemplifies the intricate art of neon bending. Designed by YESCO, the neon was carefully bent and shaped above green leafy foliage to resemble a Yucca, a popular ornamental plant in the Southwest.
By the way, does anyone else think the light bulb-stroked black arrow with “Yucca” (in neon) could be an early rendition of the VEGAS.com arrow?
The Steiner’s “Happy Shirt” sign
One of two formerly animated signs in the boneyard (the other being the Mon Bel Ami Wedding Chapel sign with “ringing” bell), the waving arms of the Steiner’s “Happy Shirt” sign beckoned locals and their soiled clothes to the dry cleaner on Maryland Parkway for years.
We were amused to learn on our tour that this happy, well-pressed, button-down shirt originally had a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Now you know how it ended up in the graveyard.
Doc and Eddy’s Pool Hall “Pool Player”
Though not technically a sign in the traditional sense, we couldn’t leave out the 10-foot-tall Pool Player who once stood upon the roof of Doc and Eddy’s Pool Hall. Though he has come down to take his perpetual shot at ground level, he still towers above the rest.
This mammoth dude’s body is made of hand-welded steel, his hair locks are made from rebar and his clothes, including jeans and the partially unbuttoned shirt, have been painted on. What he lacks in light-up elements, he makes up for in swagger.
The Standard Wholesale Supply sign
At first glance, the woman gracing the Standard Wholesale Supply sign appears to be doing things normally confined to the stages of the finest gentleman’s clubs.
But as it turns out, she’s actually swinging from the pendulum of a clock in heels and a bathing suit. The main sign (not pictured) says “Time to swing to Standard Wholesale Supply.” See what they did there?
Standard Wholesale Supply was a family-owned distributor of waterworks, electrical and plumbing products that opened in 1939. It was acquired by Hughes Supply in 2004. Reminiscent of World War II-era advertising, the Standard Wholesale Supply sign is an example of painted signage that doesn’t have any neon. It’s also one of the few signs in Las Vegas that featured a clock.
The Green Shack sign
The oldest sign in the collection came from the Green Shack restaurant on Fremont Street and dates back to the 1930s. The sign was put together with a flat head screwdriver.
The restaurant’s owner Mrs. Mattie (Jimmie) Jones was full of entrepreneurial ”spirit.” Prior to opening the Green Shack, she sold bootleg whiskey out of her house. She is the mother of the Las Vegas liquor license, as hers for Green Shack was the city’s first. Green Shack was one of the longest running restaurants in Las Vegas closing in 1999, and though it was demolished a few years later it graces the National Register of Historic Places.
The Lady Luck and Fitzgeralds signs
Okay, this photo is really of two different signs. But the downtown hotels they once adorned both had a similar fate. While these signs make us feel nostalgic for Las Vegas’ past, we’re just glad the hotels weren’t imploded.
Lady Luck, which opened on 3rd Street in 1964, closed in 2006. It has since been completely gutted and will reopen in late 2013 as the boutique Downtown Grand.
Just around the corner on Fremont Street, Fitzgeralds (a.k.a. the Fitz) opened in 1979. It was completely rebranded in 2012 as the D. Most remnants of the Irish-themed predecessor (several of which live in the boneyard) were removed (although they did keep the Blarney Stone).
The Ugly Duckling Car Sales sign
Just about the only thing cute and fuzzy about a used car dealership, the two-sided neon baby duck from the former Ugly Duckling Car Sales is just too cute not to mention.
He once graced the car lot on Boulder Highway, which later changed its name to Drive Time and is now out of business in Las Vegas. Now the duck’s neon head (well one side of it anyway) peeks over the wall of the Neon Museum, watching as visitors arrive for their tour.
The TI-Treasure Island skull
Back when themed hotels were a thing in Las Vegas, Treasure Island opened on the Las Vegas Strip in all its pirate-clad glory, and included a marquee with an enormous pirate skull.
Now the skull has come to its final resting place in the boneyard. Even though you can stand right next to it, it’s best viewed from above (thanks to Google satellite). A fitting addition to a graveyard, don’t you think?
To check out these historic signs and the rest of the curated collection in person, you’ll have to take the tour!