In 1923, Earl Anthony’s Packard car dealership in Los Angeles put up the first neon signs in the United States. It was more than a decade after Georges Claude pioneered the illuminating technology in Paris.
The Packard signs created a sensation and for nearly a century neon signs have burned bright across the American landscape.
Arizona's neon-lit highways, including Route 66, lured travelers to restaurants, bars and motels. Tucson had its luminous Miracle Mile. The enduring message was "stop here" instead of motoring on to the next town and its neon forest alongside the road.
Phoenix entrepreneurs developed motels with gaudy signs along Grand Avenue and Van Buren Street, including the Rose Bowl, Kon Tiki Hotel and Log Cabin Motel. Mesa’s neon lit the night with Buckhorn Baths signs and the diving lady at Starlite Motel.
Miracle Mile link: http://bit.ly/2gcp5tn
Tucson neon links: http://bit.ly/2eMcbii
Phoenix neon links: http://bit.ly/2vdzr2J
El Trovatore Motel, which opened in 1939, has a 100-foot sign easily visible for travelers pulling into Kingman on Route 66. It's been restored and towers over an historic 20-room motel.
In recent years, Kingman has added other refurbished neon signs. The Old Trails Garage has a neon Packard sign. A Kingman Club sign has been repaired and now lights up Beale Street with neon cocktail glasses.
Neon's brightest era was the 1950s. A decade later, tastes started to change and city sign codes reined in lavish neon displays.
On Route 66 in Holbrook, Flagstaff, Williams and Kingman neon is still lighting the way. That includes the wonderful sign for the World Famous Sultana Bar on eastbound Route 66. in Williams.
Even sun-baked neon signs that have gone dark often have a retro appeal. And there's always the chance that the best neon will be restored someday and once again illuminate the night.
The Mesa Preservation Foundation spent more than $120,000 to restore the Starlite Motel's Diving Lady sign on East Main Street (US 60). Sign maker Paul Millet created the sign in 1960 and it stood for 50 years before a storm blew it over. Larry Graham, an apprentice of Millet, refurbished the 70-foot neon sign in 2013.