Survivors and Lost Icons
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About San Francisco Neon book project
• Over 200 photographs by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan. Plates include 10 photographs of lost iconic signs from the 1970s, and 195 current color photographs
• San Francisco/photography essay by local award-winning travel writer Tom Downs
• Neon preservation essay by Eric Lynxwiler, neon sign art expert and board member of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA)
• Endnotes section with local stories, oral history, and rich details on 30 iconic neon signs by photographers and essayists.
• Index by neighborhood to give readers a sense of which neighborhoods still have clusters of neon, and which neighborhoods have lost all but one or two surviving signs
• Neon condition to give readers indication which signs are illuminated nightly, which signs do not light up and need restoration, and which signs are lost icons
Here are a few examples of the 45 endnotes to the San Francisco Neon book.
Page 154 | 2095 Chestnut St
Neon with flashing or animated parts has become a rarity in San Francisco. This sign is a clever example, with a sequence of donuts flashing down, dunking into a cup of coffee, causing a splatter, over and over again. It was originally one of two Hunt’s Quality Donut locations in the City. The other Hunt’s, at 20th and Mission Streets, had the same sign but the business closed and the sign was taken down only a few years ago.—TD
429 Castro Street
Designed by architect Timothy Pflueger, it was restored to former brilliance by Neon Works for the Harvey Milk biopic. An inspired new touch by the restoration team was the single blue lettering which flashes solid for a second before the speller mechanism flashes the original red letters. —RH
Al Barna is a San Francisco photographer and artist whose work has been shown in exhibitions at the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor Museum, the Rayko Gallery, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. His photography has been published in CA Modern magazine, Society of Commerical Archeology Journal, The Sun magazine and Shots magazine. www.albarna.com
Randall Ann Homan began her interest in the art of signage as an apprentice sign painter in Flagstaff, Arizona. She lives in San Francisco and is an art director, photographer, and an award-winning graphic designer. She has designed books for Ten Speed Press and Harper Collins. Someday she would like to design a neon sign. www.giantorange.net
Tom Downs is the author of Walking San Francisco (Wilderness Press) and an award-winning edition of Lonely Planet’s New Orleans, along with many other books and articles having to do with places, built environments, culture, and history. www.tomdowns.xyz
Eric Lynxwiler has lectured on neon signs at the San Francisco Architectural Heritage lecture series and is the host of the Museum of Neon Art’s Neon Cruises of Los Angeles. He has saved numerous neon signs from the dust bin, and serves as a MONA Board Member Emeritus.
Twin Peaks Tavern
401 Castro Street
Located at the corner of gay history and culture, the Twin Peaks Tavern neon sign mimics the neighboring mountains and woos its patrons with an extended martini glass replete with vibrant, green, neon olive. —EL
916 Grant Avenue
This enduring sign has many cameos with Rita Hayworth in the Chinatown chase scene from Lady from Shanghai. The basement speakeasy is legendary for punk performances in the 1980s.
City of Paris
150 Stockton Street
A Parisian-style department store was famous for French linen and wine imported via the store’s own ship. The intricate and elegant neon Eiffel Tower loomed high above Union Square. It was removed and probably destroyed in the mid-70s. —RH
Page 4 | 115 Mason Street
This giant dancing leg, or one just like it, can be seen in vintage photos of Pacific Street in the old International Settlement. It shuffled to Mason Street, then vanished sometime in the 1980s.
The Art Deco marquee is still in place. —AB
All photos and content © 2017 Giant Orange Press
AB = Al Barna
TD = Tom Downs
RH = Randall Homan
EL = Eric Lynxwiler