Where Have All the Roof Signs Gone?

My little postcard collection continues to grow, although more slowly now that you can’t get even a really boring common postcard on eBay for less than three or four dollars. One thing I started to notice was the prevalence of rooftop signs announcing businesses and welcoming visitors to larger cities in the state. I’ve always loved the King Edward Hotel sign, but it used to be one of many in downtown Jackson and now sticks out because it’s a rare survivor.

“King Edward Hotel- roof sign” by Tom Barnes Flickr

When I first started noticing them in the postcards, I thought maybe they were a mid-20th century phenomenon to appeal to highway and airplane travelers, and of course the King Edward sign must date to the 1950s when the name changed from Edwards Hotel to King Edward. But when I started cruising through the Cooper Postcard Collection (a really valuable research resource–thanks MDAH!), I realized that there are rooftop signs at least as early as the 1910s or early 1920s. This Meridian sign (I can’t read the whole sign) is the earliest I’ve found–dating it by the cars and the fact that there are still horse-drawn carriages on the street–and possibly was facing toward the railroad.

Courtesy MDAH Cooper Postcard Collection

The 1920s through the 1950s does seem to be the apex of rooftop signs though, as evidenced by these postcards:

Courtesy MDAH Cooper Postcard Collection

Not one, not two, but THREE roof signs!

Trustmark Bank put a sign back up in this space in the last few years, so I guess this qualifies as a second rooftop sign in downtown Jackson.

This is the latest rooftop sign I’ve found in my postcards, maybe late 1970s or early 1980s by the look of the cars.

None of these hold a candle to this one though from Hattiesburg, the all-time amazing rooftop sign!

Courtesy MDAH Cooper Postcard Collection

So far I’ve only found rooftop signs in Jackson, Meridian and Hattiesburg. Know any from your town? Send a link to a picture so we can add to our list!



Categories: Architectural Research, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian

34 replies

  1. One of the best posts evah! So much fun to look at all of these. Love getting to see the close-up of the King Edward sign; then a pang in my heart looking at the Heidelberg remembering the great stories of the Heidelberg Roof ballroom. Do you have any news about The Walthall on Capitol St. in Jackson that is now in bankruptcy. Can’t remember if it has a roof top sign?

    Like

  2. The Walthall did have a rooftop sign- at least during the 1950s- before it was transformed into the Downtowner. As for news about the Walthall, what I have read recently about the Roberts Companies does not suggest financial security, but I could be wrong. I’d love to see someone buy it, restore the facade as it was in the 1920s and turn the rest of the building and its interior into something radically modern and cutting-edge.

    Living in Natchez in the early 70s, I recall an electric sign on the Eola, but as I recall, it was on the side of the building. Does anyone remember if there was also a sign on the roof facing the river?

    Like

  3. The old Hilton looked so much better back then.

    Like

    • The Walthall’s future remains cloudy, I’m sad to say. It’s very worrisome, although it seems to be flying under the radar as far as the press goes.

      I am probably an outlier on this issue, but I’d like to see the Walthall’s facade left pretty much as it is, but with some color added back as I assume it originally had. My understanding is that the 1920s facade is so cut up under the metal panels, and the decorative details mostly gone that anything they tried in that line would be more reconstruction than anything, and probably with cheap materials. My vision of the Walthall would be something as colorful and interesting in a modernist way as the old Downtowner in Charleston, SC: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26519181@N06/6971502870.

      Like

  4. Rooftop signs are making a comeback on UMMC’s campus. The children’s hospital and Methodist Rehab both have relatively new signs (Rehab’s is technically down the side of the building. Does that count?) I was always told that the rooftop signs in downtown Jackson were first turned to face the railroad and later to be seen from the “new” interstates that ran through town. At least that’s what my Grandfather said.

    Like

  5. Speaking of interstates, does anyone remember the huge “STAY AWAKE” sign that used to front I-55 somewhere? I think it might have been where that McAllister car dealership was near Gallatin St., but it may instead have been somewhere nearer High St. (river side). It was a white sign with the letters in red lights and it sat up on a very green hillside. I’ve asked people who one would expect to remember, but no one but me seems to.

    Oddly, I don’t remember the sign on the Hilton, but I do remember the Robert E. Lee and Heidelberg signs.

    Like

  6. I’m campaigning for the Hub City sign to be found/reconstructed and reinstalled on the roof of the Ross Building in downtown Hattiesburg so I’m glad you mentioned it! It was installed by Dr. Ross himself in 1912 if I’m not badly mistaken and faced the depot. It was dismantled during the black outs of WWII.

    Like

    • That would be great to see the hub city sign come back it is my favorite. I remember reading some where that it was melted for scrap for the war effort after it was dismantled.

      Like

  7. Those colorful Mondrian-inspired panels are interesting in a way. I agree that any probable reconstruction of the original facade might well fall egregiously short of the original. Perhaps it is best to go with what is presently there and bring it up to date. The “H” on top of Jackson’s Hilton on State Street was repeated at the Biloxi Hilton as well. I think the Hotel Vicksburg also had a rooftop scaffold sign.

    Wasn’t there a large “Milner” sign on top of the Milner Building before its renovation?

    Like

  8. If memory serves, what is now the Walthall once had colorful panels on the Pearl Street parking garage side, much like the old Petroleum Building in the next block. You recently showed us a postcard of this bulding, ELMalvaney. And the STAY AWAKE sign (it also proclaimed “DRIVE SAFELY” as well as “BUCKLE UP” over the years) is still there, last time I looked. Its framework, at least, is hidden in the trees on the high point of the hill. In fact, it can still be seen on Bing maps using the Bird’s Eye viewpoint and looking south!

    Like

    • Why thank you, Billpitts! I’ve debated with myself over the years about whether the message changed or if I was thinking of different signs. I wonder why it was not kept up?

      Like

    • Where exactly was this sign?

      Like

      • If you are in Jackson, you’ll have no trouble finding it. It’s located on the frontage road that follows I-20 and I-55S between Gallatin Street and McDowell Road. There is a patch of woods just to the east of the only motel on that stretch (I think it once was a Howard Johnson’s). The sign is inside the eastern edge of the woods, next to an office set high on the hill. This, by the way, was the location of an old water slide, the remains of which may still be seen in the sloping lawn in front of the building.

        Once again, the sign is also visible on Bing maps, bird’s eye view, looking south toward this location.

        Like

        • I am in Jackson so THANK YOU! In a few minutes, I’ll post another postcard picture of Capitol St. looking west that shows a rooftop Coca-Cola sign there on the north side of Capitol St. at Lamar St. That Coca-Cola sign was the one that was visible on back just west of the Deposit Guaranty building in the postcard view that I posted yesterday.

          Like

  9. Roof top signs are making a comeback on the coast. A lot of buildings that are now the first structure back from the water are putting up signs to draw traffic off of hwy 90. Putting the sign on the roof insures that if something is build back on the empty lots between them and the hwy it won’t obscure their sign. Also some businesses are placing rooftop signs that can really only be seen from casino hotel rooms.

    Like

  10. How ’bout the STANDARD LIFE sign on the tower of the Standard Life Building (formerly The Tower Building)? It’s pretty dang close to the roof! HA!

    Like

  11. Here’s one! Lloyd’s Cafe in Corinth, Missisippi. Vintage postcard image. http://s4.photobucket.com/albums/y109/cjs555/?action=view&current=CorinthMississippiLloydsCafe.jpg

    Like

  12. Here’s another one. Deposit Guaranty sign added to the roof surround on the Deposit Guaranty building on Capitol St. Vintage postcard image circa late 1950s-early 1960s (there’s a similar postcard image that shows the building without the sign). http://s4.photobucket.com/albums/y109/cjs555/?action=view&current=capitalstreet1950s.jpg

    Like

    • Nice catch–I had seen that picture before but forgot all about that . . . somewhat garish sign perched atop the otherwise decorous Deposit Guaranty. It looks like there’s another sign in the foreground, just past the Woolworth building, facing the opposite direction.

      Like

  13. What a fun post this one has been across the day! Seems a lot us readers love roof top signs. You brought out some really cool photos and info from others. Thanks to all for Walthall info. I like the entrance the way it is too and not sure about modern stuff interior-wise, though. Was so disappointed in the Hilton interior of King Edward. Was hoping for something along the lines of the interior of Windsor Court in NOLA or The Homestead, VA. But maybe that wouldn’t work in Jackson? The restaurant in Corinth was making sure, weren’t they, with there roof top sign – ha ha. Love Beauregard Rippy’s photo of downtown Jackson in the 50/60’s and long for the days of our beloved bank Deposit Guaranty.

    Like

  14. I have pretty good postcard collection myself. I have extensive collection of Tupelo and Meridian postcards and a few of other areas of the state.

    Like

  15. Plus the Marriott on Amite St. has outside wall sign very close to the roof.

    Like

  16. That is a great old post card. From the picture, it looks as though Primo’s might have once been located within the New Royal Hotel, or was it merely next door? I remember seeing these buildings falling to the wrecking ball in 1978.

    Like

  17. Here’s some more:
    Jackson’s Green Derby Restaurant

    Meridian’s First National Bank near the Threefoot Building.

    Meridian’s Red Hot Truck Stop

    Meridian’s Virginia Court Motel

    Like

  18. Noticed another one on the way back from the History Is Lunch seminar yesterday. The BancorpSouth building at the corner of State St. and Capitol St. has some signage on the top of the building!

    Like

  19. I’ve found a lot of my collection at antique type stores. A guy here at my favorite one has his more expensive ones but also has nice ones in the 25 cent boxes, nicely arranged by state and sometimes broken down into city. If you have any in particular that you are looking for (I’ll check for the rooftop signs), let me know. I’m constantly looking for ones of buildings that have either been put on the historic lists and ones that no longer exist (which usually make them more expensive.)

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. 2012 in review « Preservation in Mississippi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: