Visiting the Museum of Neon Art

A few years back I visited the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas and it was fascinating to view the gigantic neon signs that once lined the strip but it would have been even better to see them lit. I have only vague memories of Vegas in its neon heyday and could only imagine what some of them must of have looked like when they were all lit up. Once upon a time Los Angeles was a town of neon (as was much of America). From Hollywood to Downtown there were neon signs advertising everything from restaurants to drug stores. Sadly, those days are mostly in the past but luckily several of the signs survive and are lovingly displayed at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.

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MONA has been preserving the historic neon of LA since 1981 and has had several locations before finding a permanent home in Glendale. Once upon a time I visited their Grand Hope Park location which though filled with beautiful pieces was a bit on the small side. So I was quite excited when I heard about the new museum in Glendale and eagerly made my way there on a recent Saturday.

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The museum is now housed in a large, modern structure that offers the perfect showcase for the pieces on display.

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There’s a wide variety of pieces on view most of then are lit and animated. Each are accompanied by cards explaining their origin and it’s fascinating to walk around viewing these parts of LA history.

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I was especially excited to visit the latest sign on display which had just recently been restored.

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The Brown Derby! If I had a time machine this would be my first stop. Long have I imaged what it would have been like to eat inside it’s bowler hat shaped walls. Seeing the sign lit up just as it was when the restaurant existed was a true treat.

It was also fun to recognize signs that I had initially seen in their original homes.

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I remember viewing the Economy Meats sign at Grand Central Market long before gentrification.

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And the La Palma Chicken Pie Shop! I had a memorably bad meal there years before its closure. Despite the food the restaurant was a true Anaheim landmark and I’m glad a piece of it still exists.

The Museum of Neon Art is a fantastic spot to spend the afternoon. They even have a fabulous gift shop and I dropped a bit of change before I headed out. Now, my goal is to take one of their Introduction to Neon classes so I can learn firsthand just how these fascinating pieces are made.

 

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