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Neon Garden

Cycle ShopMany museums have a sculpture garden, but the Yakima Valley Museum is the only museum we know of with a Neon Garden. Yakima Cycle Shop was originally installed at 509 East Yakima Avenue around 1940. This waving bicycle rider marked the spot where several generations of Yakima residents bought their first pair of ice skates or bicycle. The Yakima Cycle Shop was opened in 1935 by Lowell Adamson. Over the next several years, his brothers Robert and Gordon joined the growing business. This unique neon sign was installed around 1940. In 1990 the Yakima Cycle Shop was sold to John Svendson. The closure of the retail store and removal of the sign in 1996 marked the end of an era begun by the Adamson Family. John Svendson made the sign available to the museum and the extensive restoration project was underwritten by Gordon Adamson, Robert Adamson, and Dwinell's Visual Systems. This piece of Yakima history was the inspiration for our Neon Garden. 

Fruit & Vegetables was originally installed in the interior of the Selah Red Apple (121 East Third Avenue in Selah) around 1992. This relatively modern sign was a victim of the heavy snows of 1997 which caused many Yakima Valley roofs to collapse. A photo in the Yakima Herald-Republic showing local clean-up efforts brought this sign to our attention. Hidden in the background of the photo, and fallen into the rubble of the collapsed roof of the Selah Red Apple market, was a broken neon sign capturing the essence of our valley ? Fruit & Vegetables. Mike Sandberg, owner of Selah Red Apple, donated the sign to the museum. 

Welcome to Yakima was installed on the Yakima International Airport terminal around 1958 and removed around 1995. This combination neon sign with reader board was located above a fountain at the center of the south face of the Yakima International Airport terminal, between its east and west wings, facing out at the runway. As visitors to Yakima stepped from their plane, this sign offered a friendly greeting. The Yakima International Airport donated the sign to the museum. The restoration and installation costs were underwritten by James L. D. Thomas and Steve Nordberg.

The DiverSince Neon Night, two more signs have sprouted up in the Neon Garden. The Diver (who we fondly call Esther, for Esther Williams) was last seen high above the Niska Inn on North First Street. She was removed two months ago when the motel became EconoLodge. Although she appears to have been made around 1940, her exact history is still unclear; research is being done and we would appreciate any information on this beautiful sign. All the original neon tubes were still functioning when Leon Wells, of Wells Signs, donated the sign to the museum. The minimal cost of an electrical upgrade and installation has not yet been underwritten.

TaxiTaxi was installed at 16 North First Street when the Yellow Cab Company opened its Yakima dispatch office in 1942. Although the dispatch office moved to 107 South First Street in 1947, the taxi stand and this sign remained at 16 North First Street, a building occupied by the Topic Cigar Store, Topic Café and Tavern, and The Way Station. The taxi stand and sign were relocated to the Yakima Bus Terminal around 1980. The Yellow Cab Co. in Yakima went out of business in 1993 and the sign was removed. Bud Owens donated this sign to the museum in 1994, before plans for the Neon Garden were initiated. Phil Hantz, Norm Hillstrom, Stu McKenzie, Art Reis, Robert Spencer, Glenn Terrell, and David Young of Dwinell's Visual Systems donated the restoration and installation of Taxi.

The Union Gospel Mission sign is the newest addition to the Yakima Valley Museum's Neon Garden.

The Yakima Valley Museum has set its sights on several other historic neon signs in the area and welcomes the advice and ideas of anyone concerning future growth in the Neon Garden. We expect that, when complete, the garden will exhibit 15-20 signs. At this time the museum owns two more signs, ready for restoration and installation. The sign from Miller's Mercantile Co., Inc. (a chain of department stores in central Washington and Oregon) is a beautiful 16 foot tall Art Deco sign made in the 1940s. The Yakima store opened just after World War II at the corner of Yakima Avenue and Second Street, the present Hawkes Building?and this sign hung vertically at the corner. In 1964, Hawkes Jewellers moved into 123 East Yakima Avenue from its previous location at 105 East Yakima Avenue, and Millers moved to 309 East Yakima Avenue, where it remained until closing its doors for the last time in 1971. The sign, in its present unrestored condition, was donated to the museum by Dwinell's Visual Systems.

Corral was donated to the museum by Gene Gandy, Jr. The Alaska Corral bar and nightclub opened at 16 East Yakima Avenue in 1957. During its 20 years of business, the Corral grew in infamy when topless go-go dancers were added to the entertainment offerings. The Alaska Corral closed in 1977 and is now remembered as the last 'stripper bar' in Yakima. The building at 16 East Yakima Avenue has been torn down and is now the site of Wells Fargo and Key Bank drive-up banking services. The sign needs all new neon tubes (hot pink) and a paint job. If you would like to help the Neon Garden grow, please contact the Yakima Valley Museum.

The new edition to the neon garden in 2002 is the Commercial Office Equipment sign.

NEON BOOK A new book, Vintage Neon by Len Davidson, includes three of the neon signs from the Yakima Valley Museum: The Diver, The Yakima Cycle Shop, and the Union Gospel Mission. Select the book image to order online, or contact our gift shop.

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