For the first half of the 20th century, American signage was decorous, dignified and more than a little boring. Then came neon, flashing a bright and hopeful message—the war is over, so celebrate we will.
Gone was the black-and-white respectability of hand-painted signs. Neon sold the future: Levi’s and Lucky Strikes, cars and televisions, entertainment of every description. These advertisements were a laborious enterprise, made by craftsmen bending heated glass tubes into letters and shapes to be filled with neon, argon and mercury. Here in Savannah, as in much of the developed world, neon revolutionized businesses and defined the city skyline. These high voltage fusions of art and commercialism didn’t just play along. They lit the way.
Though LED technology has rendered neon a thing of the past, some of Savannah’s most electric landmarks have been refurbished or reinterpreted for our collective appreciation. Look up and listen closely. That familiar buzz feels fresh, despite the years.