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Tucson's Neon Culture, Part One

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The "diving lady" and the historic neon sign for the Pueblo Hotel and Apartments, now the Piccarreta Davis Law Office, 145 S. 6th Ave. It opened as the Willard Hotel in 1902, was converted to apartments in 1944, and succumbed to fire in the 1970s. Mike Piccaretta and his law firm acquired the building in 1991 and renovated it. Cook Signs restored the "diving lady" neon sign and it was re-lit in 2012.

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

Arizona Daily Star photographer Kelly Presnell revisited neon signs that dot the landscape in Tucson. Many are a throwback to a time when a handful of longtime restaurants, hotels and bars served a smaller city. Some of the signs are barely hanging on today. Some have been lovingly restored to their former glory. Regardless, there's no way to duplicate the feel of neon when the sun goes down.

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The neon sign in the window at Che's Lounge, 350 N 4th Ave., gets a run for its glow from a tricked-out tricycle draped in LED's.

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The Western Hotel sign, 3218 E. Benson Hwy., partially lit just as the sun goes down, harkens back to the 40s, 50s and 60s – before Interstate 10 – when motor-court hotels along old highway U.S. 80 (now Benson Highway) hosted weary travelers.

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AT left, the "M" on the Molina's Midway Mexican Food sign, 1138 N. Belvedere, a midtown fixture for 64 years. At right, part of the weathered and battered neon sign on the vacant T & T Market, 2048 S. 6th Ave.

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The sign above the sidewalk for Playground Bar & Lounge, 278 E. Congress. The bar opened in 2012 and is owned by The Hub's owner, Kade Mislinski. The building's history ranges from a confectionary and cigar store and an Indian trading post in the 1920s to a toy store and jewelry store in the 1980s.

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The neon sign for the San Carlos Apartments, 71 E. 13th St. The first buildings on the property date to the 1880s, with additions in 1910 and the 1920s. Renovations for some of the 36 units were completed in 2013. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Watch for part two of the photographic series on Tucson's neon signs.