'Neon Pueblo' lights up again as tourist draw

Vintage signs restored; driving guide in works for free distribution
2012-01-18T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T10:29:27Z 'Neon Pueblo' lights up again as tourist drawCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Tucson could soon be known as the Neon Pueblo, courtesy of a quirky tourism concept coming to town.

Corridors of nighttime color are about to be captured in a new driving guide to the best vintage neon signs around the city. When done, 10,000 copies will be distributed free to local hotels and businesses.

"We think it has great potential," said Demion Clinco of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, which pushed the project.

Officials at the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau think so, too.

"This is nostalgia at its best," said Jessica Stephens, a bureau spokeswoman.

Fans of vintage Americana already flock to places such as famed Route 66 farther north in Arizona, and Tucson's iconic signs evoke the same era, she said.

"It gives visitors something else to do while they're here," she said of the driving tour. "It's one more nice thing we can offer them."

Clinco's group has been a driving force behind efforts to restore and relocate the tattered relics.

Hundreds of people have taken part in one way or another, and Pima Community College played a supporting role.

Four 1950s-era signs - now good as new - will be permanently installed on 15-foot poles along West Drachman Street at North Stone Avenue, at the edge of PCC's Downtown Campus.

The quartet includes the old Magic Carpet Golf sign, which once graced East Speedway; the Medina's Sporting Goods sign, formerly at North Main Avenue and West Speedway; and signs from two former Miracle Mile motels, the Tropicana Motor Lodge and Canyon State Motor Lodge/Arizonan Motel.

Fixing up the four signs was a $100,000 project, though the final tab was about half that, since a lot of time and labor were donated, Clinco said.

The signs will go up at the college site within a few months and the driving guides should be ready then, too.

The PCC location is perfect, Clinco said, since it's near several other vintage neon signs still in use, such as those at the Frontier Motel and the Tucson Inn on West Drachman. It's also not far from Miracle Mile, a neon-studded motel corridor in decades past.

The city sign code recently was changed to allow for restoration and relocation of old neon signs.

The driving guide, funded by the Arizona Humanities Council, has details on 30 signs throughout the city, as diverse as Caruso's Italian Restaurant on North Fourth Avenue and Pat's Drive-In at North Grande Avenue and West Niagara Street.

Stephens, of the visitors bureau, said it's impressive that a grass-roots group was able to make the project a reality.

"This shows what a group of people can achieve when they are passionate about something."

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Get weekly ads via e-mail