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Mid-Century Signage

Mid-century architectural signage illuminates the commercial roadway’s approaching Seattle. This signage stems from the rise of popularity in automobiles and marks a notable transition in how businesses advertised and the visual character of roadways. Examples abound along other stretches of tours, but this area has one of the best concentrations.

Mid-century signage is readily distinguishable from contemporary back lit box signage. The mid-century signage provides a key character-defining feature of mid-century commercial buildings and the associated streetscape. This is particularly true in approaches to cities, where multiple competing signs lined the corridor with their variety of illuminated and often stylized signage, elevated above surrounding commercial buildings. Even when the buildings no longer remain, they continue to convey former functions and use patterns along the roadway. Notable examples are shown on the map. This signage is characterized by:

  • Bold architectural fronts, stylized geometric forms, neon, and incandescent lights, visible from the roadway.
  • Materials often reflected modern trends and could be more dramatic and prominent than the building in order to attract customers.
  • Lettering attached to the building exterior, typically along the upper walls for maximum visibility, often using type faces developed between 1940 and 1975.
  • Vertical signs, often on top of tall poles, advertised businesses.
  • Integrated pylons on buildings to hold signage.