Left Behind: The Sign Edition

It’s understandable. Signs can be difficult to take down when businesses move on. So signs from former tenants remain. I was struck by how much I liked some of the signs that are still lingering despite possible confusion.

The first abandoned sign I noticed, was for a nail salon. Not having been a customer, I’m was unsure when it was operational in the last nine years. It may have shared the building with the High Water Mark bar briefly. I have seen tenants come and got to this building at the corner of NE MLK Blvd and Dekum St. At some point I realized the bar had taken over the whole space. The sign is colorful, typical in nail salon style and design, but it’s cool in a kitschy way and the L.A. connection amuses me. On a subconscious level nail salons need to encompass all the glitz and glamor L.A. has to offer so why not be overt about it. The sign is nondescript in a way to be almost unnoticeable. Any one happening by, wanting to get their nails done will be sadly left with ragged nails and a continued search for another salon.

Given the size of some of the signs it’s easy to see why they haven’t been removed. It makes sense to cover up the name of a previous business with brown paint. The real solution may be to hook up a sign for the current business to the old sign.

The Boom Boom Room on Barbur Blvd had an attractive sign to go along with their amusing name. Who could resist saying that a dozen or so times? It feels pointless now with the place being closed. The internet will tell you otherwise but it also links to the Boom Boom Room’s MySpace site. I have a sense that this sign’s days are numbered. Odds are it will be removed. The new tenant seems to be making extensive renovations to the building and has already added their own spiffy sign to the front of the building.

The renovation to the building’s exterior revealed a previous tenant.

Mackin’s Auto body still has a presence in the Kenton neighborhood. This faded painted sign is either an advertisement or it marks a previous location. I like this relic of bygone days but it’s hard to watch it fade away.

The last sign that caught my attention was spotted on NE MLK Blvd. It’s not evident what this sign may have advertised. An added dash of a graffiti does not cover up what looks like a car tire, while a human figure can be seen below with a bit of imagination. The old sign seems related to the nearby auto business. It retains a certain character with it’s oddball geometric shapes while offering itself as a canvas for additional graffiti artists.

Post script:

On the second, third and fourth day of my summer vacation I can feel a creep of dog days engulfing me. It could be the warmth or the sunshine or that plain old summer feeling. If you notice topics getting less and less challenging to the brain, well, that might be due to the neurological melt (not an actual medical condition) experienced on my part.


Campus Security: A Soldier Statue

Tanned and ready.

When I first saw the statue it was highly recognizable. From my studies of Revolutionary War history, I knew it to be a Colonial soldier. The hat, clothes and gun all fit those times. I was born in the Boston, Massachusetts area, so I grew up surrounded by Colonial history. There’s also a hazy flashback to my father’s National Guard trophy with the Minuteman soldier standing on top. The statue seems out-of-place here in the west, so far away from that old history. It now has the feel of a monument to someone who got lost a long time ago as he wandered and stumbled about in search of cheap real estate and a decent cup of coffee.

On campus.

I noticed the soldier statue from the other side of Barbur Blvd. It’s a busy road with four lanes so it’s likely that I initially overlooked the Colonial Office Campus. It may have taken a second look  for the colonial reference to make sense. The Colonial Office Campus is exactly what it says it is, office space for professional services used by lawyers and counselors. The statue can be found past the intersection of Capitol Hwy and Barbur Blvd heading towards Tigard.

Half a dance away

In front of the main office park building there’s another statue. My imagination had me thinking that this one was a child of the solider. The kid, dressed in what appear to be rags, gets to stay home and frolic while his father fights the war. Online I noticed a couple of the tenants mention the statues as landmarks to help clients find their offices. So eventually it made sense: Colonial soldier, Colonial Office Campus, Colonial columns on the main building; there’s a flurry of Colonial activity in a small section of SW off of Barbur Blvd. that’s subtle and unexpected.

Locked and loading.

The detailing on the sculptures drew me in. The soldier, with his sleeves rolled up, his burly arms fiddling with his gun as he stands as well as anyone could stand with knees stuck in a block.  His permanent stance graces a plinth decorated with 13 stars in tribute to the original 13 colonies. The child had been holding a light on a chain which, I was told, will be repaired.

Wired and ready.

The young frolicker was created in 1974. The Colonial soldier followed in 1976 which had me wondering if Oregon had been caught in the throes of bicentennial fever like the rest of the nation. The artist’s name, Carlton Bell, is inscribed on the base of each work. The soldier’s base also had three other names listed. It’s safe to assume they assisted on the project. Carlton Bell proved to be a mysterious figure. I found little information about him online.

My research did lead to a blog post about Portland Public Art. I would suggest anyone reading this take a look at that post too if only to see an excellent close up photograph of the soldier’s face. There was some speculation on the part of the writer of the public art blog. I know my writing for the Portland Orbit often leads me to speculate but from what I was able to gather, especially after talking to the friendly office park manager, the statues were made for the campus and not for previous businesses. The comment section offers details and stories about the life of Carlton Bell that I plan to explore in a future post. One commentator made an effort to identify the gender of the kid sculpture as male because his brother had been the artist’s model.

Ready for my close up.

I like the folk art feel to these statues. They have a charm that livens up a drab section of Barbur Blvd. while adding a dash of intrigue. The soldier appears to be guarding a curve in the road or protecting against an invasion from the motel across the street. There’s a randomness that’s refreshing in the placement. A Colonial soldier, far from the pages of history, silently stands guard. My first reaction was to wonder why there were roadside statues hanging around on Barbur Blvd. The Colonial theme helped me make sense of it, and the question should really be: Why not?

Guard duty.



Quite the crossing guard.








Happy Birthday!

Don’t touch my tower.

The Portland Orbit office is closing early this afternoon in order to celebrate the birthday of our founder, contributing writer and photographer, Mr. David Craig. We’ll be back tomorrow with a post about a Colonial statue in SW Portland.

A Prince Tribute Purple Post

Listening to KBOO last week I learned about a pedalpalooza event, a bike ride and dance party led by Diablo honoring the musical legacy of Prince. The event was held on what would have been the 59th birthday of Prince. Pedalpalooza rides lean toward the amazing side of bicycle celebrations. Anytime somebody straps a boom box to a bike while everyone rides and listens to music, things get spectacular beyond the run of the mill bike ride, anyway. This ride promised periodic dance stops. I didn’t seem myself participating in the non bike riding aspects of this ride, but then again the spirit would surely have carried me away. I wasn’t feeling the confidence it would take to jump off a bike and into a dance party, especially with my inability to approximate any 80’s Minneapolis funk dance moves.

The Prince ride gave me an angle to present thoughts on the uses of purple around town. Now I have the opportunity to celebrate two synonymous life forces. Prince and Purple. In most cases you won’t find extreme shades of purple in Portland. Although they would be applauded, repeated exposure to richer tones might prove overbearing. For my purple inspirations, I’m keeping it in the family. Anything close to purple is more exciting than most of the run of the mill colors I encounter. Purple might be a bold decorating or wardrobe choice but Prince had the charisma to pull it off.  He turned purple into his visual calling card going so far to make it feel like purple rain could fall from the sky. For that reason it feels necessary to honor him with an exploration of a few things purple.

Bikini Barista

How did I not know this place was purple? I never saw colors when I passed this building that sits in front of Roake’s, a retro burger joint on Columbia Blvd. I’ve always thought too many other thoughts about the goings on in a Bikini Barista Hut. Is it cold working in a bikini? Is the coffee any good or do people go for the view? I appreciate the two-tone purple effect. The building’s purple shades seems pretty enough to upstage the semi-clad baristas.

Purple Church

The purple in the Purple Church on Lombard St. looks great against the white background. I realize purple has deep significance as a religious color. Purple is used sparingly on doors and trim. Any color would pop against the white background but this shade seems so right.

Purple Anarchist Community Space

This is another who knew and it’s right down the street from the Purple Church. The shade isn’t blaring so much as it’s easy on the eyes. The trim utilizes another kind of purple while the striking red under the roof eaves brings attention to the sign. Who says Anarchists can’t be welcomed with jubilant colors?

Lavender Barn Door

In the Kenton neighborhood I’ve developed an appreciation for what I’m calling a barn with a subtle paint job that almost doesn’t qualify in my purple tour. I had to wonder if my photo wasn’t a bit washed out but this is the perfect shade for this structure. Anything darker would detract from the  barn’s rustic nature.

Purple Brick Facade

This building on N. Denver Ave always had a commercial facade. I spotted an upgrade with a more outlandish color especially since it’s a faux brick. It certainly brightens up a drab section of N Denver Ave.

Purple Wall

The Metro PCS phone store on Lombard St., near the Aaron’s rental store, painted their side of the building a deep purple. If you need some eye-catching beauty in gorgeous living color to reset your brain stare at the wall for a few hours. Most people will think you walked out of the smoke shop next door.

Purple Highlights

A building on N. Kilpatrick St. in the Kenton neighborhood has been decorated with random graffiti but it still retains a shred of dignity due to the sweet and subtle purple border that offers up a tiny dash of salvation amidst the blight.

One of my favorite Prince performances: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFNW5F8K9Y





Free Air and Phone: Perks of the Motel Sign

For anyone passing through Portland, it must be nearly impossible to decide where to stay. If you want the motel experience, not only do you have to determine whether the name on the sign, as well as the sign itself suits your taste, you have to consider additional information that may be provided. How many TV channels are you going to get? What if you want a jacuzzi in the room? You always assume you’ll have wi-fi access but do you know? Direct dial phones? Air conditioning? TV? Sometimes it’s the bonus features that make or break the deal. The extras might make the price right. If you’re looking for more than a bed and a pillow you have to consider the features you can or maybe can’t live without for a night or two. Some motels list room features directly on the sign while others have added a marquee for that purpose.

SW Barbur Blvd

Lately, I’ve spent time driving up Interstate and walking and driving in SW where I began to look past the coolness factor of the  signs and discover aspects of them that began to appear absurd.  There were outdated listings of luxuries we now take for granted like phone service, TV and air conditioning. I appreciate the older signs. They look even better in the evening when their neon lights cut through the dark. It’s likely people don’t really consider the quality of the motel signs or mull over specific offerings when choosing a place to stay but for the purpose of writing about motel signs I decided I needed a gimmick.

N Interstate Ave

Fans of the Vikings television show probably won’t find any real Vikings staying at this motel. TV is listed at the top of the sign so it’s a given you’ll have something to watch and hopefully you won’t miss an episode. Otherwise this motel is keeping its offerings on the down low.

N Interstate Ave

This is one of my favorite motel signs in town. I’m not sure why. It could be the cowboy hat. It’s obvious the sign is old. It seems like direct dial phones were possibly a key selling point a long time ago. At least the TV you watch will be in color and the room temperature should be cool.

SW Barbur Blvd

Another old sign that has seen some wear and tear. If you’re looking for phones and kitchens you’ll find them at the Ranch Inn but free cable TV with 32 channels and Showtime movies is the real bargain.

N Interstate Ave

This is another of Portland’s finest neon signs. At night the monkey is more animated moving up and down the  tree. The addition of a marquee allows for increased sales tactics. Free TV seems to have been as much a part of the original sign as the neon monkey.

Palms sign, detail

Showtime shows up again along with commercial rates and internet. Free stuff shouldn’t make the room cost anymore.

N Interstate Ave

When the S in the sign is shaped like a dollar sign that has to imply you’ll be getting a good price. Throw in free high speed internet and you’ve got yourself a deal.  You’re not staying at a motel either. It’s an Inn.


How are you going to settle for anything less than an in room jacuzzi at any price? I loved the old sign before it was replaced. I’m sad to say I never took a photo. The new design did not include additional room perks but if you have an in room jacuzzi what else would you need?

N Interstate Ave

The Monticello makes excellent use of the marquee below the picture of Thomas Jefferson’s old home with an arrow going through it. All your questions should be answered. The motel has some tempting incentives, DSL and HBO too, although in my personal experience I can only think of one hotel experience where HBO actually had something on their schedule that I wanted to watch.

SW Capitol Hwy

I’m getting excited about this sign. I like the lettering font and the simplistic logo. Below the word Inn is an animated sign board offering a welcoming message. Spa, pillow tops, and hot breakfast feels like a little bit of heaven and certainly hospitable.

N Interstate Ave

This sign does not make good use of it’s letter board, but it does have the phrase “Affordable Rates” at the top. This is a rallying cry to cheapskates like me. Has this Inn economized on room perks? Can I at least get some ice in my bucket? There is only one way to find out.

Budget Motel Back view

N Interstate

This sign seems to be in the process of refurbishment. The lettering on the marquee is one of the only instances I’ve seen of a motel offering a special deal which makes for an extra special use of their lettering board.

Budget Motel

A better view.

Here’s a better look at the Budget Motel sign before the special offer had  been placed on the marquee.

SW 6th Ave

This is a beaut of a sign that snuck up on me on one of those traffic-is-always-bad-on-Thursday afternoons when I took a detour to get home. Back in the day AC, phones and TV seems to be what everyone was looking for. The WI-FI looks like a late addition. I’m going to go out on a limb and praise this as an incredible example of mid-century modern design. I may even be wrong about that, but what do I care.

SW Barbur Blvd

The sign alone makes me want to spend time at this motel. I’d gladly walk up and down the sidewalk out front admiring the sign’s dome and swirling arrow anxiously waiting night fall when the sign would be illuminated. In the background a smaller sign advertises high speed wireless internet. There is no need to offer much else when the main sign looks this good.

SW Barbur Blvd

Kitchenettes and suites are the main draw for the Aladdin Motel. It’s not often that I think of baking anything when I stay in a motel. The sign does have the bonus feature of being part of the Barbur Plaza sign plan. These aren’t exactly in-room perks but you do have the option of getting your nails done, grabbing a gyro, pizza, a gun or some vaping gear while enjoying your stay at the Aladdin.

Editor’s Note: Many of the photos in this piece were taken while driving. This is not something the Portland Orbit advocates or recommends. It is now being insisted upon that all photographers stop and exit their vehicles before taking pictures.

Next Week: The Purple Post