From the moment the giant Boston Citgo sign was switched on in 1965, it’s been something of a city landmark. It’s impossible to miss, with its 218,000 LED lights illuminating one of the city’s most visited neighborhoods.
When a lease agreement threatened to remove the oversized advertisement from the Boston skyline, Bostonians were outraged. Fortunately, a new deal has been brokered that ensures the sign will remain atop 660 Beacon Street for decades, at least. And to take things further, the Boston Landmarks Commission is studying whether or not the sign can be granted landmark status.
For people who don’t live in Boston—those who don’t wake up with a bedroom window view full of the red-and-white Citgo glow—it can be hard to understand what makes the oil company logo so beloved. After all, it lacks the historical brevity of the Old North Church or the architectural allure of the Christian Science Center Complex.
But it is deeply woven into the fabric of Boston. In a petition organized by the Boston Preservation Alliance, supporters of the Boston Citgo sign cited how the sign encourages marathon runners every year, greets visitors arriving to Boston from almost every direction, and is even present every time a home run is hit out of Fenway Park.
It’s even hailed as a guiding “North Star,” helping people find their way in the city without the assistance of a GPS or a map.
A 60-foot-by-60-foot sign might not seem as important as Quincy Market or the Boston Common, but the work of pop art has proven that over time, even the most unlikely creations can become a source of local price (think: the once-despised Eiffel Tower).
That’s not to diminish the success of the sign as an advertising tool for Citgo gas. When designer Arthur King was tasked with rebranding Cities Service, he took everything from the shades of red to the number of letters in the name into consideration. That’s how an entirely unspectacular white-and-green sign became such an unforgettable, flashy fixture of Boston.
Photo via The Boston Globe.