Monday, April 9, 2012

The Neon Pueblo

Tucson could soon be known as the Neon Pueblo, courtesy of a quirky tourism concept coming to town. Throughout the middle of the 20th century, Miracle Mile, Oracle Road, and Drachman Street were together known as Tucson's "Miracle Mile Strip".

Miracle Mile Strip was the northern segment of Tucson's primary automotive corridor: the vehicular route into the city from the North, a crossroads for those traversing the nation on Routes 80 and 89, and an economic arterial that fostered development in several regionally popular architectural styles.

For many, this defined their Tucson experience; for others, it shaped their first impression of the Old Pueblo. I know it shaped my first impression of Tucson. Swimming pools, flickering neon and lush grassy courtyards welcomed visitors to motels with names like La Siesta, El Rey, Frontier, and El Rancho. Restaurants served steak and music for under $2.00.

Today, these iconic buildings and glowing signs have emerged from history to provide a persistent reminder of the continuing American fascination with the automobile, and to enhance our society's understating of the mythic 20th century West. Classic neon still signs evoke an era of fast cars and a slower pace of life.

These wonderful examples of mid-20th century commercial art are an evocative night experience that the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation (THPF) believes has potential to "drive" tourism.

THPF is working with community partners to restore and reinstall a series of historic neon signs along Tucson's Mid-Century Modern highway: Historic Route 80 & 89 and State Route 84, and will release a publication this month that informs the public about the signs in Tucson. It's called "The Neon Pueblo: A Guide to Tucson's Midcentury Vintage Advertising."

The guide is free and will be released at The Neon Mile: Sock Hop event on Friday April 27th at Pima Community College's downtown campus from 6 pm to 9 pm. During this event, the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation and PCC will flip the switch to turn on four restored neon signs.

Source: Arizona Public Media