As a historic sign enthusiast, I was delighted to see the Petaluma Argus-Courier’s article “Time flies with fun Petaluma signs” which has inspired me to write about a recent discovery that involves a sign that is no more.
While conducting research at the Petaluma History Room a week or so ago, I came across two boxes and one binder containing original documents related to the construction of the Hotel Petaluma that knocked my socks off. I’ve long been interested in the history of the hotel, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024. Here were primary source materials that provide detailed information about how one of Petaluma’s most cherished landmarks came to be – the planning, funding, construction and so much more.
One item that immediately caught my attention was a letter written by the architect and project manager for the hotel, Frederick Whitton, to the Novelty Electric Sign Company that describes a vertical sign that was to be installed on the corner of the building no later than March 5, 1924.
Additional sleuthing turned up a postcard that shows that same sign as well as another further up Kentucky Street which was likely designed by Novelty as well.
Historic signs, whether they are hand painted, neon, or some other artistic creation, contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the past and add to the character of the buildings and the communities in which they are located.
Sadly, the Hotel Petaluma sign produced by Novelty Sign Company in 1924 is gone, but knowing of its existence can serve as an incentive to preserve those iconic signs that remain. If interested in this topic, then you’ll want to check out social media sites for San Francisco Neon, The San Jose Signs Project, the Society of Commercial Archaeology, and the American Sign Museum – to name just a few.