The famous CITGO sign in Boston, Massachusetts, will soon have a run for its money as the once famous Cambridge Shell sign is making its way back to the top after over a decade of being too far gone to repair. A recent $100,000 revamp with LED lighting may be just the ticket to start the competition up again, according to the Cambridge Patch.
After current owner Tibor Hungyal purchased the station over 15 years ago, he had high hopes of fixing up the large sign, but soon found that the frame was rusting badly and that pieces would fall off from time-to-time during big storms.
"The original wiring was so rusted that whenever you replaced the bulbs they would only last a few hours before blowing again," Hungyal told the news source. "It was a mess and it was a shame because it made you feel great to see it lit up."
Shortly after realizing the sign would need major work if it had any chance of lighting up the sky again, Hungyal tried to work with the Shell Corporation to gain the proper funding to get the sign up and running, though he was met with deaf ears.
“It was a pet peeve of mine,” he told the news outlet. “They told me it was cost prohibitive and that they didn’t have the money.”
Hungyal and the Shell sign caught a lucky break in 2009, when the Cambridge City Council voted to make the sign a city landmark.
By gaining such elite status, Hungyal took it into his own hands and worked to raise the $100,000 to finally restore the sign.
According to Hungyal, the money raised was solely from residents and private donations. He said zero money from the city was used for the updates.
Back Bay Signs of Boston won the bid for the job and they were put to work right away as they basically had to gut the sign in order to build it back up.
The company had to replace all the original wiring and relays and the sign was then fitted with new energy-efficient LED lights. This replaced the harmful neon and fluorescent bulbs that had plagued the business owner in the past.
Not only are the new LED light bulbs better for the environment, they'll also help to cut back on the costs of illuminating such a large feature.
Hungyal told the news source that the LEDs will cost 70 percent less than the original energy cost and he is excited to see it up and running again, bigger and better than ever.
"The electric work should be finished in a few weeks,” he said. “Once it’s working, I’ll have it lit up every night," he told the news outlet.
The sign itself has been in Boston for over 75 years and has been in the same location in Cambridge, right across from the Boston University bridge, for over 65 of those years.
"It was among the first group of large signs called ‘spectacular signs’ to use neon lighting," Charles Sullivan of the Cambridge Historical Society told the news outlet. “In a way it’s more significant than the CITGO sign since it’s older."
More than just being a way to push more business, Hungyal said the sign is a landmark for residents and even young up and coming art students.
"People know it. It’s been a landmark for years and people give directions by it. They say ‘turn left at the Shell sign'" he told the news source. “I’d say once a week we get photography students, or sometimes painters come by to take pictures of it or paint it."
When all is said and done, Hungyal has high hopes that the sign will last for over 100 years, especially with the careful choices and energy-efficient LED rigid light bars and bulbs used, though he is anxious to see if the new technology will match the charm of the original sign.
"The lights used to burst upwards into the shell and then light up the letters one at a time and then blink," Hungyal told the news source. "It’s an immense sign. It was sad to see it falling apart. I love it. It’s one of a kind and you couldn’t even put something like this up nowadays. It will be good to see it completely restored."