The iconic neon storefront sign that used to be on the old Alberta Meat Market building on the corner of 5 Street South and 6 Avenue South in Lethbridge is glowing once again.
The sign, more than six decades old, was donated to the Galt Museum & Archives in November by the building’s new owner, Chris Sirias.
At first, he didn’t know what to do with it.
But Sirias knew it was too large to keep on the building, as the city’s regulations for storefront signage wouldn’t allow it.
“Originally, it didn’t cross my mind to donate it,” he said.
“I thought: ‘Well, we could sell it,’ and after putting it up for sale on Kijiji, the museum contacted me. And then it wasn’t a question. It was like, ‘Yes, of course, of course we’ll donate the sign.'”
The neon sign was first installed on the Alberta Meat Market building in the 1950s by James “Jimmy” Crighton. Four generations of the Crighton family ran a meat market out of the building for 90 years before it closed in 2012.
“This sign is one of the very last illuminated signs in our city from the 1950s,” museum curator Aimee Benoit said. “It’s kind of an iconic piece in our city’s landscape and a great example of storefront advertising.
“A lot of people will connect to the sign and its history because it’s been part of our city’s commercial landscape for such a long time.”
When the sign was removed from the building for the donation last year, it sparked the interest of another Lethbridge resident.
“There was an article in the paper about the gentleman who had originally donated the sign to the museum,” said resident Pat Carroll.
“I love neon. I wanted to see if they were going to relight the sign and so I contacted the museum.”
Carroll offered to donate the funds necessary to have the sign refurbished.
Although the museum usually values the wear and tear of physical objects — since that’s what shows the item’s history — this case was a little different and the Galt accepted Carroll’s donation.
“We consulted with our museum colleagues around the country that had neon signs in their collections,” said Benoit.
“There was some general consensus that, in order for these signs to convey their heritage value, it was important for them to function”
The sign was then refurbished by Gimmy Abriotti, a neon specialist at Lethbridge business LA Neon.
“Some of the pieces were still working, so it was easy to determine those.
“For the border section, there was a very small piece left but I was able to attach some electrodes to it and then energize that and determine the colour from there.”
The neon sign now has a place in the Galt’s permanent gallery. As for the building it was on, Sirias says the space will become a retail cannabis store named Green City Market.
The cannabis store is waiting on its licence from the AGLC, with Sirias hoping to be open for business by mid-August.