If you love the glow of neon, you’ll find a new attraction among the many you’ll find along Central Avenue (aka Route 66) in Albuquerque.
A re-created sign was installed on the side of the KiMo Theatre during a ceremony on June 3. Because the theater was originally opened in 1927, the street during the ceremony was closed off except for 1920s and ’30s automobiles. That resulted in the striking image you see above.
The KiMo was restored and reopened by the city in 2000, save for the neon sign.
Above is a photo of the sign being lifted into place.
Johnnie Meier, a longtime champion of Route 66 in New Mexico, led the charge to have the sign re-installed. He explained in an email:
In order to create engineering drawings, I gained access to the roof of the KiMo and dangled a weighted rope over the edge to measure architectural features. With these measurements, and old photographs for reference, I proceded to make scaled drawings of the sign. I generated the drawings which specified a vertical “flag” sign 23 feet tall topped with a neon thunderbird. I created a complete set of drawings including the mechanical drawings, neon layout and paint scheme which I submitted for bids to three neon contractors.
The bids were collected and I printed out the feasibility study with historic photos, engineering drawings, specifications, and bids. I submitted the document to the City of Albuquerque. Although the proposal was enthusiastically received, funding wasn’t obtained until a year later when the Albuquerque Arts Council voted to fund the project. The cost was approximately $12,000 installed. Zeon Signs was selected as the contractor. Zeon had restored the Aztec Motel sign in Albuquerque as a contractor on one of my previous projects.
The KiMo is not just a photo-op on the outside. Meier also said the folks at the KiMo’s front office are happy to accommodate visitors who want to take a look around inside.
A full story about the new sign at the KiMo will appear in the fall 2011 issue of Route 66 Magazine.
UPDATE 7/3/2011: The Albuquerque Journal today posted a story about the KiMo sign’s history and how it was re-created.
(Photos courtesy of Johnnie Meier)