Bel-Aire sputnik will be restored for sign company’s museum

Sputnik wih Ace Sign Co., Springfield

For those who worried about the fate of the sputnik structure atop the doomed Bel-Air Motel in Springfield, Illinois, do not worry.

Ace Sign Co. of Springfield removed the sputnik over the weekend and eventually will restore it for its neon museum that coincidentally opens today, according to the State Journal-Register.

The fiberglass ball of spikes, frayed wires and burned-out, multi-colored bulbs was in pieces Monday on a warehouse floor at the Ace Sign headquarters, 2540 S. First St.[…]

“We spoke with the owners, and they were very gracious,” said Dennis Bringuet, president of Ace Sign Co. “We told them we had a little museum here, and we were just getting started. They thought it would be a nice home for it and donated it.”

The article includes a photo of the unassembled Sputnik, partially lighted.

Ace Sign amassed quite a collection for its museum, including Reisch Brewery, the CIPS electric utility, Stag Beer, Steak ‘n’ Shake restaurants and The Hub clothing store signs, after 75 years in business. The newspaper also posted this video:

It’s believed the Bel-Aire’s owners installed the sputnik sometime in the 1960s. Bringuet said the most challenging part of its restoration will be its electronics, which caused it to blink.

Tours of the Ace Sign Co. museum are welcome by appointment.

There’s no word on what will happen to the Bel-Aire’s other neon signs. But it was the sputnik that was the crown jewel of that property.

The long-troubled Bel-Aire Motel, built along Route 66 during the early 1950s, is scheduled to be torn down by summer or fall. The city of Springfield a few years ago proposed buying property and converting it into a Route 66 tourism center or museum but lacked the money to do so. The motel had suffered for years from hundreds of code violations.

(Hat tip to Debra Jane Seltzer; image via Ace Sign Co.’s Facebook page)

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