Kroger announced earlier this week they would be closing the Scott’s store at 5300 Decatur Road next month. While there will be no jobs lost, the City may end up saying goodbye to one it’s most iconic signs. For some background on the sign and original store opening, visit Child of the Fort and two posts, here and here. Kristina Frazier-Henry of Child of the Fort and I have taken on the crusade of saving this part of our heritage.
Angie Quinn, Executive Director of ARCH, sent me the following official ARCH response via email:
Since the Eavey’s grocery store opening on July, 31, 1956, the Eavey/Scotts Cornucopia sign has been a beloved and familiar landmark on Fort Wayne’s south side. Although it is not the original sign—the sign and lighting were completely replaced in 1992, but the support structure is original—the sign is a significant local landmark. As one of the last of the grand “spectacular” signs of the 1950s, the cornucopia stands 70 feet tall, and formerly was made of porcelain coated steel, with neon lights outlining each fruit and vegetable. In 1992, the sign was replaced with a new metal sign, which did not include new neon outlining the produce. As a community landmark, however, the changes are almost imperceptible, and the sign is every bit as loved now as it was loved in 1992.
However, the removal of the original materials may make preservation efforts difficult. Most funding sources for historic preservation projects require that the building/site/structure be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We’re in the process now of getting a determination of whether the sign is eligible, since the sign materials are not original, and are not yet 50 years old—the usual criteria for inclusion on the register.
We’ve also begun investigating whether the sign could be protected through the Fort Wayne Local Historic Preservation Ordinance, which allows property owners to have a special designation—much like a special zoning—that will require that the city’s Historic Preservation Commission review all visible changes to the exterior of a protected resource. As a sign, all of the cornucopia would be subject to review. The main problems with this avenue are that, 1) the owner needs to initiate the designation; and 2) the ordinance marks a specific piece of real estate, and not the historic resource itself. So, in this case, it would involve making the entire Scotts parcel a local historic district. Unfortunately, the store itself has been remoddled so many times it is not architecturally significant at all.
IF the owner would donate the sign, and IF a location for the sign were located, and IF funds were found to pay for its removal and replacement, then it is possible to have the sign protected. As a piece of public art [which it most definitely is] it might then be eligible for Local Historic District protection. Otherwise, we will need to hope that the next owner of the store chooses to keep the sign, as Eavey’s, Scotts, Super Value, and Kroger did while running their grocery store operations in the building.
One other option to consider, should the above fail, is donating the sign to one of the national sign museums (there’s one in Cincinnati) or to a local entity like NATMUS in Auburn, which has collected other local retail signs of the 1950s (though I do not think they have the space).
The ARCH Preservation Committee will discuss the sign, and may propose further action at its meeting later this month. I’ll be happy to keep you up to date, and I would be happy to speak to a group of concerned citizens about the sign, if there is interest.
On a personal note: as a child of the south side, myself, the cornucopia has been a most important landmark my entire life. I was in the marching band at Bishop Luers (when they still had one)from 1978-1982, and every practice was timed to the big neon clock on the west side of the store, easily seen from Luer’s football field across the highway. The clock is gone now, too.
So, what do you think?
Let’s hear the ideas might you have to save the sign, submit your ideas via the comment section below.