Old business ‘signs bring us back to our history’

Cindy’s Restaurant Sign on Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 15, 2023. Fiona Rayne/The Occidental

Cindy’s RestaurantHighland Park Car WashManning’s CoffeeHighland Park Theater; what do these names have in common? They are some of the current or former business names that have remained on signs around Eagle Rock and Highland Park for at least the last 50 years.

Cindy’s Restaurant

Cindy’s Restaurant Sign on Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 15, 2023. Fiona Rayne/The Occidental

In 2014, the owners of Cindy’s Restaurant on Colorado Boulevard launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $16,250 to reinforce the structure of their pole sign and replace its letters. Stacy Partida, the manager of Cindy’s Restaurant, said their iconic sign has been up since the beginning of the restaurant in 1948, and the small owl featured on the sign, perched above the attached open sign, is the restaurant’s mascot.

“The sign is a historical landmark and we are not allowed to change it currently, which is why it still has steaks advertised on it, and we currently do not sell steaks,” Partida said. “The restaurant has changed hands three times since then.”

Highland Park Car Wash Sign on Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 14, 2023. Fiona Rayne/The Occidental

Highland Park Car Wash

Daniel Lee, the current owner of Highland Park Car Wash, said he appreciates their sign as it indicates to people driving in from Cypress Park that they have entered Highland Park.

“In 1959 it was a car dealership that covered the whole block, but there was no sign yet,” Lee said. “In 1962 it finally became a car wash and they built the original sign in 1967, the pole sign there. It had neon lights, and it resembled the rest of Figueroa at the time, the architecture.”

According to Lee, new owners in 1987 painted the sign red, white and green, and they took down the neon lighting. When Lee and his family took over in 2017, he said that they added the cursive writing at the top of the original sign and reinstalled the neon lighting. Lee said that they knew that the nicely done large sign would help draw in customers.

“It was a no-brainer to keep the sign that was a beautiful, historic almost, if not designated landmark. We kept it because it was the right thing to do,” Lee said.

Highland Park Theater
Courtesy of the Highland Park Heritage Trust

The Highland Theatre

The Highland Park Heritage Trust (HPHT) is a volunteer nonprofit that works to preserve culturally and architecturally significant spots around the community. Founder of the HPHT, Charles Fisher, said the Highland Theater, built in 1928, was designed by Californian architect, Lewis A. Smith. Smith was the architect behind numerous theaters around LA including the Vista Theater and the Ritz Theater. According to Fisher, the sign was built concurrently with the building and was originally incandescent.

“It was a green sign, green and white. They restored it initially to all white. And it really didn’t quite make the cut,” Fisher said. “Then they replaced the lights with green, and it came out looking much better because it really now has more of that Highland look to it, with the green hills.”

Fisher said that the theater sign has remained on top of the building since 1928, despite incidents like a section of the theater collapsing in a rainstorm or the conversion of the single-screen theater into a three-screen theater in the 1980s.

Manning’s Coffee Cafe on Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA. Feb. 16, 2023. Fiona Rayne/The Occidental

Manning’s Coffee

According to Fisher, The Manning’s Coffee sign is left standing from the Manning’s Coffee shop in Highland Park that closed down in 1959.

Manning’s Coffee was once a chain, and the last cafe closed down in San Francisco in 1984. According to The Eastsider, this sign is the last Manning’s Coffee sign still standing in LA.

After a case of vandalism in the 1990s, local preservation groups, like the Museum of Neon Art, raised funds to restore the sign.

“That sign became what is known as a ghost sign in ‘59, and it survived. Nobody ever went after it,” Fisher said. “So many of those signs were either altered into another business, or taken down completely.”

According to Fisher, it is now much more difficult in LA to get approval for the installation of new roof signs on buildings.

Fisher said the restoration of existing signs remains important to the HPHT because of the connection they have to the legacy of Figueroa Street, which the city of LA once intended to make the longest street in the world.

“Signs bring us back to our history as a community,” Fisher said.

Contact Ava LaLonde at lalonde@oxy.edu


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