BOSTON — An oversized sombrero that once lit up Route 1 in Saugus with its neon lights is now on display at the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
The Siesta Motel sign is part of a public art installation called Glow, an exhibition from the collection of Dave and Lynn Walker, who have preserved and documented much of Massachusetts’ neon past. Pieces in the collection lit up the state between 1925 and 1970, according to RoseKennedyGreenway.org.
The Siesta Motel was a run-of-the-mill Route 1 motel with a single thing that stood out: its glowing green sombrero sign, that, along with The Hilltop’s towering green cactus, created a western motif on the stretch of road.
The sombrero, the Leaning Tower of Pizza, and many others on Route 1, were designed and fabricated by The Salem Sign Company, according to the website. The modest company was run by a Danvers man named Joseph Finocchio.
The Walkers have lended The Greenway Conservancy signs that became landmarks at the time that the companies were in business. A description of the exhibition says that neon light was introduced to the United States from Paris in the 1920s, illuminating the front of theatres, and became a popular investment for merchants during the Great
Depression, who used the inexpensive tube lighting to update their storefronts to attract scarce customers.
In the ’50s, many small business owners were drawn to the design by its relative affordability and the ability to advertise their products in neon lights.
The exhibit is intended to encourage visitors of the central Boston park to consider new ways of interpreting the signs and thinking about how neon light can work as a catalyst for engaging a public space.
The signs will be illuminated from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.