Chicago is a recognizable city. Its skyline and the buildings in it are well known, and the outdoor signage on these buildings helps make them unique and memorable.
Below are 6 of the top custom outdoor signs in Chicago that help make the city the instantly recognizable one it is today, proving that the right signage choice can help a business stand the test of time.
- Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark in America, making it a historical and beloved piece of Chicago culture.
The Wrigley Field custom outdoor sign on Clark and Addison has been in place for over 80 of the ballpark’s 100 years and has existed in several iterations (including dark blue) prior to the iconic red it is now known for.
Installed in 1934, it was commissioned by the Federated Sign Company of Chicago with the initial purpose of advertising. The marquee promoted the day’s game to encourage day-of ticket sales. The marquee was initially fern green and featured similar cascading styling still seen in the present day iteration of the sign.
- Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel, known for its luxury and opulence, opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 1920 and became a fixture of high society in the roaring 20s. The Drake is now a member of Historic Hotels of America, a program of over 260 hotels nationwide that are recognized for preserving and maintaining historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance.
The Drake Hotel custom outdoor sign is a significant and well-known piece of art in Chicago. The sign uses unique gothic script and was illuminated in 1940, setting its place in the Chicago skyline and becoming internationally identifiable. Historically, the Drake emitted a pink neon glow at night, but now with new LED bulbs, the glow is a lavender hue.
- Chicago Theatre
The Chicago There, built in French Baroque style at a cost of $4 million, opened its doors in October of 1921. The theatre features ceiling murals, a timeless lobby, and an elegant staircase, making it the first large movie theatre of its kind in America, setting a precedent for theatres to follow.
Its exterior is equally recognizable, featuring a replica of the French Arc de Triomphe above the State Street marquee. The auditorium is seven stories in height and more than half a city block wide.
The Chicago Theatre’s custom outdoor sign vertically spells “CHICAGO” and is nearly six stories high. Signs of these caliber are increasingly rare, and the sign and marquee themselves are considered landmarks. Nearly demolished in 1986, the theatre has been restored and the sign and marquee remain.
- Aragon Ballroom
The Aragon Ballroom was built in 1926 in Uptown at the cost of $2 million. The Aragon was considered one of the most elaborate ballrooms of its time, featuring chandeliers, mosaic tiles, arches, balconies, and unique terra-cotta ceilings.
While the Aragon is no longer used as a ballroom, it does host a number of concerts, making it a favorite venue of many music fans in the Chicagoland area. Its custom outdoor sign is instantly recognizable and a quintessential part of its neighborhood’s culture.
- Congress Plaza Hotel
The Congress Plaza Hotel, originally called the Auditorium Annex, was originally built in 1893 to accommodate visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the World’s Fair). The hotel didn’t acquire the name Congress Plaza Hotel until 1908. For a time during the outbreak of World War II, the government purchased the hotel and used it as a headquarters for U.S. Army officers, but in 1945, a group of Chicagoans purchased the hotel and reopened it to the public.
The hotel’s iconic neon sign is tall and features “CONGRESS HOTEL” in all capital letters. The height of the sign makes it easily seen from quite a distance away, and some believe that the hotel sign emits an eerie glow. Coincidentally enough, its storied history has lead to rumors that the hotel is haunted.
- Marshall Field and Company
Marshall Field was an entrepreneur and the brain behind Marshall Field’s department stores. Marshall Field’s was known for its excellent customer service, catering specifically to women’s needs. The store included lounges, restrooms, a library, a nursery, telephones, and customers could even check their coats or hold meetings at the store. When the streetcar was invented, Field invested in one of the lines to ensure that trains stopped directly in front of his store, making access to the store as easy as possible.
Marshall Field’s may be no longer, as it was purchased by Macy’s in 2006, but the memorable clock and signs remain in the State Street Macy’s location. Still located on the original State Street entrance sign is a bronze plaque for Marshall Field and Company in honor of the business Field erected.