Drizzle trickled down over Highland Park last night, but the rain stayed away long enough for a large crowd of community members to witness the relighting of the sign.
After a short countdown and precisely at 8 p.m., those on hand watched the
502 incandescent light bulbs that comprise the roof top sign, fully lit and turned on for the first time in nearly ten years.
“Nicole Possert and Amy Inouye have done an astonishing job with this. What’s
especially wonderful is that they have managed to involve the entire community in this process,” said Janet Dodson of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.
The relighting of the sign was a multi-group effort, led by Amy Inouye of Future Studio, with the assistance of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, the National Park Service's Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, local residents and neighborhood organizations.
The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provides cost-share grants to individuals and organizations, who seek to preserve historic properties that date back to the years between 1926 and 1970, the route’s period of significance.
“It’s a really community based effort because a lot of local groups and individuals contributed money to the project,” said Inouye said.
Inouye said those who contributed to the restoration project sponsored light bulbs or entire letters on the sign.
“We did receive a grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Program, but the majority of the money came from the community. People who live in Highland Park know how community-oriented people are here, but it’s really brought to life by doing a project like this,” she added.
Although the Highland Theatre sign was relit, it still needs major electrical work and it will be one to two months before it shines on a somewhat regular basis.
Inouye estimates that the lights will be turned on during weekends throughout the summer and a maintenance plan will be generated after examining how long the new light bulbs will last.
Irma Gonzalez brought her two children to last night’s relighting event because she wants her kids to learn about local history.
“I’ve lived in Highland Park for about 15 years and I usually go outside of the neighborhood. Now we are starting to stay here and we’re learning more about Highland Park,“ Gonzalez said.
The Highland Theatre sign wasn’t the only structure included in the grant proposal submitted to the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. The next phase of the project will be the relighting of the Manning's Coffee Store sign, which sits above restaurant.
According to Inouye, one of the aims of the project is to create a signage district within Highland Park.
“We’re going to have Highland Theatre, Manning’s, my chicken boy, we have the Little Cave and 'Coldest Beer in Town' sign, so we have the makings of it already. We all know how special Highland Park is and we just want other people to know that too,” Inouye said.
The sponsored two letters on the Highland Theatre sign, the “N” in Highland and the “H” in theater. HHPNC treasurer Mark Reback said the organization contributed $4,000 to the project and preservation program matched its donation.
“We’re happy to be a part of it. Besides the obvious visual, it gives pride to the neighborhood and restores the history of it,” Reback said.
Reback reiterated a statement made by Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program Manager Kaisa Barthuli, saying the sign brings attention to the fact that Highland Park was one of the first settlements in the Los Angeles area.
Reback said the benefits of this project include the cultural interests in the neighborhood and the possibility of additional funding for future studies to help preserve the historical heritage in the community.
Dodson said, “That sign is being lit by lots and lots of people from Highland Park, they’re the ones that did this and it’s really extraordinary.”
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