NORTH BEND -- The neon sign that has welcomed people to North Bend for decades is on track to get a welcome facelift.
But traditionalists who love the sign's neon lights, which shine nightly over U.S. Highway 101, needn't fret over the changes. At a North Bend City Council work session Monday afternoon, councilors agreed they'd prefer to preserve the sign's historic look than to use modern LED lights.
'I've lived here almost all my life and every day I would come in and see that welcome North Bend sign," said North Bend Parks Department Superintendent Bryan Owen.
'I'd rather go neon. It's more historical."
According to the pamphlet 'North Bend Historic Points of Interest on a Self-Guided Walking Tour," the welcome sign is one of the last legal neon signs over a state highway. City Administrator Jan Willis said such signs are definitely a rarity in Oregon.
Owen said North Bend's sign has seen brighter days, hence the recent interest in rejuvenating or replacing it.
For instance, the neon letters need to be replaced periodically -- as three were on Monday by Art Signs of Coos Bay -- so that visiting motorists aren't welcomed to NO TH B ND or to TH BEND.
Connections for the lights are rusting out, Owen explained, and a structural engineer from Salem will look at the sign's steel supports, which may need replacing too.
'It just needs to be fixed so that we have hardly any maintenance on it," Owen said.
Get the LED out
While he first considered LED lights to replace the lettering, Owen said the city wouldn't save much money on the more modern lighting. They may be more reliable, but Councilor Barry Hayes contended that they would fade over the years.
'I don't think they're quite there with the LED," Hayes said.
Plus, according to images Owen shared with the council, the lettering just wouldn't look the same.
'They'd be blocks during the day and at night," Owen said.
Originally built in 1936 just south of the McCullough Bridge, the sign has been replaced a time or two.
According to a book by local historians Dick and Judy Wagner, 'North Bend Between The World Wars: 1919-1941," by February 1937, high winds dislodged the sign, twisting it and leaving exposed wires. An electrical products company replaced it about three months later.
It was last rebuilt nearly 22 years ago.
The sign will be discussed again during a council work session on Oct. 11.