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I wonder if one of Portland's retro-themed hotels, like Inn at Northrup Station or the Jupiter or the Ace might want to rescue one of these and adapt it for their own use.

David D. Levine

Cornford's??? No, it was Corno's. One of the inner SE's greatest lost landmarks.


This very same thing happened to Kupie Corner is SE. There was a great sign that was removed for development on the corner of 39th and Holgate, with the intention of having it reinstalled. Unfortunatly, it seems like it has been forgotten and abandoned, and the sign never returned.

I googled and found this info, but I can't seem to find an update... Anyone know anything I don't?


Rodney King

i agree they should save these 50s road signs they are very unique and really it cant be that difficult to save and move a relatively small sign (compared to a building). i like seeing anything in the built environment with unique character saved considering how bland and homogenious the current built environment is.

but with all due respect, in this post and the one on sera i dont understand why for interstate avenue with its 50s motels, contextualism is good but for a place like old town contextualism is clearly bad like with mercy corp and the waterfront market with their contrasting designs which have received heaps of praise for being different.


I like the signs on Interstate Ave. Keep the signs.


My first ride on the Yellow Line, on it's opening day, was also the first time I noticed the awesome neons signs along Interstate.

My roommate and I doted on them for a bit and then I openly wondered when they would be torn down. I assumed they would be razed to make room for condos, though I may have mentioned low-income housing as well.

As kitschy as they may be i certainly think they are an important part of the cultural and aesthetic history of the city. I assume the hotels are a result of of Interstate Ave being the historic connection Oregon and Washington. This connection was was of the elements of the "anti-Chavez Ave" groups. I wonder, if the signs were to be threatened officially, if those same citizens could be counted on to save the pieces.

I digress, those signs must be passed or at least very near the 50 year threshold for National Register of Historic Places consideration. Being listed wouldn't save the signs but it could at least slow the process of any plans to tear them down and allow for more public input.

They are definitely qualified for the register as signposts of important events (the link between the states and 50's car culture)which is critera A and/or as important and exceptional examples of period architecture, criteria C.

I wonder if there are any preservationists out there who would be interested in making the applications. Heck, maybe I should.


I like the idea of retaining the history of the corridor through signage. I'd prefer to see the original signs saved, but new signage can be respectful and recall the past style.


In response to the last comment:

I also wondered if perhaps the signs could be replaced with similar signs but with deeper thought the idea seemed inadequate and silly.

We seem to agree that the collection of signs are a resource that provides information about the past and a valuable aesthetic sense. Following that logic it would make sense only to leave them. To tear them down and recreate new signs would create a false sense of history.

Also, why do in tear something down to recreate it. It's a better idea philosophically and, (with the tax credits et that may be earned by protecting them and the missed cost of tearing them down) financially to just leave them be.

Don't you think?

Kurt Schultz

Brian, you should have checked with REACH before just posting Stuart Emmons slam. As the architect of the new affordble housing project, I love the Interstate signs and we could easily incorporate the sign into the design of the building and would be happy to do it if it made sense. However the project will house very low income families with children. REACH beleives that the existing crown motel sign with its large sword plus its association with the motel that has been a place of illicit activity and a nuisance to the neighbors for many years is an innappropriate label for poor children. REACH has been working very hard to find another business or group who wants to preserve the sign and is willing to help in any way, but so far have found no takers. They are still trying.

Nick Stewart

I am TriMets project manager for the Crown Motel demolition. We have specified in the demolition contract that the sign is to remain intact. This has always been the case, and there are no plans by TriMet to demolish this sign. I have been told that there is a neighborhood group working to find a new home for this sign.

Brian Libby


I didn't just post Stuart's slam like some toll-booth operator waving it through. I read about the planned removal of the sign in The Oregonian, which included people from REACH saying someone was welcome to take it but otherwise it would be demolished.

You're right that had I talked to the agency, or to your firm about it first, that point would have been better flushed out. But blog posts often react to media, and there's nothing wrong with that. This is supposed to be as much like talk radio as it is journalism. There is nothing wrong with reading an article in a major American newspaper, forming an opinion after reading it, and writing a blog post. The fact that Stuart was as outraged as I was added to but did not cause the writing of the post.

I don't buy that a decorative sword that's part of a half-century-old motel sign is going to scare little children, rich or poor. To say so I think really underestimates a kid's intelligence. Did I go dropping anvils on people after a childhood of watching Looney Tunes? Or architecturally speaking, does a classical statue of a war hero or mythological character--the kind that exist in every city all over the world--scare young children as well? You know, the Civil War was pretty rough. How about we tear down the Abe Lincoln statue in the Park Blocks?

I think demonstrating cultural/historic preservation to kids and their families is better than over-sensitivity.

If people from Reach or SERA feel frustrated that I didn't contact them first before writing this, I'm sorry. A blog post is different from journalism in that it is a continuing conversation that's completed by the comments of others. If I waited to get every Reach's input and yours before writing the post, my opinion would have been the same. I think you have every right to disagree with my opinion, but questioning the process through which I arrived at that point is something different.

MA Larkin

Interstate has been abused over and over again with the MAX, albeit a worthy project but negligent process , then the Chavez debacle. This is one neighborhood/commercial district that has retained it's identity through freeway development, red lining, gentrification and abandonment. It doesn't have a sexy or best use development plan but it has character and diversity that is uncommon in our community. From the Palms to the the Star with the misspelled reader board it is one of the most unique sections of Portland and the loss of the Crown would be heartbreaking.

We are coming to a point in our collective history that we are beginning to recognize the historical implications and values of the early Modern Era. The popularity of Eames, affordability and chic factor of post war infill homes are legitimising the period. These signs should be championed as a part of that resurgence and recognition.


"REACH beleives (sic)that the existing crown motel sign with its large sword plus its association with the motel that has been a place of illicit activity and a nuisance to the neighbors for many years is an innappropriate (sic) label for poor children"

What is it exactly about a cartoonish crown and sword that is damaging to the psyches of young, poor children? That statement just seems absurd.

Kudos to Brian for listing some of the many images that idea damns. I don't have to.

"REACH has been working very hard to find another business or group who wants to preserve the sign and is willing to help in any way, but so far have found no takers. They are still trying."

The sign is not as valuable aesthetically or historically outside of it's original context. It would be cheaper and just all around better to leave it in its current location.


I would not place these signs in a category associated with Eames.

They have a quality and can be delightful, but things change.

Most of the posts above exhibit the same romantic position that so often kills new expressions of place.

Keep the signs, move the signs, but don't bother Reach with this concern. I believe they have better things to do with their time and resources.

To not understand how this sign is inappropriate to the site's new use is stupefying. You wonder why people raise their eyebrows at designers.


I did a quick look on City Search Portland for entities that might be able to use the crown and came up with the following, one of which could surely use the sign:
The Crown Room bar in Old Town
Golden Crown of China restaurant in Beaverton
Crown Court Aparments in Clackamas
Crown Point State Park
Crown Suits downotwn
Crown Carpenty, Vancouver
Crown Trophy, Beaverton
Crown Point Towing, Troutdale
Crown Book & Gift, Vancouver
Crown Carpets, Tigard
Crown Mfd. Home Sales, Sherwood
Crown Home Mortgage, SE Division
Grolden Crown Restaurant, Salem
Crown Central Credit Union, Milwaukie
Crown Pool & Spa Service, Portland
Crown Plumbing, SE Francis St.
Crown Hill Farm Enterprises, McMinnville
Crown Memorial Center, Tualatin
Crown Park Community Real Estate, Scappoose
Crown Point RV Park
The good folks at REACH and SERA can get links to most of these from the City Search site.
I have very fond memories of the Paramount sign being saved from the now Schnitzer Concert Hall. When the crane operators brought it to the ground for renovation, it upended the crane, which was caught on film and ended up being shown on the Tonight Show!
C'mon, Portland, you can make lemonaide out of this!



What new expressions of place have been killed by "romantic" ideas about historic preservation?

Ideas about place are formed by geography and history as much (if not more) than new structures. Even so, no one has proposed stopping a "new expression" from being created. Everyone who has commented seems happy to see a new building come. Saving the sign creates a much clearer and more robust vision of "place" in the area.

Also, I very sincerely don't understand the harm the sign poses to the mental health of children. If it is stupefying that I don't understand it should be simple to explain.


I think moving the sign would make it merely a curiosity. It's context on Interstate Ave, along the street and with all of the other signs, that makes it not only interesting but a historical resource.

That said if for some reason it HAD to go, great idea looking up various "Crowns" in the area.

Randy Rapaport

Having take a look at Brian's blog photo and reading other posts, I think that they should save the "crown" wording portion of the sign and integrate it into the project.


Why not move the Crown Motel sign down the street to the Sera building on the post below?


the property could only be added to the national register if the owner consented. it could receive a DOE however which offers it the same benefits. but there really is no point because they would not receive tax credits (being a non-profit and demolishing the building). besides its underhanded to do it without consent. perhaps a thematic nomination could be written for the corridor. i would offer to help miguel but i'm stuck in pennsylanvia until i find a job back home in pdx.

i also do not see how the sign could be damaging to a child's psyche. if anything it will enliven their imagination, maybe make them curious enough to investigate, maybe a whole crop of future preservationists and historians would be reared here if the sign remained. or maybe we could just mow everything down creating blank slates and blank memories. we would surely be intersting then. what could be more stupefying than that?


It’s an odd day in Portland when we start talking about saving signs, good or bad. The last time I checked, PDX was about as friendly to signs as animal shelter volunteers to Michael Vick.
Regarding the sign; As a piece of sculpture, the Crown sign is interesting but not something I’d want plastered on the side my building or on the site next to my building. And from what I can tell of Mr. Emmons work, he wouldn’t put the sign anywhere near one of his buildings, EVER.
Regarding civic space; Signage designed for cars does not lend itself to creating strong and vibrant urban space. I’ve watched the planners struggle with how to get the right kind of development, i.e. pedestrian oriented, into the Interstate corridor. Lopping off a significant portion of a building for a sign does not create dynamic urban space. Brian, of all people, you should understand this. You describe scenarios like this all the time where miscellaneous items get thrown at a design, the designers respond inappropriately and the result is a negative effect on the place we call home. That you seem to fail in the conceptual understanding that this is one of the first buildings with potential to jump start a vibrant, walk-able community along Interstate is disheartening. Please get out of your car the next time you’re in NoPo, take a walk on Interstate and think about how people should be living there, not how they should be driving past it.
As a resident of North Portland, this is the one sign I want to see go. Under that sword and crown, prostitution has been protected, drug use tolerated and a whole host of other illicit and illegal activity has occurred. That sign is so closely associated with everything I deplore that I would stand and cheer if it were flattened tomorrow. Thankfully, other motel business owners on Interstate have worked very hard to be a part of the exciting changes that are sweeping over the Interstate corridor. As the development pressure grows, these are folks with the wherewithal and resources to attempt to save the signs that identify their businesses. They may not be successful, but I think they will be. The Crown….there’s a reason it’s first.
That REACH is willing to salvage the sign in the hopes that someone takes it should be applauded. If the folks reading this blog are willing to toss out a few bucks and have it restored, I’m fairly certain the team at SERA is talented enough to integrate the sign into the project. They’ve done it at Hotel Alder and the Estate Hotel downtown already. Just remember, restoring a sign like that is going to take $50,000+. Money like that is never included in a project for low income residents.



When I used the term romantic I meant to point out that the defense of this sign is similar to the defense of anything of it's time. I am all for preservation when we are talking about something of historic merit. I am sorry but this pop commercial sign offers nothing more than kitsch.

As far the sign being appropriate. A low income housing project does not need the connection with a motel known for illicit activity.

Do you even know what the new building looks like?

aly star

Hi All, a few months ago we started the Atomic Age Alliance to combat issues just like this! We're 40 members strong, but we need your HELP! Please go to www.aaapdx.org to see if you'd like to get involved. Our next meeting is Dec 30 at 6PM at the Alibi. Drop in and let's talk about what we can do to preserve Atomic Portland!


It might be cool to designate one or two streets in Portland as ... I don't know a good term. "Vintage signscapes" or something. Allow those streets a limited waiver from signage restrictions to the extent that they can transplant historic (pre-1970) signs from elsewhere in Portland to businesses along that street. Obviously allow some modification appropriate to the name of the new business, while still preserving historic lettering and such.

A slowly growing collection of (admittedly kitschy) signs could give those one or two streets some really distinctive character. Sort of a living museum of mid-20th-century Americana.

Better than leaving them to collect dust in a warehouse at the Oregon Historical Society or Architectural Heritage Center or something.


Kitsch has its own merits. The interstate corridor could be a great urban neighborhood with the Max connection to the rest of the city and all.However, I don't like these signs and every time I drive down Interstate Av I hate them. I wish they would be removed and destroyed never to be seen again (much like bell bottoms and green or powder blue shag carpets.) Austin Powers is funny but cannot be seriously discussed as a source of urban (and god forbid sartorial) inspiration.


Here is a thought , as the Max has 'percent for the arts' funds , how about Trimet paying for restoration , and installing these signs on the Max Stations/Properties


Here is some interesting information on historic signs, brought to you by the folks at the National Park Service.


I copied a portion of the text that I found particularly intersting here:

"Historic signs give continuity to public spaces, becoming part of the community memory. They sometimes become landmarks in themselves, almost without regard for the building to which they are attached, or the property on which they stand. Furthermore, in an age of uniform franchise signs and generic plastic "box" signs, historic signs often attract by their individuality: by a clever detail, a daring use of color and motion, or a reference to particular people, shops, or events."


This is what TriMet did with the paul bunyan sign.

Jeff Joslin

In response to djk:

We do in fact have two areas in the City of Portland where we've identified signs as playing a particular role in linking to a signficant past. These areas - the Broadway area through downtown, and Chinatown - are replete with specific regulation which support retention of particular sign types, and encourage future signs to be similarly scaled and graphically adventurous.

As the interstate area is undergoing a revisitation of some of its zoning and associated design guidelines, there's an intent and opportunity to do the same for the sign ensemble being discussed here.

Jeff Joslin
Land Use Manager: Urban Design, Design Review, Landmarks Review
City of Portland Bureau of Development Services

Diep Nguyen

I totally agree with the comments of "goose". I also live in the neighborhood and walk by these "budget motels" on a daily basis from the max stop to my house. It is not fun, nostalgic or for that matter a pleasant place to walk by at night. I have seen drugs sold near these motels and have been solicited by prostitutes more than once. I for one am very very happy to see the CROWN go away. Outside of a few of these signs like the palms (which I think is very cool) most like the budget motel and the monticello have been replaced with newer less mid-century looking signs.

For those of you who advocate to save these signs I would welcome you to come live next to them and see how you feel after a few weeks. Or if you are not willing to do that then maybe take a stroll down this boulevard late at night and see how much you enjoy the "activities" that happen on and around these motels.

I applaud Reach and SERA for their work in helping to revitilize the neighborhood. I think we should do our part in supporting these efforts. Remember they are a NON PROFIT meaning they don't have unlimited resources and should be focused on their mission as oppose to grievances on signage from folks that don't even live in the neighborhood.

Double J

Interestate needs an annual "Interstate Lights" walk. The lights are my favorite physical part of my neighborhood.


Brian, why don't you just "update" your post with statements from TriMet and REACH if they have information to contribute after your original posting?

It doesn't matter if you call it journalism or opinion or "talk radio." You inform people one way or another. It serves all of us when you are accurate and thorough, in addition to having a strong point of view. Besides, no one out there writes on these issues like you do.

Brian Libby

benschon, that is a fair suggestion that I will consider making practice of...

aly star

The Atomic Age Alliance is meeting Sunday Dec 30th at 6PM at the Alibi and the first topic on our agenda is what we might be able to do to help preserve this sign. I have a call into REACH to get the ultimate low-down (it may be a moot point), but if you're interested in getting involved, feel free to swing by the meeting.

Alyssa Starelli, VP
Atomic Age Alliance - Portland


Responding to Diep's comments and a couple of others on how the Interstate signs are associated with illicit activities - of course, it wasn't always that way. I'm sure the folks at AAAPDX or others could educate us on exactly when the signs were constructed but I imagine that back in the heyday, they were a sign of prosperity and vitality. Were they initially seen as kitsch? More than likely not. But that's no reason to say they should not be demolished - Portland has its fair share of funky and distinct neighborhoods and this simply is another eclectic street that makes Portland such a great city to live in. The idea that we should destroy this sign to rid the site of its nasty past is ridiculous - it is simply a moment in time. Give the site five years with the crown sign integrated into the architecture and thoughts will be more on the current use rather than what was in the past.


Thanks, Brian. I would just summarize the new information using your own words. You can then point to the source or even link to the comment. That way you are acknowledging the new info in the main post, but it lets us see for ourselves where it came from.

Such as: "UPDATE: Commenting on my original post, an architect who designed the project says REACH thinks the knife symbol is 'an inappropriate label' for children who will live in the low-income housing complex. REACH, TriMet, and a neighborhood group say they are making efforts to relocate the sign."

aly star

Crown Motel Meeting - Jan 6th.

Atomic Age Alliance is holding a Crown Motel Specific meeting to discuss what the community can do to save this sign. This is a public meeting. Please, if you're at all interested in helping, come out and be heard.

Sunday, Jan 6, 6PM
The Alibi Lounge, back Kareoke Area
N.Interstate @ Shaver

Alyssa Starelli, VP


I realize I'm late to the discussion, but I have to agree that although these signs can be fun, would YOU want that sign outside YOUR HOME? Affordable housing and the people who live there are stigmatized enough. It's not going to be a no tell motel anymore, it's going to be where someone lives. I wouldn't appreciate it. I'd rather see it moved and saved than left. It's just not appropriate for the new use.

I also agree that it's one thing to drive down the street and think, "Oh, cool sign." It's another to live with it as part of your neighborhood.


I propose the Crown Motel sign be moved fifteen blocks down the street to Dekum and Interstate where my Vintage Emporium sits. The Crown works with my fancy lady/Queenly business as well as the preservation of the past that I specialize in. Also, it would rest across the street from the sign at the Viking Motel.

Richard De Wolf

We own two buildings along Interstate. Will they fit there? Keep the signs. Better yet, keep them on the site. As for "stigma" of a bad hotel, that might be with the motel, but not the sign. Don't loose the signs and don't change the name of Interstate either. (I hope that doesn't come back again.) I applaud the new construction of the building.

Mid-Century Modern League

This email is to notify you of our organization's name change. Please update the links and references on your site to reflect the following:

Old name: Atomic Age Alliance - Portland
New name: Mid-Century Modern League or MCMLeague

Old URL: http://www.aaapdx.org
New URL: http://www.mcmleague.org

Dear AAA-PDX members and friends,
We are pleased to announce that the Atomic Age Alliance-Portland will now be known as the Mid-Century Modern League. You will find that the aaapdx.org website will be redirected to our new site at mcmleague.org and see some great changes coming in the near future.

Thank you!

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