City Light Sign Getting a Facelift

Seattle City Light has contracted with Seattle-based Western Neon Custom Sign Builders to replace the neon lights in the iconic City Light signs at its South Service Center at 4th Ave. S. and S. Spokane Street with LED rope lighting, beginning July 26.
Photo of the City Light sign at the utility's South Service Center.

The iconic CITY LIGHT sign is getting an upgrade.

Seattle City Light has contracted with Seattle-based Western Neon Custom Sign Builders to replace the neon lights in the iconic City Light signs at its South Service Center at 4th Ave. S. and S. Spokane Street with LED rope lighting, beginning July 26.

The iconic signs will go dark during the project, which is expected to last up to two weeks. Once complete, the new lights will resemble the classic amber color of the original signs, which were built in the 1920s. The signs do not have Seattle landmark status, but they are the last remaining pair of full “CITY LIGHT” signs from that era. City Light historically had similar signs at its Yesler Substation and control center, the Cedar Falls powerhouse and the Lake Union steam plant.

“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,” said City Light Historic Resource Specialist and Architectural Historian Rebecca Ossa, quoting from the National Park Service’s Preservation Brief on Historic Signs.  “This project allows City Light to preserve a bit of its early history while demonstrating energy efficient lighting for the thousands of people who pass by the sign every day.”

Replacement of the neon lights in the South Service Center signs is needed because they have outlived their expected life span and have become hard to maintain. Using LED lighting will save energy and save money while maintaining the historical look of the signs.

A team of employees from City Light’s Facilities and Customer Energy Solutions divisions and its Lighting Design Lab designed the changes. The last upgrade to the signs was in the late 1980s.

The City Light signs are actually 18 separate signs. Each letter is its own, separate sign. One set faces west and one set faces east toward Interstate 5.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.