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Seattle City Light Signs Past and Present

The last remaining City Light sign is a Seattle landmark of sorts. Perched atop the South Service Center on 4th Avenue South and South Spokane Street in the Industrial District, its red letters are a beacon in the city’s sky. But, did you know that there were in fact many more City Light signs that illuminated the region? Let’s check them out in this pictorial walk through history.

City Light’s South Service Center

One of the City Light signs was installed at the Yesler Substation. This image was captured circa 1910. 

Yesler Substation, circa 1910
Masonry Dam, Cedar Falls Project, 1914

While hard to make out in this photograph, this sign was located at the Masonry Dam portion of the Cedar Falls Project. The sign reads: “The Municipal Light and Power Plant of Seattle America’s Best Lighted City 40 Miles.” The photo was captured in 1914; construction began on the dam in 1912. 

The City Light sign installed at Cedar Falls was different from the others. It read “Seattle’s City Light Plant.” This image was captured on May 10, 1917. It’s difficult to read the sign, which is located on the front of the building.

Cedar Falls Hydroelectric Project, 1917

The City Light sign located at the Lake Union Steam Plant, which operated from 1914 to 1987, was the only City Light sign easily viewed from a boat. This image was captured in 1928. 

Lake Union Steam Plant, 1928

A City Light sign sits atop the Spokane Street and 4th Avenue warehouse in 1926. The building was located at what is now the South Service Center, home to the last remaining City Light sign. 

Cedar Falls Hydroelectric Project, 1917

Morning light on the sign at South Service Center

Today, that sign is now actually 18 separate signs — each letter is actually its own sign. One set of letters faces west, and one set faces east toward Interstate 5. In 2016, the utility replaced the signs’ neon lights with LED rope lighting to save energy and money while maintaining the historical look. Prior to the replacement of the neon lights, the signs had not been upgraded since the 1980s. 

Denny substation views

And while not quite its own sign, Denny Substation features an artistic homage to the City Light sign at the South Service Center. The substation was first energized in May 2018. The photo shows how two signs at separate angles come together at the southwest corner of the facility.

We hope you enjoyed this walk through history with us!