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Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign
Pasadena, California


Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign
courtesy of the City of Pasadena

The Bekins Storage Company Roof Sign, which today reads “A. American Storage Co.,” may well strike viewers as unusually large.  Mounted 60 feet above the street, the rectangular sign is 32 feet long and 12 feet high and is visible for several blocks in both directions along Pasadena's South Fair Oaks Avenue. Bordering Route 66 when it used Fair Oaks Avenue from 1926 until 1940, the Bekins sign’s size made it impossible to miss, even from the window of a passing automobile.

The sign represents the influence that automobiles had on businesses all across the country.  The owner installed the original Bekins sign, which used light bulbs to spell "STANDARD FIREPROOF STORAGE CO," the same year that Route 66 was routed past the building.  In 1929, its owner replaced the bulbs with neon and the text became "BEKINS STORAGE CO."

Designers made signs this high and this large to be read from passing cars.  They were meant to be viewed from a distance and at cruising speeds.  This particular sign represents not only the ascension of automobiles as the chief mode of transportation, but also the introduction of neon to signs in Los Angeles in 1923.  Scale, speed, and the flash of neon created a whole new way of attracting attention and customers.

Roof-top and projecting signs had an early association with theaters, movie palaces, and department stores, all dependent on attracting large crowds.  The Bekins sign illustrates the adoption of bigger, flashier signs by other businesses as well.  Large illuminated signs became more practical and widespread with turn-of-the-century advancements in electrification.  They became a near necessity when commercial establishments could no longer rely solely on foot traffic for business by virtue of the increased mobility of customers.

The early decades of the 20th century saw more and more signs designed to be visible from greater distances, at greater speeds, and during the night.  Signs and lettering grew, and locations of signs became more prominent.  The Bekins sign, colorful, large, high, and elaborate, exemplifies the impact of transportation on commercial history.  Because of its significance, the National Park Service listed it in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.  Today, the sign is Pasadena’s only pre-war example of the once-popular massive projecting roof signs designed to attract customers in automobiles.
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The Bekins Storage Co. Roof Sign is a rooftop sign at 511 South Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, CA.
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