The listing of this advertising artifact, prominently attached to a building downtown, allows us to contemplate what is architectural and historical—and explore whether something deserves protection.
The U.S. patent for neon lights was filed in 1915 by Frenchman Georges Claude. The technology’s advertising heyday occurred between 1920-1960. Locally, musician and violin dealer Abraham Axelrod established a music store in 1910; by 1913 he opened a shop at the Arcade. Then by mid-century, he moved down the street to 251 Weybosset where the neon sign remains hung at the 2nd and 3rd floor levels, while half of his name is still visible in a sign above the door.
The building with Art Deco references at 249-257 Weybosset is located at a subtle bend in the serpentine street, which was a Pequot Tribe trail running through what is today downtown Providence. The neon Axelrod sign is strategically placed at the angle of the façade for maximum exposure.
As a preservation rule of thumb, structures are considered eligible to be historically significant at 50 years. The Axelrod sign is likely 70 years old and, though the business closed in 2004, remains a visible marker on Weybosset. We invite you to consider if, through survival, this neon sign is now a landmark. Does it contribute to the building façade in such a way that it should be considered part of the architecture and preserved? While not the PPAC marquee across the street or the Citgo sign in Boston, PPS believes the Axelrod sign is a notable piece of downtown history worthy of preservation.