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America's Iconic Signage: Chicago, IL

Posted on October 08, 2014 | Posted by Kris Williamson

Our America's Iconic Signage series is back! This time we are featuring the Windy City: Chicago, Illinois. There are plenty of signs to choose from when looking at the iconic signage that makes up the identity of Chicago. As recongizable as the skyline is from a distance, Chicago's landmark signs attract visitors from all over the world. From hotels to theaters to a special sports venue, Chicago knows how to represent with style!

1. The Drake Hotel

According to the website for The Drake Hotel, "No other Chicago hotel has inspired more legendary acclaim on par with The Drake." The hotel was founded in 1920 by brothers Tracy and John Drake. The sign for the hotel, with it's Gothic script, contributes to the identifiable skyline of downtown Chicago. It is know for high-end elegance and has hosted such notable guests as Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. While it used to have a pinkish neon glow at night, the hotel's sign now emits a lavendar hue thanks to the use of LED bulbs. If you are looking for the Magnificent Mile, and you see the sign for The Drake Hotel, you know you have arrived!

The iconic sign of The Drake Hotel in Chicago. 12-Point SignWorks

2. The Chicago Theater

The Chicago Theater first opened its doors on October 26, 1921. The first of its kind, the theater did not disappoint in grandeur with its Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, grand staircase, crystal chandeliers and bronze light fixtures. The theater's unique vertical sign, spelling out CHICAGO, soars almost six stories high. When combined with the equally impressive marquee, The Chicago Theater offers one of the most well-known landmarks in the city. Saved from demolition in 1986, the theater received a multi-million dollar restoration. Thankfully, the sign and marquee remain, providing a symbol that is and always will be Chicago.

The Chicago Theater sign and marquee. 12-Point SignWorks

3. Congress Plaza Hotel

The "Landmark of Chicago Hospitality," also known as the Congress Plaze Hotel, offers history, architecture, lakefront views and - you guessed it - an iconic sign! It opened in 1893 to provide accommodations for those attending the World's Columbian Exposition (a.k.a. The Chicago World's Fair); however, it did not get the name the Congress Plaza Hotel until 1908. The neon sign for the hotel boasts all capital letters that standout whether you are on Michigan Avenue or Lake Michigan. Across the street from Grant Park, the hotel offers easy access to numerous Chicago attractions like Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park. According to a post on CityPASS, a City Travel Blog, the hotel also draws the superstitious type. Suggested to possibly be the most haunted hotel in Chicago, people appear to stay at Congress Plaza Hotel to catch a glimpse of "Peg Leg Johnny" or Big Al (as in Al Capone). Who knows if this hotel is truly haunted but, if you go, I would stay away from room 441 or the 12th floor!

Congress Plaza Hotel iconic sign in Chicago. 12-Point SignWorks

4. Wrigley Field

Built in 1914, Wrigley Field celebrates its 100th season of Major League Baseball this year! Originally known as Weegham Park, the stadium didn't become Wrigley Field until the 1927 season. Here are some fun facts about Wrigley Field:

  • It's the 10th smallest actively used ballpark.
  • It's the oldest National League ballpark.
  • It's the 2nd oldest active major league ballpark. 
  • It has an ivy covered brick outfield wall.
  • The scoreboard is turned by hand.
  • It's the last major league park to add lights (in 1988) so games could be played after dark.

Also making the list of items that make Wrigley Field special is its red marquee sign, hanging over the main enterance to the stadium. It doesn't matter who you cheer for, you've gotta love this piece of Chicago history. The stadium is in the midst of a $375 million renovation. But don't worry! The iconic red marquee is well protected under Chicago's landmark ordinance.

Wrigley Field iconic sign. 12-Point SignWorks

There are so many more iconic signs located in and around Chicago. We've barely even made a dent! What's your favorite sign that makes the Windy City special? Leave it in the comment section below.

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Sources: Curbed Chicago, Wikipedia

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