Bird Base

Check out these Vancouver Canada images:

Bird Base
Vancouver Canada
Image by Junnn
Coal Harbour, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Evening Time
Vancouver Canada
Image by Junnn
Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Bowmac Sign (1958)
Vancouver Canada
Image by Heritage Vancouver
1154 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Bowmac sign was constructed in 1958 on West Broadway, which was Vancouver’s Auto Row at the time. A number of car dealers, notably the Dueck and Deely dealerships, had begun erecting a number of increasingly large signs to attract attention. The Bowmac dealership countered with a 29m (80-foot) high orange sign illuminated with red neon and hundreds of flashing light bulbs. The background was repainted to the current red and blue colours. It was the tallest structure outside of Downtown and briefly, it was the largest freestanding sign in North America. When illuminated it could be seen as far as 18 miles away. Apparently, Jimmy Patterson was pleased with his first sign which prompted him to purchase the company that built it, Neon Products.

Some of the sign’s notable features include: its colossal size; its extravagant use of 1950’s technology (i.e., over 1,200 incandescent light bulbs and extensive neon lighting); the characteristic 1950’s letter font; and the Las Vegas style marquee base with kinetic lighting. The Bowmac sign is an icon of the era when Vancouver, because of its significant number of artistic neon signs, was referred to as the "neon capital of North America". The Bowmac sign is distinct from the other neon signs, and was a city landmark because of its size and its position on the West Broadway route.

Preservation background

In 1997, after a demolition permit had been issued, a Heritage Revitalization Agreement (HRA) was approved with retailer Toys ‘R’ Us, which allowed their signage to be added over the existing Bowmac sign, to what we see today.

Two key points were accomplished; the non-conforming (under the current zoning) Bowmac sign was not then demolished; and Toys ‘R’ Us was allowed to use signage that otherwise would not have been allowed under current zoning bylaws.

Toys ‘R’ Us has a 20-year lease [1997-2017] of the premises, with two consecutive renewal options of five years. Upon termination of the lease, a new HRA will have to negotiated or the sign will be demolished.

The Vancouver Heritage Commission reviewed the Sign Application SI401331 on May 5, 1997 and passed a resolution on May 9, 1997 commending Toys ‘R’ Us for continuing to retain the Bowmac sign. It supported its application for relaxations to the Vancouver Sign By-law.

The adaptive re-use of the Bowmac sign by Toys ‘R’ Us allowed the preservation in-situ of this City landmark – an important artifact from the era when Vancouver was the "neon capital of North America".


2 Responses to “Bird Base”

  1. tsuntsun3 says:

    well captured!

  2. Silent Film says:

    Hi ! I’m the group admin for : Lost the Buzz – lost or endangered neon, and we’d love to have this added to the group!