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About a year and a half ago I was watching the news late at night when I saw a story about this new Neon Museum in Philadelphia. Having collected some neon beer signs and other neon lights over the years, this particular story caught my attention. I started following them on social media (@neonmuseumofphiladelphia) to keep up on events and check out the new signage they may bring into the museum.

Neon Museum of Philadelphia

Sadly, it was announced back in the beginning of October that The Neon Museum of Philadelphia will be closing its doors for good on December 11th, 2022. So, Pierre Robert and I decided to pay a visit to this one-of-a-kind installation that is all about Philly.

Located in a big building at 1800 North American Street not too far from Fishtown and Olde Kensington areas. The Museum’s collection boasts over 150 pieces, from the large, animated commercials signs to one-of-a-kind artworks from local artists. Most of the major pieces in the collection are on display at the museum – including the historic Pat’s Steak Sandwich Crown that dates back to 1930 and the big neon “D” that hung inside J.C. Dobbs on South Street.  Also on display is this super cool female torso made out of all sorts of scrap metal.

Neon Museum of Philadelphia

The Neon Museum of Philadelphia was established in 1983 but its foundation was set in 1950’s Philadelphia. The mastermind behind it all, Len Davidson, moved back to Philadelphia after teaching sociology at the University of Florida. While in Florida, Davidson opened an American Dream theme tavern, The Gamery. The place had everything from antique pinball machines to a Hollywood celebrity booth, to superhero figures and you could even race Lionel trains. Len & his friends would pick through neon boneyards and displayed the “art” on the ceiling of The Gamery.

Davidson returned to Philly in 1979 and began to develop what has now become the Neon Museum of Philadelphia – a lifelong project and passion that also serves as an American art and history museum with a focus on Philadelphia’s rich history and art as well as the 20th century American roadside.

This place is a MUST see! So many cool, historic signs that hung right here in Philadelphia well over a century ago! Another neat aspect of the Museum is that patrons are encouraged to tell their stories via index cards that are then pinned to corkboards near each installation. Lots of family stories and what each sign and company meant to each individually and as a family. It was just as cool to read those stories as it was to see the neon signs themselves.

If you get chance before December 11th, 2022 – Go check out The Neon Museum Philadelphia – you can get your tickets online or at the door. If you really immerse yourself in the rich history of each of the signs, you can easily spend a couple of hours there or more. There are tours, demonstrations, classes, video & multimedia resources and so much more! -bp

Neon Museum of Philadelphia