Reviving the Memories of Bangor’s Glory Days: The Power of Neon Signs and Color Schemes

Downtown Bangor is more brightly colored as a growing number of neon lighting and striking paint colors have begun adorning the facades of buildings in the last couple of years.

Over the past month, downtown business including Red Rabbit Bazaar, on the second floor of 9 Central St., and Chimera Coffee, the new name of the new owners of West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse has installed eye-catching, custom neon signs in their windows.

The “Hopeful” sign is a work of public art made out of neon lights that are hung on the side of 152 Main St. advertising a state of mind rather than a company and were first installed in December 2021.

Many companies have in the last one or two years painted their storefronts attractive new colors, like the gold and blue of the restaurant and bar the Lazy Hound, and the striking red and black facade of Three Graces Tattoo & Art Gallery.

Neon signs as well as hanging signs and vibrant facades are relatively recent additions to downtown after a few policy changes began allowing more creativity in how businesses can personalize their facilities.

The Bangor Historic Preservation Commission revised its code in 2019 to allow greater flexibility in the ways building owners and tenants can change or paint their properties. This means that they do not require approval of the commission for paint colors and signage.

The majority of the downtown area is within either the Great Fire district, the West Market district, or the Main Street district, all historic districts with specific rules about building modifications.

In the wake of those modifications, and with the adoption of new regulations permitting businesses to install additional signs in their windows, they have facades that are painted in a variety of colors, fun new signs, both attached to walls and hanging and the most recent neon signs.

“I believe these new rules along with the fact that there are just more businesses in downtown Bangor, does give the impression that there’s more of everything,” said Brenda Bilotta, Bangor’s licensing coordinator in the office of code enforcement, who is in charge of approving signs in Bangor.

A custom neon sign can be created quickly, cheaply, and quickly. Numerous local sign-makers can create neon signs. But, you can also find online sellers who can create signs that are custom-designed starting at $200. The price will increase if you choose more large sizes or include color-changing LED neon.

In the early 1980s, the downtown of Bangor was packed with an array of visual signs, from signs on facades to massive rooftop billboards advertising, not just local businesses, but as well as national brands such as Coca-Cola and Ballantine beer.

By the mid-1970s as Bangor tried to build a neat and orderly downtown as envisioned by urban revival supporters, many of the old or historic structures were demolished.

To preserve the buildings of the past that were left, in the mid-1980s the city instituted strict rules concerning how these buildings could be altered as well as what signs were allowed.

By the 1990s, those regulations began to be pushed against advancements in federal law and technological advancements, leading to the use of wheelchair ramps as well as heat pumps and internet equipment not being allowed in many instances. The rules were eventually relaxed in 2019, 30 years after the first time they were approved.

It appears that there is a compromise found that preserves the historic nature of many of the downtown structures while moving the area into the modern world.

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