The Bakersfield Sign, facing west on Sillect Ave.
|Alternative names||Bakersfield Arch|
|Owner||City of Bakersfield|
|Structural system||Steel support|
The Bakersfield Sign (also known as the Bakersfield Arch) is one of the more recognizable landmarks in Bakersfield, California. It is located over Sillect Avenue, where the street intersects with Buck Owens Blvd. (to the northwest of downtown). The sign can be seen from state route 99 (Golden State Freeway), and is just past the freeway off-ramp. It is also next to the Buck Owens Crystal Palace.
This sign is a yellow arch, in which blue letters spell out the name of the city. It is supported by two towers, which were inspired by the Beale Memorial Clock Tower design. The sign is illuminated by indirect lighting. Typically the letters are transparent and the lights, which are underneath the letters, shines through them. With indirect lighting, the letters are solid and the light, which is still underneath the letters, shines down onto the arch. The result is the letters appear black on top of a lighted backdrop. In this case, the light used is green.
The sign was originally constructed in 1949, and was located over Union Ave, just south of California Ave. That road was a part of the Golden State Highway (US 99) which was the main connector between northern and southern California through the San Joaquin Valley. During that time period, the Bakersfield Inn wanted to expand across the street. The sign was constructed as a foot bridge to connect the two halves of the hotel.
The construction of the sign also served another purpose. Most of the central valley communities along US 99 had an arched sign spanning the highway, to welcome drivers to the towns and cities they were entering. The Bakersfield sign became the arched sign for the city.
By the late 90’s, the sign had fallen into a state of disrepair. The Bakersfield Inn had closed down and no one was maintaining the sign. California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), fearing the sign could collapse onto the road, wanted to remove it. The original sign was demolished and a new sign and towers was built by Sampson Steel (Duncan Sampson) in their steel yard located just North of the new sign location; Rob Mann was Sampson Steel's project manager. Once the towers were built they were erected and the arched steel sign truss was carried down the street by crane in the early morning hours and stored on Buck Owens property to allow other trades access to perform their work. On the Fourth of July the arched sign was erected next to the Buck Owens Crystal Palace in front of a large crowd. The renovation occurred in 1999 on the 50th anniversary of its original construction. The project cost Buck Owens more than $175,000 however the majority of the costs were donated by the various subcontractors and the general contractor. Unfortunately, the old sign had fallen to such a state of disrepair, that the only components that could be saved were the blue porcelain letters. By rebuilding the sign, and using what original components could be salvaged, it was again visible to the important Golden State Highway route, which was now the Golden State Freeway (state route 99, located next to Oak St/Buck Owens Blvd).
Depictions in other medium
The Bakersfield sign has become a popular icon. It has been used in local TV and newspaper ads, company and government websites, as well as some book covers. Local artists also depict it in paintings and other art mediums.
Some more notable depictions of the Bakersfield Sign include:
- As part of a mural in the lobby of Reading Cinema, at Valley Plaza Mall.
- As part of the 2011 ECHL All-Star Game logo, which Bakersfield was host to. The design features a condor (which represents the Bakersfield Condors) grasping the Bakersfield Sign.
- On the 125th episode of The Fairly OddParents, some characters are taken to a cartoon recreation of the Bakersfield Sign through a black hole.
- Ten Historic Events That Shaped the History of Bakersfield. Bakersfield Life. February 27, 2009. Accessed: 05-09-2010.
- Home Page. That Bakersfield Sound. Accessed: 05-09-2010.
- Livingston, Jill. That Ribbon of Highway II. Living Gold Press. Klamath River, California:1998. ISBN 0-9651377-2-4. Page 115.
- Neon Sinage:Central California. Roadside Peak. Accessed: 05-09-2010.
- The Restored Bakersfield Sign. BSW Roofing. Accessed: 05-09-2010.
- 2011 All-Star Logo Unveiled. The Bakersfield Californian. April 27, 2010. Accessed: 05-09-2010.
- Nickelodeon Bakersfield reference on The Fairly Oddparents YouTube. June 13, 2013. Accessed: 05-22-2014.