Words by Russ Cohen
One of the most identifying structures in Burlingame is the Broadway Arch. It has been saved from destruction on at least two occasions. The 100-year-old sign originally read “Pacific City” and hung across Howard Avenue near today’s Safeway to direct traffic to the amusement park located at Coyote Point. By the mid-1920s, the Broadway Development Association acquired the arched signage and reconfigured it with backlit tiles to spell: “Broadway-Burlingame.”
Within ten years, however, the electric (not neon) sign had fallen into disrepair, and there were calls for its disposal. In 1937, the Broadway Development Association made a request to the City Council that the “old-fashioned” sign be “neonized” with red 18-inch letters. The request was approved in 1938 at a cost of $500. Twenty years later, there were again calls by the City Manager to dismantle the sign. In the 1970s, because of the energy crisis, the sign went dark and repairs weren’t pursued “to save power and energy costs.” By 1987, the Broadway Merchants Association launched a drive to restore the sign. A street fair raised $5,000, but repair was estimated to be much higher. No company stepped forward to do the work or absorb the cost. The landmark fixture faced another hurdle when a public works project at the intersection of California Drive required its relocation 50 feet westward. Ultimately, the city absorbed a majority of the costs and Burlingame’s now-iconic lit and refurbished neon sign was dedicated on November 26, 1988.