The Montrose Sign
Since the Montrose business district became the Montrose Shopping Park in 1967, there has been a sign at each entrance welcoming shoppers. At the intersections of Honolulu Avenue and Verdugo Road on the east, and Honolulu and Las Palmas Avenue on the west, a curving monument sign proclaims “Montrose Shopping Park” along with a stylized mountain range artwork. It’s made of cast concrete and has been there for many years.
The first Montrose Shopping Park sign was installed when the shopping park opened in ’67. There was a long low wall at Honolulu and Verdugo (right where the sign is today). It was coated in white stucco and had the words “Montrose Shopping Park” in raised metal letters mounted on the wall. It lasted a few years until a car accident took it out.
The next sign was wooden and it was configured like the current sign. In the 1970s there was a sign company in Montrose that specialized in wooden signs. (I think they were called Sign Works.) The wooden signs were wildly popular and many Montrose businesses sported these attractive wooden signs. (A couple can still be spotted today.)
But the wooden Montrose Shopping Park sign was exposed to the elements. It eventually warped and cracked, necessitating its removal. The current cast cement signs were installed to replace the wooden signs.
But let’s step back in time nearly 100 years to 1925. Montrose, like the rest of the valley, was booming. New buildings were going up and businesses were thriving in the 2200 block of Honolulu, the block between Verdugo and Ocean View Boulevard. (The 2300 block was still mostly undeveloped.) Like now, the businesses worked cooperatively to enrich the shopping area. Back in those days that meant paying for paved streets and streetlights. But also on the merchants’ minds was the idea of a big Montrose sign that would welcome shoppers on Honolulu.
After the design selection was settled on a wooden electric sign that would hang high across Honolulu, there was much discussion about where to place it and how to pay for it. Of course there was a lot of controversy about paying for the sign and for paying the electric bill once it was installed. Eventually the Montrose Chamber of Commerce created a “special lighting district” and each business was assessed a certain charge.
But there was quite a bit of controversy about where the sign should hang as well. Some favored above the Verdugo end of Honolulu while others wanted a mid-block position, or at Ocean View. The arguments got so hot that the sign concept was almost scrapped. But finally the center position won out and the sign was hung on poles installed on either side of Honolulu about where Black Cow and Andersen’s Pets is today.
Here’s how the sign looked per the local paper: “The sign swings gaily across Honolulu Avenue just east of the Montrose Theater building, and at night the M-O-N-T shines green and the R-O-S-E shines red, outlined in colored electric lights, while beneath is hung a smaller sign in the semblance of a log with the words ‘Gateway of the Verdugo Hills.’” We don’t know how long it lasted.
As an aside, we just had the annual Christmas tree lighting at Honolulu and Ocean View. Back in 1925 the Montrose Christmas tree was an actual growing tree located on one side of a real estate office on the northeast corner of Honolulu and Verdugo, where the liquor store is located today. Here’s what the paper wrote about it at the time:
“For years past the pretty evergreen on the west side of Fred Anderson’s real estate office at Montrose has done duty as a community Christmas tree, and this year it is as pretty and bright as ever in its holiday dress of colored lights and tinsel ….
A special feature of this year’s decorations is a big star with colored lights at the points and a blinking light in the center. On account of its location, the tree is conspicuous from all directions and proclaims a welcome and good cheer to all comers.”