Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. To the Five Man Electrical Band singing in 1971, signs were a blight. But today some signs have been with us so long that rather than block out the scenery, they’ve become the scenery.
When thinking about iconic signs in New England, there is no shortage of choices, but we’re picked out six signs – one from each state – that we gladly take a look at when we’re passing through.
New Hampshire has no shortage of familiar signs. With its tourist history and its attitude toward free expression, the Granite State boasts many iconic signs. Though some have been lost to time, many remain.
Nothing, for example, tells you you’re in New Hampshire’s North Country like the Clark’s Trading Post sign.
And in early winter, Manchester’s Ray the Mover’s Florida Express sign also comes to mind.
But we chose the neon arrow that directs people to the old resort and honky tonk Weirs Beach as our entry on the list for New Hampshire. Built in 1956 to pull in traffic from Route 3, the arrow is as flashy and fun today as it was then.
There are dozens of possible iconic images that one thinks of when talking about Connecticut. The carousel at Bushnell Park, perhaps, or one of the many landmark-quality signs along the Berlin Turnpike. But we settled on one unlikely superhero that sits on top of a dairy in New Britain.
Supercow has been poised, ready to take off from the roof of Guida’s Dairy for decades. Why? We don’t know. Perhaps to rescue the world from poor nutrition. With roots that go back to 1886, Guida’s has been selling milk and juices for longer than any of us has been alive and it hopefully will be long after we’re gone. The cow can be seen at Guida’s on Park Street.
The Big Blue Bug
Has any kid driven through Rhode Island on Route 95 in the past 50 years and not gawped at the big blue bug sitting right next to the highway. Originally an ad for New England Pest Control, the company changed its name to Big Blue Bug Solutions because its 58-foot termite sign became the image everyone knew the company as.
The bug also has a name, thanks to a radio contest: Nibbles Woodway. After doing decades of service promoting the company, Big Blue Bug Solutions also found a way to use the giant insect for charitable work. It offers to promote worthy events for non-profits for free by placing a banner for an upcoming local auction, dance or other fundraiser in a location right by the bug’s head.
Kenmore Square Citgo Sign
It would be tempting to nominate the Hilltop Steakhouse Cactus on Route 1 as the most well-known Massachusetts sign. For its kitsch and craziness, few can match it. But the Kenmore Square Citgo sign has to get the nod.
Year in, year out, Boston Red Sox baseball fans – wherever they may be – are treated to endless television shots of the dazzling, lighted sign during breakaways, and its impossible not to associate it with the lazy, pleasant summer nights spent watching a game.
There was originally a Cities Services (now Citgo) gas station in the building where the signs sits, but it’s long gone. As is the original sign, which has been refurbished and updates many times over the years since it first appeared in the 1940s. To see it, you can visit Kenmore Square – or just turn on your television for any Red Sox home game.
You Can Get There From Here
Maine has no shortage of iconic signs. The purple/pink dinosaur of Perry’s Nut House in Belfast comes to mind, or pick your favorite from Old Orchard. The sign for the sign for the Goldenrod in York Beach also deserves a nomination.
But we settled on the small road sign on Village Street (a.k.a. old Route 3) in South China that seems to capture both Maine’s diverse heritage and its dry humor. It offers the distances to Maine towns that also share the name of foreign locales, including Peru and Sweden. Always gets a chuckle when passing by.
The Great Chair
Though Vermont shuns roadside billboards to preserve its natural beauty, there are a few oddities along the roads. Ever since the 1940s, there was a World’s Tallest Ladder-back Chair sign in Bennington, Vt. First it was at Haynes and Kane Furniture store. The sign was a clear message of what wares the store was hawking. The store refurbished the chair in 1969, but went out of business leaving the sign to fade.
The sign disappeared in 2000 when it had to be torn down, but in 2012 it made its reappearance when new owners LaFlamme’s Furniture replaced it. Though it’s moved around a bit, the chair, proclaimed as the world’s largest ladder-back chair, can still be found at the store’s 239 W. Main St. location in Bennington.
This story last updated in 2022.
Images: Weirs Beach sign By Rob Boudon – Flickr: Weirs Beach, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18338396. Supercow courtesy Google Maps. Nibbles Woodaway By Jonathan Baker, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13544706. Kenmore Square By Henry Han – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17628654.