Edmonton Neon Museum

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Neon signs attached to a brick wall as part of the Edmonton Neon Museum
A collection of neon signs in downtown Edmonton, Alberta showcase Edmonton history

There is something fascinating about the luminous glow of neon signs. Georges Claude is credited with developing the first neon lamp by applying an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas. This produced a glowing red effect, but other colours can be created by using different gases, such as argon, mercury, or helium. Claude unveiled his invention in 1910 at the Paris Expo, patented the technology in 1915, and introduced the first neon sign to North America in 1923.

The City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada has installed a collection of over 20 restored historic neon signs on the east wall of the TELUS building and the south wall of the Mercer Warehouse to create an outdoor Neon Museum. The museum started with 8 signs in 2014. The location at 104 Street NW and 104 Avenue NW was chosen partly because of its historic character and because TELUS made its building available to attach the signs to. The area is part of the Warehouse District that developed in the early 1900s when Edmonton boomed. There are nine historic sites along the 104 Street Promenade.

Neon Drugs sign in the Edmonton Neon Museum

The first neon sign in Edmonton appeared in 1928 on Darling’s Drug Store on the corner of Jasper and Second. By 1928, neon signs were common. Their popularity grew into the 1930s despite the poor economic situation. Six businesses competed in the neon sign market.

Blancett Neon sign in Edmonton Neon Museum
Blancett Neon was one of the businesses supplying neon signs

The use of neon signs declined gradually in the 1960s and 1970s. Some businesses closed. Others replaced their signs with cheaper plastic interior-lit signs that were easier to maintain and seen as more modern or tasteful. The making of neon signs is largely a manual process.

Neon signs along a brick with placards at eye level explaining their history at the Edmonton Neon Museum Signs
Every sign has a story. Placards along the wall at eye level explain the signs.
Mikes neon sign features man on a bench reading a Toronto Star Weekly Newspaper at the Edmonton Neon Museum

Mike’s News operated from 1912 to 1985. Its sign was a landmark on Jasper Avenue from 1934 until it was removed in 1979.

W.C. Kay neon sign at Edmonton Neon Museum
W. C. Kay Importers and Distributors opened in 1955
Georgia Baths and a guitar neon signs at the Edmonton Neon Museum
Georgia Baths sign is from what was Edmonton’s oldest public steam bath. The guitar was created in the early 1990s for Mother’s Music.
Canadian National Railways neon sign at the Edmonton Neon Museum
Neon signs on the red brick Mercer Building at the Edmonton Neon Museum
Signs on the Mercer Building
Vertical neon sign with PRINCESS written on it at the Edmonton Neon Museum

Most of the signs are restored originals. However, the Princess Theatre sign is a replica. Although the City of Edmonton owns the original, it is in too poor a condition to be restored. The Princess Theatre was built between 1914 and 1915. Its vertical art deco neon sign was added in the 1940s and removed in 1954.

TELUS neon sign in Edmonton
The TELUS building has its own neon sign on the north side of the building

The Edmonton Neon Museum is outdoors and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Located alongside the 104 Street NW public sidewalk, no admission is required. Although the signs are visible at any hour, dusk may be the best time to view them. It only takes about ten minutes to see the signs themselves, but you may want to take a bit more time to read the information about the signs. It provides glimpses into bits of Edmonton history.

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Neon Museum in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - an outdoor  collection of neon signs showcasing city history is one of the things to do in downtown Edmonton #Edmonton #Alberta #Canada #museum #neon
Edmonton Neon Museum - a  collection of neon signs in downtown Edmonton, Alberta, Canada showcase Edmonton history #Edmonton #Alberta #Canada #museum #neon

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  1. Wow! There’s a museum for everything. If you don’t look down you can imagine the stores that went with those signs are still there and it would be like walking down the street in 1950.