The World’s Largest Sign

Every once in a while you run across something so big, you wonder how you never heard of it.

From September 29, 1928, to 1939, the largest sign in the world stood atop Healy Heights. The RICHFIELD sign was 60 feet high (10 feet higher than the original Hollywoodland sign, and 15 feet taller than the current sign) and 725 feet long. It was constructed in Portland by Electrical Products Corporation and illuminated with over 3000 feet of neon tubing.  The illumination was broadcast live on KGW from 10:!5 to 10:30 PM and included speeches by Mayor Baker, and executives from Richfield and Electrical Products Corporation.

 

Mayor Turns Light On Biggest Beacon, Oregonian, September 30, 1928. p10.

Mayor Turns Light On Biggest Beacon, Oregonian, September 30, 1928. p10.

 

The sign was readable for ten miles, and visible for fifty miles.  Not everyone was a fan.  Complaints from neighbors were almost immediate, but the sign was outside city limits.  One complainant, signed as Subscriber, wrote in the October 6, 1928 Oregonian

It is a shame to see our western hills desecrated by this monstrosity. … I have loved those western hills, their quiet beauty, the radiance of the ever changing sunsets above them, the peacefulness of their darkening shadows … who shall escape this glaring argus-eyed menace to the beauty of our nights?

 

Electrical Products Corporation Advertisement, Oregonian, Saturday, September 29, 1928, p. 20.

Electrical Products Corporation Advertisement, Oregonian, Saturday, September 29, 1928, p. 20.

 

The sign was a popular 1930s make out location.  Harvey Maddux writes in Camera Around Portland

Just below the sign was a secluded spot where lovers could sit snug in their cat, and view the lights of the city spread out in peaceful panorama below.

The sign went dark following the bankruptcy of Richfield Oil in 1931, but was relit July 1, 1932.

Perhaps the oddest thing about the sign is that for such a huge landmark, I was able to find only one picture, a daytime one in which it was not even the subject.

Richfield Sign from OHSU, ca. 1939.

Richfield Sign from OHSU, ca. 1939, courtesy OHSU Library.

 

Richfield Sign from OHSU, ca. 1939, Details Enhanced.

Richfield Sign from OHSU, ca. 1939, courtesy OHSU Library, Details Enhanced.

I don’t know when the sign dimmed for the final time, only that it was gone by May of 1940, when construction of new homes began on the former site.  If you know anything about the sign, and especially if you have pictures, please let us know.

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