On Monday, Jae and I visited the Neon Museum in North Las Vegas. It’s run by a private non-profit organization which has for many years rescued, preserved and sometimes restored the abandoned signage of Las Vegas.

[Photo by Libba Marrian]

Examples of restored signs have long been on display on Fremont Street downtown (above), but the bulk of the signs have rested in the museum’s boneyard, which could be visited only by appointment for a stiff fee.

Last month, however, the organization opened a portion of the boneyard as a museum, which can be visited on a regular basis for $15.  It’s quite amazing, instructive and sad — a sort of junkyard of ancient dreams, the remains of a vanished kingdom of Ozymandias that once blazed gloriously in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

Above is the oldest sign in the boneyard.  There are signs from existing establishments that have been replaced by newer ones, and signs from establishments that have long since fallen to the wrecker’s ball.

The signs advertising long-gone motels are perhaps the most poignant.  You think of all the wild nights or desperate nights or frankly sinful nights those motels played host to — all the grim, regretful, hungover mornings.  Maybe a happy honeymoon or two.

The signs, even without electricity running through them to light them up, have aged beautifully under the desert sun — the rust and exposed wires, the dead bulbs and tubes and faded paint on bent metal speak sweetly of decay and the pleasures of the past.

Click on the images to enlarge.

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