Preservation Journal - Art's Motel Sign Restored
Friday May 11th - Sunday May 13th 2007
Story Submitted by Joe Gniadek - Publicity / Public Relations Committee
Route 66 Association of Illinois
Art's Motel in Farmersville, Illinois experienced a bit of a renaissance as Route 66 Association of Illinois preservation volunteers brought back to life the Art's Motel advertising sign.
Several volunteers found themselves gathering to complete a great project in the works for sometime. With the on site leadership of Dr. Joe Coscino, the project really blossomed. Thanks go to Lou Vargo and Larry Scinto who logged many hours traveling, visiting and phoning the motel. Many thanks also go out to a steady and ongoing contributor towards preservation, association member John Ruh. The association donated as well, an amount of $500.00 towards the project.
Mother's Day weekend 2007 in Farmersville promised and held some great weather - beautiful sunny skies with temps in the lower 80s which helped efforts overall. Barry Limbachia is the owner of the motel and along with his wife and three children, everyone lent a hand. Barry as able to reopen the motel in 2006.
Hats off to Dr. Joe Coscino who logged much time and preparation into this project. For at least a year and a half, Dr. Joe was in constant contact with Barry and also Joel Lehr, a local area man who has been servicing the neon of the Art's sign for a number of years. Another local electrician was contacted to service and install the new electricity to be used for floodlighting the sign, as well as the one new electrical ballast installed within the sign to illuminate the neon word "Art's"
Work had begun prior to the May 11th start date. A portion of the upper left corner of the sign had been cut away and prepared with the new working neon that would eventually light up the word "Art's". That work was also complimented with a matching blue top portion of the sheet metal panel and a red panel with the parts of the white letters "M" and "O" matching the original.
The Friday began with Dr. Joe along with his tow older children, and Bob Killackey arriving at the site at 10am. A rental scissors lift presented the biggest obstacle, as the ground was still wet from previous rains. The bottom heavy lift got stuck in the mud at one point and a young waitress pulled it out with her pickup. Barry resolved to pick up some 4' x 8' sheets of plywood to help stabilize the front of the signage area. A couple of old doors from the motel served as a platform for the 4 × 8s which was laid over the top of that. This finally gave stabilization to the lift.
Now the lift could operate freely across the front of the motel sign area and installation of the panels and electrical began. 80 year old Joel Lehr worked his magic and the electrician contractor climbed up and in the inner part of the sign through a small gap from the top. He then removed the old ballast (which will be on display in the Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac) and hooked up the new one. Jamie Anderson of Arlington Heights arrived in the late afternoon and worked diligently to help resolve some problems that occurred. With the combined efforts of the workers and volunteers involved, Friday night culminated in the word "Art's" being illuminated for the first time in quite a while. The neon glowing brightly was a sight for all sore eyes as night fell. The neon sign is now on a timer illuminating from 8pm - 6am daily.
Barry was kind enough to put volunteer workers up at his motel complimentary. Saturday morning arrived with everyone inspecting the previous day's work. Jerry Law arrived from Wood River and I arrived from 8 miles out from Divernon. Everyone patronized the attached restaurant for breakfast. With the lift firmly in place, work began. Starting with some light sanding of the old sign surface - not too much could be taken off as there was not too much left to begin with. Dr. Joe, Jamie, and Bob Killackey began the first coats of red, white and blue colored paints - very patriotic I might add. First the white lettering was traced by Dr. Joe and then the white was filled in with the phrases:
The other colors followed including Safety Red and Royal Blue. About noon on Saturday with the sun blazing, reinforcement troops arrived, mainly consisting of the remainder of Dr. Joe's family: his wife and three children.
Work began after lunch with Patty helping out with the painting. Joel Luhr also returned again to see how work was progressing. As Patty and her family began packing up to go home, the first coats of paint were done. Dr. Joe had mixed up a fiberglass compound to patch holes in the sign that had been rusted out. This stuff dries quickly.
Now the grueling task of applying the second coat - especially the safety red was approached. Jamie and I put the second coat of red on from the lift. Bob Killackey and Jerry painted the other side of the sigh that faces a hill. They applied the white lettering. Bob truly led the charge on the white lettering on the back side - especially painting the word "Art's" by freehand - all while being at a very high altitude of 35 feet up.
Area resident Patty Ambrose along with her son arrived to provide the day's lunch. Patty represents the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Corridor Project. A smorgasbord of chicken and meat sandwiches were provided along with all the trimmings - potato salad, cookies, etc Everyone took a break, along with Dr. Joe's full family to enjoy lunch. As we finished, Patty's husband arrived representing the Gillespie News to do a story about the restoration.
The primary concern as Saturday ended was finishing the painting so the lift could be moved out and returned to the rental shop. A little landscaping could be completed at the base of the sign on Sunday. When all stood back and looked up and admired the second coats and the white lettering on the back - everyone was proud. It looked great - like a brand new sign.
Barry threw in whenever he could and everyone contributed. We all cleaned up and hit the adjoining restaurant for a great Saturday night dinner. Dr. Joe's family enjoyed great food and I could sense the kids liked the fries. As 8:00pm rolled around, the sign illuminated for a second night - and with dusk saw all cameras breaking out for pictures of this wondrous neon. We had return trip from the Gillespie News as well to get a shot of their own. We capped things off for Saturday and let Sunday unravel.
The Sunday morning church and Mother's Day crowd filled the restaurant to capacity. Servers practically had coffee pots glued to their arms. A lot of the patrons took an extra loop to see the new look of the sign. Everyone was realizing that the sign truly was brightening up the town of Farmersville.
We finished with light touch up paintwork on Sunday morning and Dr. Joe arrived to complete the project with base landscaping. This was put into place with brick blocks and wood chips at the base. Barry was very thankful. Barry said many thanks and his family joined in to say some last goodbyes and also to get some last pictures of everyone together.
The rooms inside Art's are clean and well kept with a Las Vegas Motif. Prices are reasonable at $35.00 for a single and $40.00 for a double occupancy overnight stay. A sign that sat idle for over 50 years rusting away with many rains now can boast a very bright, clean, warm, flashing advertisement to weary travelers looking for a great place to stay.
I talked with just some of these travelers on Monday morning from Mackinaw Michigan. We exchanged stories, some laughs, an handshake and some information regarding Route 66 in Illinois. Then we left on our separate ways. I could feel things improving at the historic "Art's Motel".
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