Anyone who’s spent any time in Boston, and/or just idled away 9 innings at Fenway Park, is familiar with the iconic Citgo sign the presides over Kenmore Square. I rather like it. When I see it, I don’t think Citgo. I don’t think the late and unlamented Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez (Venezuela’s state oil company owns half of Citgo). I don’t think Joe Kennedy and Joe For Oil, an outfit the provides Venezuelan oil to poor folks and a nice living to Joe Kennedy.
No, when I see it I think Boston in general, and the Boston Red Sox in particular. (The sign can be seen from Fenway, and it’s a beautiful sight on a summer’s evening when our boys are in town and winning. It’s become as much a part of a trip to the old ball park as a Sports Bar and Sweet Caroline.)
And now the sign is under threat. BU, which owns the building the sign sits on, is selling.
The university has said it hopes a new owner will preserve the sign, which Citgo leases, but has stopped short of requiring its retention as a term in the sale. That has preservationists, and many everyday Bostonians, worried that development on the site could alter the sign’s place on the skyline, block views of it from some angles, or lead to its removal altogether.
“It has become as iconic of Boston as Old North Church and the Swan Boats,” said Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, which launched the signature drive. “We’re trying to demonstrate that there’s broad public support for keeping it.” (Source: Boston Globe)
In July, the Landmarks Commission will decide whether to “grant official landmark status” to it. (In 1980, it was denied landmark status, but we seem to have grown loopier and more sentimental since then.)
Well, there’s iconic and there’s iconic. There’s landmark-y and there’s landmark-y. And I wouldn’t put the Citgo sign in the same class as Old North Church, the swan boats, Trinity Church, Paul Revere’s House, cobblestoned Acorn Street, the Zakim Bridge, the Hatch Shell, the U.S.S. Constitution, and plenty of other things that come to mind before the Citgo sign.
Which is not to say that I’m not rather fond of it.
I just don’t think it has to sit in Kenmore Square forever.
Maybe the Museum of Contemporary Art could find a home for it. After all, the sign is kind of Pop-art-ish. Maybe the Red Sox brass – lovers of all things nostalgic and sentimental – could erect it over the Green Monster, perhaps dimming the lights when our boys are up to bat.
What I want to know is, where was all the hue and outcry when the White Fuel sign, also a denizen of Kenmore Square, was taken down? Every bit as iconic as the Citgo sign, at least in the more than humble opinion of a long time resident and lover of things iconic. And landmark-y.
It may not have been as artful as the Citgo sign, but it had that old-school industrial retro thing going for it.
If the Citgo sign goes away, I really won’t give it a second thought. I like it well enough. I like seeing it from Fenway. Just not well enough to truly miss it. But just for a moment there, when reading about the Citgo sign, I did truly miss the White Fuel sign. (Please don’t get me going on the old sign from the Red Hat, a giant red neon top hat. That’ll get me boo-hooing…And I just googled it and can’t find a picture of it. Say it isn’t so! Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be…)