Recreating the Magic of Bangor’s Golden Age: The Influence of Neon Signs and Color Schemes

In light of the growing use of custom neon signs and bold colors of paint on the facades of buildings, downtown Bangor has become brighter.

Over the past month, downtown businesses have included Red Rabbit Bazaar, on the second floor of 9 Central St., and Chimera Coffee, the new name used by the owners of West Market Square Artisan Coffeehouse has installed eye-catching, customized neon signs in their windows.

The “Hopeful”, a piece of public art composed of light bulbs that is hung along 152 Main St., advertising the state of mind rather than the name of a business, was put up in 2021.

Several businesses have painted their facades with appealing new colors in the past year like the Lazy Hound’s blue and gold bar and restaurant and the striking black-and-red façade of Three Graces Tattoo & Art Gallery.

After a few policy changes, neon signs, hanging signs, and colorful façades were added to downtown.

The Bangor Historic Preservation Commission changed its rules in the year 2019 to allow for greater flexibility in how the tenants and owners of buildings can paint or alter their buildings. This includes not needing the approval of the commission for paint colors as well as signage.

The majority of downtown is located in the Great Fire, West Market, or Main Street districts. These districts are historic and have particular guidelines regarding the modifications to buildings.

These changes and new rules that allow businesses to add additional signage to their windows have led to facades painted in various colors as well as fun signs attached to the walls or hanging.

“I believe these new rules, coupled with the fact that there’s more business in downtown areas in general gives the impression that there’s just more of everything now,” said Brenda Bilotta Bangor’s licensing coordinator at the office of code enforcement, who is responsible for approving signs in Bangor.

A custom neon sign is made quickly, cheaply, and quickly. Many sign makers in the local area can create neon signs. However, you can also find online businesses that can design signs that are custom-designed starting at $200. The cost can increase if you choose bigger sizes or add an LED that changes color.

In the early 1980s, downtown Bangor was lined with signs. They included signs on buildings as well as large billboards on roofs.

Several historic and older structures were demolished when Bangor tried to build a neat, orderly downtown by the mid-1970s.

To preserve the historical buildings that remain in the mid-1980s, the city instituted strict rules concerning how these structures could be modified and what signs were allowed.

In the late 1990s, these regulations began to be pushed against the advancements both in federal law as well as in the field of technological advancements, leading to the installation of things such as wheelchair ramps, heat pumps and internet equipment not being allowed in most cases. It wasn’t until the year 2019, more than 30 years after these regulations were enacted, that the rules finally relaxed.

Now, it seems a happy medium has been achieved that keeps the historical character of many of the downtown structures, while making the city more accessible to the contemporary world.