I had to be at the Baptist Hospital today to see my spine guy, harboring a hope that something can be done to make it hurt a bit less. I have been to the Baptist before and I remembered that it was at the top of the hill on Parkman Hill Avenue in the area known to everyone as “hospital city.”
I’m not going to bother to explain what that means because I’m pretty sure you can figure it out. What I did not remember, or perhaps had never noticed, is that the view from the hospital is great, particularly if you’re a baseball fan and the words “CITGO sign” resonate for you.
There’s a saying in Boston: “London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Boston has the CITGO sign.”
If you are neither a baseball fan and nor from New England, you are probably saying “Huh?” A gigantic neon sign for CITGO does not have the iconic sound that you get from Ayers Rock, Big Ben, or the Taj Mahal, but for Bostonians, it’s so entwined with Fenway Park, the Red Sox, and Boston’s identity that the idea of losing it is unacceptable.
Should CITGO cease to exist, I’m sure Boston would make sure the sign remained, flashing over Fenway Park. It’s as obvious an identifier of Boston as the Empire State Building is of New York or the Gold Gate Bridge is of San Francisco.
A Sign Of The Times
The iconic CITGO sign has been a part of the Boston skyline since 1940. Located at 660 Beacon Street, on what was once a Cities Service divisional office, the sign originally featured the Cities Service logo, but was replaced with the famous CITGO “trimark” of today when the CITGO brand was created for the marketing division of Cities Service in 1965.
Efforts to remove the sign in the early 1980s faced fierce opposition and led CITGO to restore the sign, with groups even fighting to declare the sign a landmark.
The CITGO Sign is held in particular high regard by Boston sports fans. Red Sox sluggers are enticed by the so-called “C-IT-GO” sign as they blast home runs over the left-field wall, and runners in the grueling Boston Marathon welcome its sight as the 20th mile mark. Its pulsing flash in the night sky has even been used by mothers-to-be at nearby Beth Israel to time their contractions.
It’s no secret that the CITGO Sign in Boston’s Kenmore Square is beloved by people across the country and around the world. Not only has it become a major image of the city of Boston, featured in postcards and tourist brochures, but the sign was deemed an “Objet d’Heart” by Time Magazine, was photographed by Life Magazine and featured in the New York Times. It has even become a source of inspiration for artists, musicians and filmmakers from around the world.
A Boston Icon Gets a Facelift
In late July 2010, the 45-year-old, 3,600-square-foot sign had all its LED lights replaced with more technologically advanced and environmentally friendly versions. The upgrades required that the sign go dark while the work was done.
Boston residents watched excitedly as the sign was relit on Sept. 17 during the 7th inning stretch of a Red Sox home game— just in time for baseball playoff season. Today, the famous beacon looks better than ever!
When I first came to Boston in 1987, I was puzzled. I couldn’t understand why everyone loved this huge, garish neon sign. Half the time only pieces of it lit up, so what was all the fuss about? It didn’t take me long to get it: this sign was part of the whole Fenway Park-Red Sox mystique, a signature of the park, the team and the city. Moreover, the CITGO sign is visible from far and wide. It is the first landmark I recognized and used to find my way around the peculiar streets of the city. You can use it to find Fenway … and it’s important to be able to find Fenway Park. You might be forgiven for not being able to find Faneuil Hall, but you have to know the way to Fenway. Even if you don’t care about baseball. It’s a Boston thing.
So there I was, on the third floor of the Hospital, which is the lobby floor since the building is built into the hill and suddenly, I looked out and I saw Boston. Better, I saw the CITGO sign … and below it, the green walls of Fenway Park. They tried to build a new ball park some years ago but it turned out the fans didn’t want a new ball park. They wanted Fenway Park. In this house, we simply couldn’t imagine giving up Fenway.
After a great deal of hoopla and political maneuvering, they renovated the old park. CITGO fixed their sign. All is right with the world: Fenway is safe, at least for a while.
This year, 2012, was the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. If the team hadn’t had their worst season in decades, it probably would have been a more gala occasion. Nonetheless, the Red Sox have put together a great website with pictures going back to the turn of the century. Lots of history and more. Check it out!
- Top 9 Boston Red Sox Traditions (bleacherreport.com)
- 8 Surprising Fenway Park Events (history.com)
- FENWAY: Franks, Fellowship, & Fun (cundiffcreative.com)
- Boston Red Sox: Where Does Fenway Park Rank in MLB? (bleacherreport.com)
- Red Sox Offer Free Tours Of Fenway Park To Veterans (boston.cbslocal.com)
- a weekend in boston (palettesandpassportsblog.com)
- Sox land Victorino to patrol right field at Fenway (mlb.mlb.com)
- Shane Victorino Can’t Wait to Call Fenway Park Home, Loves Boston’s Baseball Tradition (Video) (nesn.com)
- Chat with Larry Lucchino (boston.com)
- Report: Kevin Youkilis Signs One-Year, $12 Million Deal With Yankees (nesn.com)