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Landmark Dunkin' Donuts sign is retired

(Photo by Catherine Murphy)
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April 13, 2008

The last original Dunkin' Donuts sign standing anywhere has been dismantled and is now in storage and facing an uncertain fate.

The 1957 neon landmark, which towered over the intersection of Market and North Beacon streets in Brighton, was in poor condition with extensive rust. A backlighted fluorescent plexiglass sign with a modern Dunkin' Donuts steaming coffee cup logo was erected in its place after the old sign came down on April 3.

"The franchisee of the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant in Brighton worked with local officials to design an appropriate replacement for the original sign, which had deteriorated to an unacceptable condition," said Andrew Mastrangelo, media relations manager for Canton-based Dunkin' Brands Inc.

The sign now is in the construction yard of a sign company in Marlborough. Mastrangelo said he does not know what will happen to it, but the decision is up to the franchisee, who owns the sign and did not wish to be interviewed.

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati once expressed an interest, but its president, Tod Swormstedt, said last week he probably is not interested now. He hoped that a private collector would acquire it.

"More and more of these signs that have had their day are coming down, and it's important to preserve them from an historical standpoint and from an emotional standpoint," said Swormstedt. "These signs evoke a memory of when times were simpler." The Dunkin' Donuts sign was designed in classic 1950s graphic style with candy-colored neon.

David Waller of Malden, who collects neon signs, said he knows of at least one private collector who is interested. Waller owns what is believed to be the only other intact original Dunkin' Donuts sign, which he bought from a collector and restored. His sign had stood on Southern Artery in Quincy, next to the first store in the Dunkin' Donuts chain, which has grown into the largest coffee and baked goods operation in the world.

The Brighton sign "would need to be completely reworked, so it truly wasn't viable to keep it at the original location," Waller said in support of the decision to remove it. "But for a collector or museum, the sign is very restorable."

Waller said he does not want the sign himself, since he already has one, but would acquire it to prevent it from being destroyed.

Robert Preer can be reached at preer@globe.com.

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