Sunset Court Neon Sign Lighting
At 6:30 pm on Friday, October 13th the Historic Preservation Commission held a sign lighting ceremony at the Western Trading Post Building for the refurbished 1941 Sunset Court neon sign.
A Casa Grande beacon is shining once again…
Sunset Court’s history, dating back to 1929, is the oldest standing tourist court in Casa Grande, Arizona. It was a 10-unit auto court located on Highway 84, just west of the original townsite. Highway 84, also referred to as the “Old Tucson Highway” or the “Gila Bend Highway”, linked Tucson to Casa Grande heading west to Gila Bend.
Earl Osborne, Sr. and his wife Gertrude lived in a tent during construction of their store, Texaco gas station and the first of ten cabins. Gertrude’s diary from November 1929 notes that they built “the first and most important expenditure in our building project in Casa Grande” . . . referring to an outhouse! It was in the first cabin that two of their four children were born. Osborne decedents lived at the Sunset Court and operated the business until 2000.
Residents in Casa Grande still remember the store’s unofficial slogan: “coldest beer in town.” The beer was sold out of waist-high metal coolers that stayed right at freezing temperatures.
The property sold in 2001. After agonizing overseeing the sign blow over and lying on the roof of this abandoned property for a year, the out-of-state owner agreed to donate the sign to the Historic Preservation Commission. The sign was removed on May 13, 2013. The Sunset Court portion was from the 1930s and the neon sunset was added in 1941. In later years, the sunset was repainted to a blue and white color scheme. With one old photo and input from Earle Osborne, Jr., plus the expertise of the sign restorer, the sunset has returned to the sign.
The Sunset Court sign is lit again on a downtown building after four years and five months that included storage, finding an appropriate location, fundraising, and restoration. Earl Osborne, Jr. who was born in the Sunset Court, watched joyfully as the sign was being removed from the building, removed from storage for restoration and again when the neon was relit. Three generations of the Osborne family were in attendance during the lighting ceremony on October 13, 2017.
The Sunset Court sign restoration is now considered the domino to continue with a Neon and Vintage sign park on the adjacent donated historic downtown property. The park has been a vision of the Casa Grande Historic Preservation Commission and Casa Grande Main Street. With the tremendous “Second Place” win in national public participation competition, the Neon and Vintage Sign Park will become a reality in 2018. Thanks go out to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street America and American Express for working together to bring $2 million in preservation funding to projects on America’s Main Streets across the country.