Clovis News

Clovis 'gateway' sign to get a face-lift

Clovis is a city that embraces its past, its building facades, its light poles and especially its art deco sign -- complete with grammatical error -- that arches over Clovis Avenue.

The city will take down the 70-year-old "Gateway to the Sierras" sign for about a month this winter to install decorative poles and make the sign more secure.

The sign is now held up by cables that hang across Clovis Avenue and are supported by wooden poles and tied back to buildings along Clovis Avenue.

The city wants steel poles anchored to cement in the ground to serve as the sign's main support.

The project is expected to cost about $128,000 and will be mostly funded with state and federal money, said Renee Mathis, the city's engineering program supervisor.

The project will not begin until after the winter holidays to keep from interfering with holiday events, she said.

The sign's origins date back to the 1920s. The first sign was much smaller and squared off. By the late 1930s, a replacement sign with contours more familiar to present-day Clovis residents was built.

In the 1980s, a community fundraising effort led to the sign's neon lettering being lit up again. The sign was last taken down for three months in 1992 for repairs.

Bill Kratt, owner of Fresno Neon, the company that built the sign and worked on the sign repair in 1992, said the project included installing new cable and securing the cables to a pole on the roof of a building on Clovis Avenue's west side.

The sign needed work because the neon tubing was damaged and porcelain had chipped.

It was not clear how the sign was damaged, but Kratt and city officials theorized antennas from high-riding pickups had been hitting the sign.

Eventually, the city also will add decorative features to the 24-foot-high support poles to match the light poles downtown, said Steve White, the city's engineer.

The end result, he said, will be a more secure 400-pound sign with decorative steel poles to match others in downtown Clovis. City officials say the cables and poles can withstand winds of 75 mph.

"The concern is the poles and the tiebacks to those buildings," White said. "We want to make sure that we don't wake up one day and find that sign lying in the middle of the street."

White said the city will warn motorists about any street closures. He said the work will likely occur late at night.

The sign's message will remain the same, even though grammar purists have noted that "Gateway to the Sierras" is incorrect: Sierra refers to the entire mountain range east of the Valley.