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The sign is on the old Barth's building, which will eventually be the new home of the History Museum for Springfield-Greene County. Museum director John Sellars says the sign was on the Barth's building before a fire on that section of the square in 1913. After the fire, it was made larger and neon torches were added to it.
"Before the fire it just had the name in the center and a little design piece on top and then after the fire they added the torches on either side, so it remained up there, or at least the torches did, for the next 100 years until they were taken down and refurbished just a few months ago," he said.
The fire in 1913 destroyed several buildings on northeast corner of the square, according to Sellars, including the future home of the History Museum.
"Heers was where the Fox Theatre is now, the Heers building, and the fire started in that building and spread in both directions and ultimately burned down all the buildings on the northeast corner of the square from Boonville Street around to St. Louis and destroyed that whole section of the square. It brought about a real rethinking of the fire codes and building codes, and so the structures that replaced those burned structures were much more concrete and steel and fire proof than the existing buildings had been, and it really made a difference in the appearance of the square," he said.
Sellars says the sign that was put up after the fire went dark in the 1980s. The History Museum refurbished the sign as part of what he calls a concerted effort to establish a renaissance of the downtown area.
"And so this sign is an indicator that things are changing down here and hopefully for the better," he said.
The sign, which now says History Museum, was re-lit last night during a special ceremony. Mayor Bob Stephens, Senator Bob Dixon and other local officials flipped the switch to turn the sign back on for the first time in many years.