The Boston Citgo sign, a prominent double-faced display showcasing the Citgo oil company logo, stands tall over Kenmore Square in Boston. It was first erected in 1940 and later updated with Citgo’s current logo in 1965. The building used to have a Cities Service station, but now the sign is a historical landmark without an associated Citgo gas station. In 1979, Governor Edward J. King ordered the sign to be switched off in a gesture towards energy conservation.
Four years later, Citgo attempted to dismantle the weather-worn sign, only to be met with widespread public affection and protests against its potential removal. The Boston Landmarks Commission halted the disassembly while the matter was debated. Citgo refurbished and re-illuminated the sign in 1983, an event that drew an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 sign enthusiasts, and it has remained operational ever since.
In September 2006, Boston city councillor Jerry McDermott proposed removing the sign in response to insults directed at U.S. President George W. Bush by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. McDermott also suggested temporarily covering the sign with an American flag or Boston Red Sox banner until Chávez was out of office.
In July 2016, the Boston Landmarks Commission granted preliminary landmark status to the sign. This preliminary status prevented the sign from being taken down from the building until the commission completed a three-month study, followed by a vote on permanent landmark status in October 2016.
In October 2016, The Boston Globe reported that local developer Related Beal acquired the building on which the sign is located as part of a $140 million, nine-building deal. When Citgo was under previous ownership by Boston University, they paid a below-market rate of $250,000 annually for the sign. Beal committed on March 15, 2017, to keeping the sign in place for “decades to come.” On November 13, 2018, the Boston Landmarks Commission unanimously designated the sign as an official Boston Landmark. However, Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh subsequently vetoed this action in late November. This veto coincided with an agreement between Citgo and Beal on a lease that will allow the sign to remain in place for another 30 years.
On August 10, 2020, members of the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion unfurled a 42-foot by 42-foot banner over the front of the sign, bearing the message “CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW.” This action was taken to raise awareness about environmental issues stemming from the fossil fuel industry. Ten members from the Boston, New York, and Vermont chapters of the group were arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace when they removed the banner.
Matt Lambros MA Boston Nov 13, 2023 Architecture History Signs