American Sign Museum | Midwest Living

American Sign Museum

1330 Monmouth St.
Cincinnati  Ohio  45225
United States
(513) 541-6366
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Midwest Living Review

Kendra L. Williams
Quirky and cool, this slice of Americana in the run-down Camp Washington neighborhood offers a welcome walk down memory lane—and potentially more than you ever wanted to know about sign history.

It sounds quirky and fun, and in the end, it is if you manage your expectations. But the American Sign Museum, which moved into bigger quarters in 2012, doesn't necessarily make it easy for visitors. First, there's the neighborhood. This particular section of Camp Washington is run-down to the point of being abandoned by everything except the museum. Case in point: a baby's abandoned exersaucer stands on a snow-covered sidewalk outside a boarded-up apartment building. Doesn't particularly get you in the mood to explore. And we couldn't help but notice the irony of our arrival: GPS got us there, but we had to troll the block looking because the only sign pointing to the entrace is a small cardboard-style sign. It's not until you turn into the parking lot behind the building that you see the massive retro signs scattered outside.

You can explore this place one of two ways: on your own or on a tour guided by one of the owners. We chose a guided tour but bailed after we'd been inside for more than an hour and realized we weren't even halfway through. The owners' passion for their collection is evident; their ability to tell quick, relevant slices of history could use some fine-tuning. We suggest you pay the $15 admission (discounted for seniors, students and active-duty military) and amble through the brightly lit displays on your own. Memories will bubble up as soon as you see the old signs from Howard Johnson's, the Bob's Big Boy, Phillips 66, Mobilgas and many others. A final exhibition displays dozens of signs in an old-school Main Street style; the exhibits leading up to that finale reveal the history and evolution of lighted signs. Located just 10 minutes from downtown, this stop would appeal to people who love traveling—or the idea of traveling—old Route 66 and the kitsch that comes along with it. 

December 30, 2012

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