Old Union sign finds new home

A historic neon billboard for the Humboldt Union newspaper was rediscovered by accident and will be restored to become part of the new brewery under construction in Humboldt.

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September 3, 2021 - 5:09 PM

The “UNION” sign that once hung outside the Humboldt Union newspaper office was recently rediscovered outside the local historical museum. The sign is being restored in Kansas City and will one day hang outside Union Works Brewing Company in Humboldt. Courtesy photo

What’s old is new again.

At least in the case of a historic sign that once hung just off the Humboldt square.

The neon billboard for the Humboldt Union newspaper, which simply said “UNION,” was a fixture of town for decades, but had found its way in recent years to the local historical museum complex.

Josh Works, who serves on the museum board, said he had rediscovered the sign by accident.

“It was just sort of leaning up against the building,” he recalled, “and it had a piece of fence over it, covered with leaves.”

“I’m sure somebody knew that it was there, but it was sort of a surprise to find it.”

“It was exciting, but also disappointing to see the state that it was in,” added Works, “sinking into the ground, filled with water and rusting out the bottom.”

Dylan Steinmetz, of Steinmetz Neon LCC, and Josh Works transport the historic “Union” sign.Courtesy photo

DESPITE its disrepair, Works knew it could be of use.

One of the projects he’s involved in includes the new Union Works Brewing Company, currently under construction in Humboldt.

Given the brewery’s coincidental name, it seemed a stroke of fate to stumble upon the newspaper’s sign.

“Our ultimate goal is to put it on the side of the building out over the beer garden,” Works said. “That way, on Ninth Street you can see it from both directions.”

“The board was amenable,” he noted, and so it was time to start figuring out how to make the sign burn bright once more.

It would remain the property of the museum, but become “sort of an off-site installation.”

“It should be mutually beneficial,” observed Works, “since it reinforces our brand at the brewery but also can drive some attention to the historical society and their good will to put it on loan.”

The letter “N” still works on the historic Humboldt Union sign from 1929.Courtesy photo

IN ORDER to reignite the historic sign, Works spoke with Steinmetz Neon LLC in Kansas City, who is also working on several other signs around Humboldt.

“That’s largely what they do, is a lot of historical renovations, rehabilitation,” Works explained.

“So this is in their wheelhouse.”

Throughout the process, Works said he was surprised to learn how resilient neon tubes are, for example, finding that you don’t have to turn them off at night.

“Neon, as long as the glass tubes stay intact, it’ll work forever,” he said.

“You might have to change out the electrical transformer, but the concept of the neon glass tubes is solid.”

Pictured is the “UNION” sign hanging outside the Humboldt Union office, on the 600 Block of Bridge Street, during a parade. Courtesy photo

JUST HOW solid are we talking?

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