It’s not a mirage: That really is the long-gone Fontaine’s sign that used to signal the proximity of Southern fried chicken in West Roxbury going up on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Unfortunately, the sign does not signal a return of the famed restaurant or its comfort food. It’s a part of the latest public art installation on the Greenway that will feature eight historic neon signs from the mid-20th century owned by Malden collector Dave Waller.
The exhibit is part of an ongoing series of light-themed exhibits to go up on the Greenway this year and is being installed this week near the Rings Fountain near Milk Street. In addition to the famous Fontaine’s chicken sign, the exhibit includes those of Bay State Auto Spring, Bill’s Radio, Flying Yankee Restaurant, Cycle Center, European Restaurant, Siesta Motel, and State Line Potato Chips.
“Many of the signs in the exhibit were once iconic landmarks in communities that have changed dramatically due to urban renewal, shifting demographics and gentrification,” The Greenway Conservancy said in a statement. “By exhibiting these signs together and amidst The Greenway’s permanent light blades, the Conservancy is creating a new geography of light.”
Waller and his wife own a visual effects company in Malden called Brickyard, where the signs are restored and housed. Waller began collecting the signs when he was a young boy digging through the local dump. The collection quickly grew as Boston’s urban landscape changed dramatically. Now, the signs remind him of another time.
“For a long while they were regarded as an eyesore,” Waller said in the statement. “But now people really seem to enjoy their warm glow again.”
Two other works, a wire-framed light tunnel titled “Transition” by Luftwerk and a mechanical mirror piece called “Temple of Mnemon” by Anne Lilly, will join Waller’s signs in mid-June, completing the Greenway’s installation of light-based art.
Rachel Lake, a spokeswoman for the Greenway Conservancy, said the signs will be lit by the end of next week and will remain up through the end of summer.Laney Ruckstuhl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @laneyruckstuhl.