If the $2 million venture goes as deliberate, an LED-powered signal will gentle up on the Fourth of July. The sugar importer hopes nobody will discover the distinction. The brand new signal will likely be extra sturdy and environmentally pleasant, however it’s designed to match the look of the unique.
“We wish to maintain it precisely the identical,” mentioned Tom Chagin, a Domino company engineer and the venture’s supervisor.
From its perch 160 ft above the harbor, the Domino signal has presided over 70 years of Baltimore historical past, changing into a permanent image of town’s manufacturing heyday as most of the refinery’s industrial neighbors disappeared to make method for encroaching residential waterfront improvement.
The signal’s dimension and consistency have made it a favourite reference level for Baltimoreans.
Its prominence on the skyline — for all however a short stint throughout the power disaster of the Seventies — has led to numerous appearances in Baltimore-based tv reveals, motion pictures, artwork, wedding ceremony photographs and even tattoos.
Joseph Abel, the analysis historian on the neighboring Baltimore Museum of Business, mentioned the signal represents the spirit of Baltimore’s manufacturing heritage and serves as a reminder of the spectacular longevity of the sugar refinery, which can rejoice its one hundredth anniversary subsequent yr.
“I can’t even think about town with out it,” he mentioned.
Prepared for substitute
A number of instances a yr, Domino receives calls from ladies who’re about to be married. Will the signal be lit for our waterfront reception on Saturday night time? May any person restore one of many letters earlier than then?
Initially fabricated by Artkraft Strauss Co., which made most of the indicators in New York Metropolis’s Instances Sq., the hand-drawn letters had been put in in 1951, three many years after the Domino refinery opened.
To understand the rationale the corporate needs to switch it, take an outdated freight elevator to the ninth ground, go previous just a few heavy metal doorways, and climb some stairs and two rooftop ladders.
A long time of publicity to the weather have left the yellow letters pale and rusting, with holes pockmarking the borders. Birds and excessive winds have damaged a few of the 650 unprotected neon tubes that stretch 4,400 linear ft, and rainwater has infiltrated the connectors. It’s costly to take care of. And few “neon benders,” the crafts staff who can restore it, stay in enterprise.
The corporate hasn’t settled on what to do with the outdated signal as soon as it’s eliminated.
“We’re going to wish to get a greater have a look at the letters as they arrive down to find out what may be saved,” mentioned Peter O’Malley, a Domino spokesman. “We wish to give them to museums or different nonprofits if there’s curiosity.”
Officers just lately hung items of the LED signal’s “g” on the outdated one to ensure it matches. It would seem brighter at first due to the contemporary paint, regardless of utilizing 33,000 fewer kilowatt hours of power and producing 23.48 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide per yr. Versatile LED tubing is predicted to be much more sturdy than the fragile glass neon tubes.
Switching out the 12- to 20-foot letters introduced a problem. Chagin thought-about varied choices: a crane on a barge, a crane from the rear of the refinery, even a helicopter. All proved too pricey or impractical. After six months of planning, he settled on one other technique: elevators.
Employees will carry items of the brand new, aluminum letters up 9 flooring in a single freight elevator, then yet one more ground in one other. They’ll information them rigorously by a Tenth-floor window to the roof, then use pulleys to hold them on the just lately bolstered metal body on the rooftop.
Fittingly, the brand new signal is being manufactured regionally.
Paul Gable, proprietor of Gable, an indication design and manufacturing agency in Curtis Bay, mentioned he’s utilizing a straight-on drone photograph to breed what he known as “a uncommon traditional,” at a scale 50 instances bigger than a traditional storefront signal.
Gable can’t look forward to the reveal at dusk on Independence Day. “Town of Baltimore has each purpose to be actually, actually enthusiastic about not simply this signal being re-lit,” he mentioned, “however hopefully being there to remain for so long as the primary one was.”
‘Blue-collar to the core’
Steve Vaughn, a tattoo artist who goes by the nickname “Stevie Monie,” has inked the Domino signal on the pores and skin of a number of prospects over 20 years within the enterprise.
It isn’t as frequent a request because the Maryland flag or the Nationwide Bohemian brand, mentioned Vaughn, who owns New American Tattoo Co. on Japanese Avenue. However those that get Baltimore- or Maryland-themed tattoo sleeves often ask to incorporate the signal someplace, alongside crabs, black-eyed Susans, Orioles and Ravens.
Domino is “an enormous model that helped most likely maintain plenty of households and construct plenty of lives off of the incomes,” Vaughn mentioned..
“A metropolis like ours, Baltimore, is constructed on that,” he mentioned. “We’re blue-collar to the core, ranging from the underside, working-our-way-up-type individuals. That’s what pleasure is absolutely all about, understanding the place you come from and staying humble.”
The Domino signal is beloved by Baltimoreans and guests alike, mentioned Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.
The purple glow reflecting throughout the water from the refinery rooftop every night time is “a part of Baltimore’s historical past that’s nonetheless residing,” she mentioned. “I’ve received to applaud them for recognizing that and the vital position it performs in Baltimore and our identification.”
From his rooftop deck in Riverside, Dan Strodel has taken a whole lot of photographs of Baltimore’s Interior Harbor, typically waking up at dawn to seize the second when the sunshine of daybreak meets the glow of the still-lit Domino signal.
Strodel, 59, in contrast the signal to the enormous Bromo Seltzer bottle that after adorned the tower of the identical title and the commercials as soon as painted on the brick exteriors of many small companies. A part of its magnificence is in its old-timey simplicity, he mentioned.,
The brand new signal is Domino’s newest and highest-profile funding in its relationship with its residential neighbors. The corporate sends vacation playing cards and welcome packages to new owners. It sponsors the Locust Level Civic Affiliation in addition to the Riverside Neighborhood Affiliation’s summer season live performance sequence. It paid for a backstop and dugouts at a neighborhood Little League area.
It isn’t simply because the refinery depends on dredging, which is partially taxpayer funded, for sugar ships to succeed in its piers.
“We’re pleased with the truth that it’s develop into a beloved a part of the Baltimore skyline,” mentioned O’Malley, the Domino spokesman. “It’s vital to us to be an excellent neighbor.”