A Sign's Time 

Rescue Mission ponders fate of its neon

It's not quite the clock tower, but some people are wondering: Just what's going to happen to the Boise Rescue Mission's iconic sign once the building gets torn down? Boise developers Clay Carley and Gary Christiansen recently received design review approval for a 23-story building that will take the place of the Boise Rescue Mission on the corner of 6th and Front streets. The building is the first of a series of developments of two square blocks that, once complete, will also replace the breakfast eatery Addie's Diner and other businesses.

Although Boise's newest skyscraper proposal has been discussed for several months, neither the developer nor the managers of the Rescue Mission know yet exactly what will happen to the famous blue, red and white neon sign that advertises the homeless shelter and adds, "Jesus saves."

"It's been hanging on that corner for 30 years, calling people to dinner," said Mission director Bill Roscoe.

Since the sale of their property last year, the Boise Rescue Mission has moved its residential shelter operation to the Community House site on River Street. Roscoe says he'd like to have the sign refurbished and moved to the new location.

"That is our first and best wish for that sign," Roscoe said. "We really feel strongly like we have to keep it."

Doing so wouldn't be cheap. Removing and refurbishing the sign, which Roscoe said was installed in 1970, could cost about $2,000, he estimated. Some private members of the Rescue Mission's board have expressed interest in trying to cover that cost, he said.

But Carley has designs on the sign, too.

"I'm trying to think of a good way to use it, to memorialize the site," Carley said. "If I'm going to do it appropriately, I'm going to try it."

Such things have been done before. The now-famous Veltex gas station sign sits proudly in front of a building on the corner of 5th and Main known primarily as "the Veltex building."

Vangie Osborn is a connoisseur of such signs. She's the main mover behind an effort to preserve a number of iconic Boise signs in a project known as "Signs of Our Times." She's hoping the city will allow her to take over some public space in town to display a number of old Boise signs.

The Boise Rescue Mission sign, which has been immortalized in one of the posters painted by artist Ward Hooper, has been in her sights for a while.

"It's a cool sign, isn't it?" she said.

Historic preservationists tend to focus more on buildings rather than signs, but Todd Shallat, the director of the Boise State Center for Idaho History and Politics, said the sign has merit.

His tongue-in-cheek suggestion? Build a bank around the Rescue Mission sign, and do a good job of highlighting the phrase, "Jesus Saves."

Neither Carley nor Roscoe seem unmoveable in their ideas for the sign.

Carley said he's going to try to come up with a design that Roscoe and others involved with the Rescue Mission will like so much, they'll want it to remain on the Front Street location.

"I know they want it, but I'm going to think of a good reason for them to give it up," he said.

Roscoe said he's willing to listen.

"Gary [Christiansen]'s got some very interesting ideas for the project," Roscoe said. "I'd be willing to talk about it."

He's also had an inquiry from a state legislator, he said, who proposed that the sign be declared some form of historical landmark. Roscoe declined to name the lawmaker, saying things were a bit too preliminary for that.

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