The Neon Museum of Philadelphia, a project by neon designer Len Davidson, has found a permanent home in Philadelphia.
Starting in Spring 2020, the Neon Museum of Philadelphia will be housed at 1800 North American Street in the Olde Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. The warehouse at the address was acquired by a makerspace organization. Davidson’s Neon Museum will take up 1,500 square feet of the building.
Davidson began collecting neon signs in the 1970s. In 1979, he started is own custom sign business and since then, has designed or repaired many iconic signs throughout Philadelphia, including the sign at Boot and Saddle bar, and numerous signs throughout Reading Terminal Market.
While Philadelphians can see Davidson’s work around the city, most of his collection of approximately 150 vintage neon signs has been out of public view. However, Davidson has been trying to change this for most of his career. In the 1980s, he loaned signs to local businesses at no cost so the signs could be seen in a street context. However, this display concept was difficult to maintain, as businesses closed or changed owners and his collection expanded. Davidson displayed thirteen of his signs in 2008 at an exhibit at the Center of Architecture. In 2017, Davidson partnered with Drexel University to show some of his signs in a storefront on 32nd and Market where they are currently still on display.
Davidson hopes to keep admission to the future Neon Museum at one dollar or less in order to make this important lens on Philadelphia history accesible to the whole city. Describing the importance of the museum, Davidson said, “I really see the neon as a window into understanding Philadelphia history. When you used to have more mom and pop stores, when you used to have more shopping streets, when people were on the streets more.”