A short history of the Boston Citgo sign: Fifth in a SmartSign blog series on famous signs and their origins

The Citgo sign is known to be an icon particularly for its appearance on television, seen in the background of baseball games. The square sign, standing at 60 feet, overlooks Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.

Citgo Petroleum Corporation, or Citgo, is a refiner and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, and other industrial products. The company’s headquarters are located in the Energy Corridor area of Houston, Texas.

In 1940, the first sign featuring the Cities Service green and white trefoil logo was built. The sign was later replaced with the trimark in 1965. The governor demanded that the sign be shut off due to energy conservation and this came with widespread dismay, with many people surprisingly protesting that the sign not be removed. In 1983, the sign was refurbished and relit by Citgo. The sign has since been nicknamed “See it go”, in honor of home runs that are hit during Red Sox games.

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Photo via Henry Han/Wikipedia

The Citgo sign became even more notorious when it was deemed as “Objet d’ Heart” by Time Magazine. It was also photographed by Life Magazine and featured in the New York Times. Aside from being an attraction to baseball fans, the sign has also become an inspiration for artists, musicians, and filmmakers around the world.

In July 2010, the sign received a complete makeover and had all of its LED lights replaced with a more technologically advanced and environmentally friendly version. The sign was relit with its new lights on September 17th during the 7th inning stretch of a Red Sox home game.

As for the fate of the Citgo sign, it is officially a “pending landmark”. On July 12, 2016, the Boston Landmarks Commission voted to study whether the sign should be given landmark status. If the sign becomes an official Boston landmark, any future changes to it would have to be approved by the commission.The vote came after a petition organized by the Boston Preservation Alliance received over 5,000 signatures, as a result of Boston University, the owner of the building on which the sign is mounted, wanting to sell the building and a bunch of others nearby.

If voted in as a landmark, the Citgo sign would certainly be the most gaudy on the list, joining the likes of Boston Common, Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall.

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