Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Brigham City Arch

While I was "weeding" books in the Utah history books yesterday, I noticed the book "Arch Rivals" sitting there looking sad and lonely. I don't think anyone has read it for awhile, but it has a piece of local history in it about the arch that spans Main Street and I wouldn't want to abandoned the book to the book sale.  Driving up Main Street today, in the howling wind, I paid a little more attention to the sign standing there sturdily and proudly over a pretty bare and quiet street.  (Who wants to be out in that wind!) I thought, perhaps, someone else would be interested in the history of our arch and why it was put there.

From "Arch Rivals by Bernard C. Winn:

"Before President Coolidge's signature had dried on the bill authorizing the construction of the Bear River Bird Refuge, businessman J.E. Ryan was campaigning to build a "welcome arch" over Brigham City's Main Street. The year was 1928. Backed by the Commercial Club and the Chamber of Commerce, donations for the "welcome arch" proclaiming the city as the gateway to the world's greatest bird sanctuary poured in. Although the original estimate of the cost of the arch was $1,500, that figure was raised on a weekly basis. An editorial in the local paper pointed out the escalating cost, but stated that "The electric sign must be built." Each week, the newspaper published a "Roll of Honor" and a running total of the amount collected. The list of donors included just about everyone in town plus a few traveling salesmen and some unsuspecting tourists.

The final cost of the arch was $2,400, all but $200 of which was collected by the time the sign was in place. The arch framework, which was built in Provo, measured sixty-six feet from post to post, and weighed nearly 7,000 pounds. After being trucked to Brigham City, city employees worked three days and nights to install the huge structure. On September 10, the huge, 2,700-pound sign portion was ready to be riveted to the arch.

The foot-high letters in the words Welcome to are opalite glass and the word Brigham is spelled out in thirty-inch channeled letters. More than 350 electric bulbs are used to illuminate the sign. The uppermost part of the sign is embellished with a painting of wild ducks and marshes. Located on Main Street, between Forest and First South Street and set in five feet of concrete, the supports for the arch are designed to withstand winds of 70 mph.

On September 13, 1928, on the eve of the annual Fruit Festival, a large crowd witnessed the dedication and lighting of the largest such sign in Utah. After a short speech or two and some renditions from the Brigham City Municipal band, the sign was presented to the city by the president of the Brigham City Commercial Club and the Chamber of Commerce. This was followed by a bathing beauty review to choose "The Box Elder Peach."


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