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'Coming soon': American Sign Museum dusts off Cincinnati Gardens letters for outdoor sign garden

Posted at 11:45 AM, May 25, 2023

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Gardens letters have returned to their place of pride above the American Sign Museum, but this time they're a herald of something new.

The American Sign Museum posted an image of the letters, repurposed to read "Cincinnati Sign Garden," on social media Wednesday to announce the sign's return to display. They sit on top of the American Sign Museum once more, in anticipation of the "new and improved outdoor sign garden coming soon," the museum said.

The Cincinnati Gardens letters have been in the American Sign Museum's possession since Cincinnati Gardens, an indoor arena in Bond Hill, was demolished in 2018. When the building faced demolition, the large porcelain letters were promised to the American Sign Museum, according to its website.

Removal of the letters happened in December 2017, before the building was demolished in the summer of 2018. By fall of 2018, the letters were on display at the American Sign Museum, reconfigured to read "Cincinnati Sign Garden."

Cincinnati Gardens' exterior letters likely adorned the building since sometime in the early 1960s, former Gardens spokesperson Greg Waddell told WCPO reporter Mike Dyer in 2017. There had been variations of a main exterior sign (or no visible main sign) prior to the early 1960s.

In 1960, the main sign had an NBA logo and mentioned it was home to the Cincinnati Royals basketball team. The building management officially changed the building from "Cincinnati Garden" to "Cincinnati Gardens" in the early months of 1961, according to Gardens historian John Perin.

Cincinnati Gardens is in its final days

Though it has long since been eclipsed by U.S. Bank Arena and other venues in town with more modern amenities, the Gardens hosted some of the world's greatest entertainers in its heyday, not to mention Broadway musicals, boxing matches, political rallies, professional soccer and wrestling, indoor football, circuses, dog shows, comedy performances, dirt-track auto races, tractor pulls and even a swimming competition.

In previous decades, the Gardens staff previously would power wash the letters every year using a ladder, hose and a high-powered compressor.

The letters have seen countless events in the Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati and they'll have the opportunity to see many more, though fewer basketballs are likely to be seen in the American Sign Museum.