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St. Charles Bowl sign stands test of time

Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 11:10 p.m. CDT
(Sandy Bressner –
The owners of the St. Charles Bowl, located at 2520 W. Main St. in St. Charles, requested a historic sign designation for its freestanding sign in the parking lot.

ST. CHARLES – A business sign with more than 50 years of history in St. Charles might be saved from ordinance restrictions, thanks to the efforts of its employees.

The freestanding St. Charles Bowl sign is being considered for a historic sign designation through the city of St. Charles. The Historic Preservation Committee on July 16 voted unanimously in favor of recommending the designation, said Russell Colby, the city’s planning division manager.

If the St. Charles City Council votes in August in favor of the historic designation, the sign would be exempt from the 2006 zoning ordinance, which requires all freestanding and wall-mounted signs to be brought into compliance by a fixed date. The council has extended the compliance date multiple times, and the latest date is Oct. 16.

A sign can be considered historic if it was lawfully erected before Jan. 1, 1966, and has been continuously maintained in the same location since that date, according to the city’s zoning ordinance.

The freestanding St. Charles Bowl sign has been a fixture in the parking lot outside the business at 2520 W. Main St. since it opened in October 1961, said Toni McGarry, St. Charles Bowl manager.

Without an exemption the business would have had to get a new sign, McGarry said, and that was a scenario the owners didn’t want to consider.

“The owners are all family; it’s a legacy in the family,” McGarry said of the business and the sign.

McGarry estimates that she and St. Charles Bowl operator Dorothy Heck spent a combined 80 hours researching the sign, including sifting through microfilm and asking various people if they had old photos of the sign. William Manson was able to tell McGarry that the sign was created by an Aurora company. 

A St. Charles Bowl employee found a picture in the business’s basement from the summer of 1967 that has the sign in it, McGarry said.

The city itself ended up finding some strong evidence in the form of aerial photos taken before 1966. The aerial photos show a shadow being cast onto the parking lot from the spot where the sign has been since it was erected.

The historic designation request will next go before the Planning and Development Committee on Aug. 11, and then to the full City Council later that month, Colby said.

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