Skip to content

Photos: This vintage neon sign will soon soar over Burnaby Heights — again

Burnaby's famous Helen's "Swinging Girl" sign could soon be getting a new brightly-lit, fine-feathered neighbour.

An iconic piece of Burnaby's neon history is one wing-flap closer to illuminating Hastings Street once again.

The blue-and-white Eagle Ford neon sign blazed in electric splendour over the old car dealership of the same name in Burnaby Heights (4161 Hastings St., formerly Walsh's Motors) between 1950 and 1985.

In June 2022, Burnaby's community heritage commission approved a proposal to preserve the sign as a civic heritage landmark — and now, the plan to restore the eagle to its former glory is ready for action.

The vote to approve the project is set for Thursday (Aug. 24).

The plan confirms the Eagle Ford sign is in "good condition overall considering its age and life outdoors," with minor corrosion, as well as some damage to the eagle's wing tips.

Standing 13 feet tall, the sign was built out of corrugated sheet metal screwed to an internal armature, and was hand-painted multiple times over the years as it went through regular maintenance and touch-ups by the sign company, according to the plan.

The conservation efforts on the Burnaby Eagle Ford will include new paint work, repair of the existing metalwork and adding new neon tubes.

Conservators will uncover and document any surviving sign company labels, retain some larger paint chips for the archive record, and "return it to a look that would better reflect its oil company heritage."

The eagle mascot originated from advertising by California-based Richfield Oil Co. in the 1920s. There are multiple similar "Richfield Eagle" signs, with at least two Vancouver garages also featuring the flying eagle in the 1940s.

Eagle Motors Ltd. in Burnaby was the largest Ford retailer in the province from 1948 to 1985, and used the silhouette of the eagle in its advertising and on its chrome car badge.

The conservators of the Eagle Ford sign will use archival photographs of two similar Vancouver Richfield Eagle signs as a model for the repainting of the bird.

The City of Burnaby purchased the sign from a private collector in 2012. Since then, it's been stored and maintained by the Burnaby Village Museum.

The city estimates the work on the sign will cost $105,000. Work will begin early this fall, after the community heritage commission approves the project.

The project also requires electrical service, sign installation and an interpretive sign.

The ongoing maintenance cost may be comparable to the beloved Helen’s Swinging Girl neon sign, which costs the city $1,996 every year.

But the Heights Merchants Association pays for the electrical costs of the Swinging Girl sign and has indicated it would also pay for the electrical costs of the Eagle Ford sign.