Welcome to Our City sign returns

Welcome to Our City sign returns
Teri Stein

It took a giant crane and a team of workers to restore the Welcome to Our City sign to its rightful place on top of the Alexander building in New Philadelphia.


When the Welcome to Our City sign that sits atop the Alexander building was toppled by high winds in the early morning hours of March 26, 2021, a part of the city’s sense of pride went with it.

The sign was designed so it wouldn’t fall off the building, but it fell on its face when the wind, in a show of force, pulled all the anchors out of the wall.

The sign was first lit on Sept. 23, 1912, during an Elks event. Newspaper clippings show a flag was placed on the sign in 1917. No one is sure why, but people suspect the change had something to do with showing patriotism during World War I, which lasted from July 28, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918.

The sign then returned to its rightful place atop the Alexander building in 2003 for the bicentennial celebration of New Philadelphia. The sign was recreated because Alan Rodriguez, whose business Rodriguez’s House of Stones, which is located in the Alexander building, told George Laurence of Museum Acrylics that the original “to our city” letters were stored in the attic of the building. That was all that remained of the original sign, which was scrapped and taken to an area junk yard, which Laurence said happened in 1946.

“It’s become an icon in the town,” Laurence said. “I think people have gotten used to it. A whole generation has gotten used to it since it went up in 2003.”

Laurence worked with the Tuscarawas County Historical Society to determine the history of the sign. In 2003 he worked with the late Fred Miller, and this year curator Kim Jurkovic was able to provide more information.

“Kim augmented some research too, and it was determined the city owns it. The original sign back in 1912 was paid for by the city, but we never saw that document,” Laurence said.

About $15,000 was needed to get the sign repaired and set back up on top of the Alexander building. Laurence set up an account at PNC Bank in New Philadelphia, where many donated to have the sign restored. AquaBlue in New Philadelphia was a major donor to the project. Laurence thanks all those who donated, and those people know who they are because most of the donations came in anonymously.

Much repair and reinforcement were needed to get the Welcome to Our City sign back into form.

“The frame was in pretty good shape, so we didn’t have to do much to that. The main work we had to do was remaking the word ‘welcome.’ Because when it fell, it hit, and it kept on going down, and it totally disintegrated it,” Laurence said.

That portion of the sign was acrylic, but now it’s been remade.

“It’s a different material, PET, which is the same thing soda bottles are made out of, but it’s thicker,” Laurence said. “It’s a very tough material.”

The sign also was totally rewired.

“All the old sockets were taken out, and new sockets were put in. Also, the base structure where it attaches to the roof is different. There’s a lamination of steel and marine plywood that we made and attached to pads in the bottom and that gets bolted in,” Laurence said.

Brand-new guy-wires will provide all-around support to hold the sign in place.

Wood Electric did all the electrical work on the sign. Laurence completed all the plastics work with the new letters for “welcome” in the design and coordinated the project. Also helping with the project were Lightning Signs and Red Hill Crane.

“Triad Roofing is doing the roofing work. We are coordinating with them with everything up there. We don’t want to mess anything up,” Laurence said.

Laurence said he has gotten many positive comments from members of the public.

“It’s sort of theirs, and it’s part of the pride of place. People were sad about it, and everyone wanted to know what happened,” Laurence said. “When you live in a small town, it’s like somebody that got hurt. You have to repair it.”

According to Lightning Signs owner Chris Call, the entire process to get the sign back in place takes about two hours.

“With the crane we’re going to hook under the top of it, and we got to lift it up, set it back down and move it where it’s going to actually set so we can mark where the feet are going to go,” Call said. “Then the roofers have to cut that out, and then the platforms that were made will go down in and it will get bolted back into the actual roof.”

There are a lot of steps involved, but it will be worth it.

“It’s going to be good to see it back up there all lit up,” Call said.

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