Many landmarks have long disappeared in the face of growth and renovation from East Main Street in downtown Statesboro — but after more than four decades, one flashy highlight is all set to return.
A bright, multi-colored neon sign that once welcomed weary travelers to the three-floored Jaeckel Hotel in the heart of downtown will soon shine again.
The sign, its green background accentuating large white letters, hung in front of the Jaeckel building for more than 60 years — beginning in 1905 — prior to the hotel’s closing in the late 1960s.
In a few weeks’ time, the Jaeckel sign will display prominently once more, this time on the side of what is now Statesboro City Hall located at 50 East Main Street — the City of Statesboro moved into the building in 1994.
The effort to re-hang the piece of Statesboro history is being undertaken by the Bulloch County Historical Society, who also has funded an endeavor to restore the sign to its original state.
“Statesboro City Engineer Robert Cheshire located the sign in an old building downtown several years ago. But the city had no money to do anything with it,” said Virginia Ann Franklin-Waters, member of the Bulloch historical society. “When I found out that we had it, I went to the Bulloch County Historical Society who unanimously said: Let’s restore it.”
According to Waters, the group spent “several thousands of dollars,” using moneys provided by the Jack N. & Addie D. Averitt Foundation, to completely refurbish the sign.
“It is going to look stellar,” she said. “The Jaeckel Hotel was the center of the community for so many events on a weekly basis. To have that piece of memorabilia is a true windfall for the community.”
City officials say the sign will be placed on the left side of the City Hall building (the side closest to the railroad) and is going to be visible to East Main traffic. Though, according to City Manager Frank Parker, the neon will be turned on only during select downtown events — F1RST Fridays and other night-time festivals, he said.
“It is going to be put up next to the Mayor’s courtyard and turned on during special occasions,” Parker said. “My position has always been that history is very important. We definitely need to preserve history and recognize those things that have been a part of our community in the past. I think it is going to be a good thing.”
According to Mayor Joe Brannen, the sign will be reunited with the historic building — which has played host to well-known figures that include, the stars of the movie “Gone with the Wind, William Jennings Bryan and Cornelius Vanderbilt and played host to many performances by the famous musician Blind Willie McTell — during an unveiling ceremony likely to occur next month.
The Bulloch County Historical Society still is awaiting the arrival of a plaque to go along with the sign before setting a date.
“The sign really shows the history of Statesboro,” Brannen said. “We feel like it is a great thing to have it still hanging and in operation.”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.