Elephant Car Wash sign designated a Seattle landmark

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Let’s all trunk for joy. In a unanimous vote, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board recently granted one of the city’s famed Elephant Car Wash signs landmark status. 🎉

The pink sign with the smiling cartoon elephant stood on the corner of Sixth St. + Battery Ave. from 1956 until the car wash closed two years ago. And people were kinda freaking out when the site was ready to be torn down for development.

No need to get those tusks in a twist, though — the smaller sign is currently being restored by Western Neon in SODO, along with its larger sibling, which was donated to MOHAI. Now that the baby brother is a landmark, a pachyderm-ified comeback is imminent.

⏳ Blast from the past

The elephant in the Zoom during the preservation board’s virtual meeting last week was about the Elephant Car Wash sign’s historical significance. To become a landmark, it had to meet one or more criteria — including whether it was associated with the “significant economic heritage of a community” + is the “outstanding work of a designer.”

Check and check. The sign’s appearance was associated with the car boom of the mid-19th century in Seattle, including historic auto row. And the design came from Beatrice Haverfield, Seattle’s queen of neon, who also created the famed signs for Dick’s Drive-In + Ivar’s.

In fact, Beatrice’s daughter, Kathleen Wolff, made a comment during the landmark nomination process in July, noting that the effort was about more than the sign itself — it was “getting the acknowledgement of how awesome [Beatrice] was.”

💡 What’s next?

Amazon owns the 10-ft sign — and has plans display it in a public plaza on 7th Ave. + Blanchard St., not too far from its original location. Now that it has landmark status, those plans can move ahead.

Renderings presented at last week’s meeting showed a 15-ft pedestal + planter that would house the sign, with the neon lights facing north and the painted portion facing south. The City Council will also have to vote on an ordinance to seal the deal but all signs point to yes.

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