Civic Pharmacy Sign in Ottawa, Ontario

The renovated Civic Pharmacy sign, as seen in 2020.

Created in 1960 by Ray Neon Signs, this sign originally advertised the “ua-modern” Civic Pharmacy.

The blocky, pastel-colored letters exemplify Googie architectural design — a futurist space-age aesthetic popular during the Atomic Age in the 1950s and 1960s. A well-known example of this era is the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

The sign was the first of its kind in Canada, notable for its combination of illumination and independently rotating letters. This was made possible because the word “civic” is a palindrome (a word that reads the same backward as forwards), which made the sign legible from any viewpoint. Today, the sign is static as the rotating mechanism required constant lubrication, which proved too manual and costly to maintain.

In 2017, the anchor building went up for sale. Fortunately, the new owners preserved and incorporated the sign into the building’s renovations. As part of the update, the sign was outfitted with new brightly-colored and illuminated letterboxes, showcasing white letters instead of the original black text.