View Alcatraz, Pier 43 ½
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Blue Plate, 3218 Mission Street
“They rescued that from the Alameda Flea market and restored the neon. Neon signs are a pretty rare find at fleas, so if you see one, grab it.”
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John’s Grill, 63 Ellis Street
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Night Cap, 600 O’Farrell Street
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Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa Street
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Buddha Bar, 901 Grant Avenue
“Chinatown is full of neon, but it’s a lot of arrested decay. Owners just don’t take care of them.”
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Bet you never thought you’d put “lost art” and “North Beach strip clubs” in the same sentence—but then again, you probably haven’t spent as much time looking into the long, weird, wonderful history of San Francisco’s neon signs as photographer Al Barna and his wife, graphic designer Randall Ann Homan, have.
Barna and Homan’s new book, San Francisco Neon, features photographs and histories of more than 200 neon signs from all over the city, from Broadway’s storied row of strip clubs to the Castro Theater’s century-old neon. “We have so many art deco signs that are still up and functioning. You don’t see that in LA or Vegas,” says Randall. “A neon sign signifies a neighborhood gathering place—the corner store; the movies; a bar—and it’s almost always a mom and pop,” Randall says.
In the slideshow above, a sampling of signs to keep an eye out for.