I have written several times about the iconic neon signs that once lit Boston’s streets and rooftops, but which disappeared long ago. One of the city’s most iconic neon signs came down last year from its long-term home atop the scoreboard in Fenway Park.
I’m happy to report that it will not only be returning but will join another part of Boston’s skyline.
Put Your John Hancock Here
The John Hancock insurance company sign—an illuminated replica of our first governor’s signature on the Declaration of Independence—rose over the Fenway Park scoreboard for 20 years, standing tall from 2001 to 2022. Last year, however, the insurance company opted not to renew its sponsorship agreement.
The company removed the sign at the end of that year’s baseball season. At the time, Chief Executive Marianne Harrison promised “an exciting new home for this sign.” It took a little longer than expected but the company announced its new location this week.
Moving to the Back Bay
The illuminated sign will perch atop John Hancock’s 26-story headquarters building at 200 Berkeley St. in the Back Bay. He would never have predicted this, of course. In John Hancock’s day, the Back Bay was just a body of water stretching west of what is now Charles Street.
There are three John Hancock buildings within two blocks in the Back Bay. So, in case you’re confused, 200 Berkeley Street is the building with the weather beacon. The company will install the sign on the building’s stepped pyramid roof just below the famous weather beacon and on the side that faces the Charles River.
If you like “neon” signs as I do, this is a welcome development. (Most companies have replaced expensive neon with cheaper LED lights.)
The Return of John Hancock
John Hancock left us in 1793 and his body lies under the tallest gravestone in Old Granary Burying Ground. His name appears on a Province Street plaque that lists all the Commonwealth’s governors. Gov. Hancock attempted to bequeath his mansion to the city but, unfortunately, died before he could sign the will. The west wing of the Massachusetts Statehouse now occupies that site.
I hate it when familiar landmarks disappear overnight, never to be seen again. Thus, it makes me happy that John Hancock’s name will once again appear in lights. Most Bostonians check the weather beacon regularly, if only for the fun of it. Now we will see Gov. Hancock’s name at the same time.
PS: Last week on a tour, one my guests commented that he understood John Hancock made his money in life insurance. I let him know—gently—that our first governor was really a merchant. The John Hancock Life Insurance Company was founded in 1892, almost 100 years after his death.