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Baxter Hotel sign to light the skies after decades of disrepair

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Nov 27 2012 11:13:28 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

When the 'HOTEL BAXTER' sign was erected on the seven-story building in Bozeman in 1929, it was quite the spectacle- especially at night.

"It's the biggest sign in Bozeman, it's the tallest building in town" said Erik "Ole" Nelson, owner and president of Media Station Design Works.

The sign served as a landmark, and it's said you could see it from miles and miles away. But the sign fell into disrepair for decades.

"It's definitely going to make an impact on the skyline in town, and when it's lit up you'll be able to see it from pretty far away" Nelson said.

He wanted to bring back those glory days, and give the sign a new life.

Rob Pertzborn from Intrinsik Architecture- who was working with Baxter owner David Loseff on the project- asked Ole to join in. So Ole teamed up with Darren Dust from Treasure State Signs to restore it.

But tracking down's the sign's history wasn't easy.

"We haven't really found any great color photographs up close to determine the exact colors" he said.

The only clues they had- vintage postcards that Pertzborn owned, and layers of old paint on the sign itself.

But from that, they determined the former colors, and painted the letters yellow and surrounded them in black.

The original red neon was still on the sign, so the team ordered all new red neon tubes.

"So far we'll have three crane trips just bringing stuff up and taking stuff down" Ole said.

It's taken weeks and a lot of hard work. On Tuesday, Dust was re-wiring the signs to install the neon- but they're nearly finished.

Later that evening, folks walking outside the Baxter Hotel talked to us about the sign's restoration.

"We can see it from our building" said Sonja Jacobson, who was with her friends John Rinnert and Ty Zwick.

They live right across the street from the Baxter, and said they can't wait to see it when it's done.

"We're thrilled it's going up" Rinnert said. "It's a nice bit of history here, and we're very excited."

Ole says they aren't sure how long it's been since the sign last lit up the Gallatin Valley skies, but they estimate between 25 and 40 years ago.

"Neon's going in this week, so probably a couple more weeks before it's all done" he said.

Ole said he's excited to help bring back a piece of Bozeman history, and restore some nostalgia to Downtown.

The Baxter Hotel will celebrate the restoration with a lighting ceremony in January.