New Mexico's Neon

The town of Taos Historic Preservation Commission is considering requesting an ordinance which would allow neon signs in the historic district. Here are some of our favorite examples of neon signs from around the state and some of the information which would be needed to know if these are a viable option for Taos.

First, a little history: neon use in New Mexico dates from the Route 66 era of the 1940s and 1950s and is mostly found in highway cities like Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas. Taos was NOT a highly neon-ified area during the period. At most, Taos may have had 10 neon signs, unlike Albuquerque and its Route 66 hotels along Central Avenue, which must have numbered in the hundreds. So we take a chance on creating a false history. But, that is not entirely atypical for Taos. Our plaza is also a "reimagined" plaza, as we have talked about before.

That notwithstanmding, there's a great opportunity here, especially if we embrace what's NEW about custom neon as well as the designs of old.

Here are just a few of our favorite examples of neon found in New Mexico.


Here is a link to the best of Albuquerque's historic neon signage.

Here is a link to the Navy's tests of typical lumens for neon lighting, by color.

Here are how some other towns dealt with this issue:
Leesburg, VA (article)
Troy, PA (article)
Alexandria Bay, NY (ordinance)

Some of the neatest neon in the state is provided by Absolutely Neon in Abq. I passed by their store the other day and grabbed a shot of their facade, which features some of the cool work they do.

Outside of NM, Roadhouse Relics has quite the name and reputation for beautiful, old-school style custom neon.

Neon Lore

  • Ne'on “The New Gas” from Greek “neos”
  • Neon gas is fiery orange-red; argon is soft lavender; argon gas with mercury is brilliant blue
  • The smaller the diameter of the tube, the more intense the light and the higher the voltage
  • Georges Claude who popularized neon in Paris in 1910
  • Neon came to America when Earle C. Anthony bought two signs (for $2400) in Paris and installed them in his Los Angeles Packard dealership.
  • More than 150 colors can be achieved by combining different gasses - including Krypton, xenon and helium - and phosphors