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Advocates pitch ideas for Civic pharmacy sign as building goes up for sale

Sign an example of Googie architecture

The pharmacy sign rotated and light up when the pharmacy first opening in 1959.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro

The pharmacy sign rotated and light up when the pharmacy first opening in 1959.

An iconic Ottawa sign could be operating on borrowed time as the building it’s attached to is up for sale.

The Civic Pharmacy building on the corner of Carling and Holland is on the market for $3.36 million. The building has stood on the corner since 1959, and the pharmacy sign was one of the featured attractions when it opened.

Most Ottawans will recognize the sign: five multicoloured boxes, which used to rotate, sitting at staggered heights on pedestals, emblazoned with black letters spelling out C-I-V-I-C.

Local blogger Andrew King wrote about the sign on his site Ottawa Rewind earlier this month. He said the sign is an example of Googie architecture, which is becoming harder to come by.

“Googie architecture is a style of modern futurist architecture that evolved through the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 1960s culture, with jets, and the space-age being inspiration to its style,” King wrote.

Leslie Maitland, co-chair of Heritage Ottawa, said the building itself is just OK, but the sign has to be preserved.

“It’s an OK example of mid-century modern, but the sign is an Ottawa icon,” she said. “It’s very representative of that era, think of the '60’s and the Bond films.”

Maitland said seeking a heritage designation for the building, just to save the sign, might be an overstep.

“It seems like using a cannon to swat a fly,” she said.

She said the sign needs to be protected, but that doesn’t mean the building itself has to stay.

“It should find a home where people can see it, but we can be imaginative about where it might end up.”

Maitland suggested the Ottawa Art Gallery could be a home for the sign, but said there are a lot of possibilities to preserve the sign if it needs to be saved.

“It could find a home anywhere all over the city, which is a really fun thing to consider.” she said.

Metro attempted to interview the realtor of the building and building owners, but our interview requests were not returned.

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