When you pull into the parking lot of the Park Cosmorama strip mall, you might assume the large sign greeting you is from the era of The Jetsons. But, surprisingly, the Park Cosmorama sign isn’t a relic – it was installed at the turn of this century.
Built sometime in the 1950s, this strip mall on Park between Mendenhall and White Station features space-age Googie-style architecture. Googie’s popularity was mostly limited to the West Coast (two famous examples: Seattle’s Space Needle and the Theme Building at LAX), making this a rare example of the style in Memphis.
When real estate firm Lurie and Associates bought the property from Henry Turley Realtors in 2001, they planned a remodel that would enhance the existing retro feel. In addition to adding brightly colored accents to the corners of the buildings, they commissioned a large Googie-style sign.
Local artist Dan Hall designed the Park Cosmorama sign in 2001. It was manufactured and installed by Frank Balton Sign Company (the same firm that built the famous Memphis Music sign on Beale near B.B. King’s). The sign is 35 feet of aluminum, steel, and neon, and the planet-like sphere at the top rotates at 1 RPM. It looks its best at night:
For more information about Googie architecture, check out this great article from The Smithsonian.