Front Range

Signs of the Times

A pair of friends captures a slice of Americana before it disappears.

June 2012

5280.com Exclusive: Check out a slideshow of the aging signs.

Many people consider the rusting mid-century motel signs high above the pavement of Colfax Avenue distasteful remnants of a bygone period. In the eyes of Denverites Charles G. Beckwith and Brian Ellwood, though, the neglected signposts are nothing less than works of art. “They’re really one of a kind,” Ellwood says. “They’re symbols of the road-trip era.”

This fall, the amateur photographers realized their shared affinity for these aging signs and set out to
document them before they’re torn down. Starting with Denver’s old thoroughfares, they shot places like the Red Pine Motel on South Broadway and the Cameron Motel on East Evans, framing the signs against a blue sky to help emphasize the landmarks’ former allure. 

Beckwith and Ellwood plan to create a series of images from around the state and sell the photos
as posters and prints—an endeavor they’ve dubbed the
American Motel Project, since they’re already paying homage to motel signs in New Mexico. “These signs are what grabbed your attention, what caught your eye [on a road trip],” Beckwith says. “They had to be striking.” theamericanmotelproject.com