These three exterior letters, spelling C-B-C, were once part of a huge neon sign on the roof of Radio-Canada CBC’s downtown Montreal headquarters on Boulevard René-Lévesque (at that time Boulevard Dorchester). Formerly the Hotel Ford, the building was occupied by the broadcasting service from the mid-1940s until 1973, when the Maison Radio-Canada tower was built, further East. It appears very few archival images of the former Radio-Canada HQ exist, but the building remains, serving as office and condo spaces at the corner of René-Lévesque and Mackay.
The sign letters were rescued from the roof in 1973 by Pieter Sijpkes, a now-retired McGill architecture professor. A friend had been given the job of clearing out the building, and they agreed on $5 a letter. We believe there were actually two signs, identical except for one being in yellow and the other in red. For many years, Sijpkes kept the letters on display in his backyard, re-configuring the letters to spell different phrases such as ‘O CANADA’ and ‘O BANANA’. Over the intervening years he gradually gave away or sold many of the letters. Professor Sijpkes generously donated C-B-C to the Montréal Signs Project in the Summer of 2016, and they are now making their first exhibition appearance since Radio-Canada’s relocation in the 1970s.
There is limited rust; the coloured fascias are intact, as is the stainless steel trim. Some of the neon is broken and the transformers will need replacing. As Professor Sijpkes says: “Neon wants to be ON.”