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San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons

A lush portrait of San Francisco's historic neon landscape.
By Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan (2014 Giant Orange Press)

"Just when you thought you knew everything about San Francisco, along comes a new book, San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons. With beautiful photography, paging through is like strolling down the streets of a familiar city with a new vantage point. You’ll never look at San Francisco streets in quite the same way again. If just one of these neon survivors gets saved from demolition, this book is a huge success."
—Andrew Danish, author of Palm Springs Weekend (Chronicle Books)

$33 + tax/shipping

Book Details

•  Cloth hardcover book with 200+ photographs by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan.

•  San Francisco/photography essay by local award-winning travel writer Tom Downs

•  Neon preservation essay by Eric Lynxwiler, neon sign art expert and board member of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA)

•  Endnotes section with local stories, oral history, and rich details on 45 iconic neon signs by photographers and essayists.

•  Index by neighborhood to give readers a sense of which neighborhoods still have clusters of neon, and which neighborhoods have lost all but one or two surviving signs

•  Neon condition to give readers indication which signs are illuminated nightly, which signs do not light up and need restoration, and which signs are lost icons

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Shop locally at these 
independent booksellers:

  • Alexander Books
  • Book Passage
  • Californian Historical Society Book Store
  • Christopher Books
  • Dog Eared Books
  • Exploratorium Museum Book Store
  • Folio Books
  • Green Arcade Books
  • Green Apple Books
  • Modern Times Bookstore
  • SFMOMA Book Stores
  • William Stout Architectural Books

Los Angeles:

  • Museum of Neon Art (MONA) Book Store


  • American Sign Museum Bookstore

"Neon is sparser now, more atmospheric and moody. A single sign, late on a cold night, may promise the comfort of a leatherette booth, where you might order something amber-colored in a glass. It can also have a haunting effect, casting powdery light into an empty laundry or onto a street on which no one seems to be awake."

from the book essay by Tom Downs

Here are a few examples of the 45 endnotes to the San Francisco Neon book.

Allstar Donuts/Glaze

2095 Chestnut St

Neon with flashing or animated parts has become a rarity in San Francisco. This sign is a clever example, with a sequence of donuts flashing down, dunking into a cup of coffee, causing a splatter, over and over again. It was originally one of two Hunt’s Quality Donut locations in the City. The other Hunt’s, at 20th and Mission Streets, had the same sign but the business closed and the sign was taken down only a few years ago.—TD

Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street

Designed by architect Timothy Pflueger, it was restored to former brilliance by Neon Works for the Harvey Milk biopic. An inspired new touch by the restoration team was the single blue lettering which flashes solid for a second before the speller mechanism flashes the original red letters. —RH

Twin Peaks Tavern

401 Castro Street

Located at the corner of gay history and culture, the Twin Peaks Tavern neon sign mimics the neighboring mountains and woos its patrons with an extended martini glass replete with vibrant, green, neon olive. —EL

Li-Po Cocktails

916 Grant Avenue

This enduring sign has many cameos with Rita Hayworth in the Chinatown chase scene from Lady from Shanghai. The basement speakeasy is legendary for punk performances in the 1980s.

City of Paris

150 Stockton Street

A Parisian-style department store was famous for French linen and wine imported via the store’s own ship. The intricate and elegant neon Eiffel Tower  loomed high above Union Square. It was removed and probably destroyed in the mid-70s. —RH