Bring back the real arch

The Reno Arch is in the news. There is a debate over whether it should remain neon or go to LED. The city council has voted for a new color scheme.

We’d like to cut through how to tinker with the current arch with an entirely different suggestion: Take it down and put the original Reno arch back.

The 1963 decision to take the original arch down was a mistake. It was sold to the public as a more modern approach, just as one of the original ideas for naming the Pioneer Center was to call it the Apollo Center, after the then-current moon landing project, and just as LED lighting today is supposed to be more modern than neon. Sometimes we confuse for progress ideas which are really only change.

But what the city got was the second Reno arch, known informally as the Jetsons arch. It was never wildly popular and wore out its welcome fast. But it hung on for years, no one in authority willing to say out loud what so many felt, that it had been a mistake to replace the original, that its replacement rapidly became dated like modernist 1960s living room furniture. It was replaced after 23 years. The original arch had been in place for 40 years.

The third arch, installed in 1987, had a basic design flaw—it resembled the casinos’ signs behind it, with the result that it blends into its backdrop instead of standing out, as the original arch did.

The original arch was built in 1926 as part of the Transcontinental Highway Exposition in Reno, for which Idlewild Park was created. After being removed in 1963, the arch drifted around town—to Idlewild Park, then Paradise Park, then into storage, now at the Harrah’s Auto Museum.

The third arch has been in place for 30 years and it can hardly be described as beloved. It is adequate, it does the job, but not much more.

The original arch, by contrast, is a retro design in a time when retro is in, and the simple fact of it being returned to its home would alone bring wide publicity and attention to the city.