The end of the rainbow...
I always referred to this place as Rainbow Bar, but I have no idea what it was really known as. Not even sure it had a real name. At the top of each gable were the painted words Topless Go Go. I pass by this building everyday and I have photographed it several times. Never actually set foot inside it. It's been abandoned for several years and just sits there as another blighted eyesore amid the suburban sprawl of Warrington, Pa. My fascination for this place goes beyond it's vacancy and quirky appearance though.
The crazy colors on this historic old building made it different than any other vacant structure I had ever encountered. It's been painted in this wild rainbow color scheme for probably twenty plus years now and I'm sure most people don't know why. Back in the late 1980's the owner of this place wanted to install a sign advertising nude dancing. The place was always kind of a clandestine operation with no exterior indications of what went on inside, and I guess the township tolerated some questionable and grandfathered zoning ordinances as long as the covert ops stayed that way. The building was constructed sometime in the 1700's and from the road looked like any other old and somewhat shabby but charming example of whitewashed Bucks County history.
From what I remember of the media coverage at the time, the owner pressed his issue for full disclosure signage in the court system for several years, and continually got shot down by judge after judge. In a final gasp of eccentric revenge the owner went and had the place painted in it's current garish splendor. The Warrington zoning board prevented a sign that advertised nudity, and in the process ended up with roadside visual obscenity for over twenty years. It is very important to note that during that twenty year time span Warrington morphed from a once mostly rural place consisting of large tracts of farm land that edged the byways of Easton Road, into a mostly continuous sprawl zone consisting of Toll Brothers housing developments, Big Box stores, and never ending shopping centers. There is nary a trace of historic charm left along Easton Road as one drives through Warrington.
I am currently reading Learning From Las Vegas, by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Much of the book discusses the relationship of signs to buildings and the ways in which signs became the overwhelming and defining aspect of the Las Vegas architectural landscape, and then migrated to the suburban sprawl commercial strip architecture across America today.
"The sign is more important than the architecture... From the desert town on the highway of the West today, we can learn new and vivid lessons about an impure architecture of communication...If you take away the signs, there is no place."
Driving south on Easton Road today I wasn't thinking about much at all as I came to the red light in front of Rainbow Bar. It took several seconds for my mind to register what I was seeing as I looked at a dull gray building standing at the corner. Dull gray primer colored paint covering every square inch of the Rainbow Bar, and a spanking new sign hanging diagonally off of the Southeast corner. Seems to be a new owner and/or tenant on the premises. I was too stunned to read what the sign said. My brain too busy trying to comprehend the missing colors as the traffic flow pushed me forward.
The remainder of my drive towards Philadelphia consisted of the everyday vulgarity of big sign/little building chaos of the daily autoscape that haunts my every mile. The landscape of no place. I will miss you Rainbow Bar.