RSA Tower – Surreptitious Sign Changes

This episode concerns the dozen or so construction job signs that identified the various RSA building sites along Monroe Street early in 1995. Goodwyn-Mills jobs and Watson-Watson jobs as well as PH&J jobs.RSA Sign

All of the signs followed the State Building Commission format and each one included a panel which denoted the name of the sitting State Governor as chairman of one of the Boards of Control which had oversight of the RSA.  If an incumbent lost his bid for re-election, then all the signs had to be changed.  But somehow Dr. Bronner considered it bad form to be seen making the change.  He had this political horror of such a photo-op appearing in the Advertiser or on Channel 12 under a banner reading “RSA readies for the new administration”.  In matters like this, Bronner is seen as a swan who glides serenely along the lake, but underneath he is paddling like hell.

The Plaza and ACC construction had been accomplished within the two terms of Guy Hunt and no change in sign had been needed.  Later, Hunt’s impeachment occurred before the RSA Union/Tower projects broke ground, so we escaped a sign manifesto for the second time.  But when Fob James unexpectedly defeated Jim Folsom, Jr., the job sign issue became paramount in Bronner’s mind.

Thus, Dr. Bronner called me into his office in mid-December of 1994 to discuss this politically sensitive matter that had to be coordinated with the inauguration of the new Governor.  I was instructed to employ a sign painter, swear him to secrecy, and have him change the appropriate words on 16 large plywood signs so quietly and quickly that the press could not catch us in the act.  To limit the “need to know”, I was to handle the matter personally and on all six construction sites, even those administered by the other architects, and despite the fact that the signs were the property of five different contractors.

Somehow, I could not quite empathize with the secrecy demanded for this peculiar undertaking.  Nevertheless, feeling like an undercover operative, I located a cooperative sign shop, secured the necessary commitment, and designed an overlay panel which would fit all the signs.  Indeed, early on the morning of Saturday, January 14, 1995, all of the RSA construction signs suddenly and magically reflected the name of Governor Fob James, who was to be inaugurated the following Monday.  Never say that architects can’t handle secret missions.

-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Tower stories. The rest can be found here.

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