The historic “Home” sign temporarily installed at Main and Union streets last March may be hanging around a while longer.
The Industrial Development Authority is seeking approval from the River District Design Commission for the sign to remain at 121 N. Union St. for another year.
The sign — formerly part of the “Home of Dan River Fabrics” sign that welcomed people to Danville from atop Dan River Inc.’s White Mill for decades — dates back to 1947.
Mark Joyner, president of the Danville Historical Society, said the sign is attracting tourism to the city. The sign is important because it signifies the Danville plant’s contribution to the mill process, Joyner said. Dan River provided people with employment and housing and helped the city’s economy, he pointed out.
“We’re hoping to revitalize the other letters … and get them installed,” he said.
The group has them stored in the city, he said. The letter “F” is at 616 Restaurant.
Since the “Home” sign’s installation at North Union Street, numerous events have been held in front of it. The historical society also had oval-shaped, metallic “Home” Christmas ornaments made and sold out of the items for the holidays, Joyner said.
The society donated one of the ornaments to the city, which gave it to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Joyner said.
Ina Dixon, program coordinator for History United, said it was exciting that the community has taken ownership of the sign.
“It’s a marker of our history,” Dixon said. “It also has a strong message. It’s just about home and about where you live and celebrating that.”
The historical society put up the money and saved the sign, she pointed out.
“It’s very good foresight for them,” she said. “Kudos to the city for taking this on.”
The “Home” sign was installed at the corner of Main and Union streets in March. History United partnered with the River District Association and the Danville Historical Society to restore the letters. They chose that word to make people think about what their Danville home means to them.
The sign has a history going back to 1947. Built of steel and completely custom-made, the letters and its frame sat on 10 columns atop the White Mill.
It was Dan River Inc.’s second sign, weighing in between 5 and 6 tons. Originally, there was a sign that read, “Dan River Cotton Mills” with the company logo that was mounted on the roof of No. 1 Mill in Schoolfield. It was later converted to say “Home of Dan River Fabrics.”
This sign was removed in the mid-90s when the roof of No. 1 was redone and to prevent the roof from leaking, which had been a constant issue.
During the late 1990s, with the White Mill sign in need of repairs, the decision was made by Dan River to discontinue lighting it.
In October 2007, the historical society learned the sign was coming down when a member was passing over Main Street Bridge and saw men on the roof of the White Mill lowering the letters carefully to the ground. A collector by the name of John Norton had stepped in with a cash offer for the sign. After a year of negotiations, Dan River agreed to Norton’s price.
Rose Shields, who was president of the historic society at the time, told board members what was taking place. They quickly collaborated via email and phone calls. The decision was made to purchase it but a price was not agreed upon.
With a two-hour notice, Carla Minosh, Tom Belles, Bettina Belles and Henry Hudson pulled together $20,000 out of their own pockets to buy the sign from Norton with the agreement that he had to move it for them. DHS was ecstatic and reimbursed the Minosh, the Belles’, and Hudson.
The River District Design Commission approved the “Home” sign installation in November 2015 for a six-month period. It was installed in March, and the IDA is seeking an additional year.
City staff believes the sign has had a positive impact on Main Street and the River District since it was installed. The sign is considered public art and does not need an additional zoning permit, according to city staff.
The commission will consider the IDA’s application for a certificate of appropriateness for the extension at its meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Municipal Building.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at email@example.com or (434) 791-7987.
Staff photographer Matt Bell contributed to this story.
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