With roots dating back to 1799, Domino Sugar remains a symbol of success. The Baltimore refinery in the photograph below is more than 90 years old and has become a must-see feature for tourists and locals alike. But the real star of the story is the iconic neon sign. Measuring 120’ by 70’, its intense reddish-orange glow can be seen from great distances and is as much a part of Baltimore as City Hall.
Now in its 63rd year, it was built by Artkraft Strauss LLC, the Manhattan New York firm that designed and manufactured many of those great neon works of art seen in Times Square as well as others around the globe.
This refinery has been standing since the 1920s and serves as a reminder of the once booming industrial waterfront that occupied this area. But times have changed and so has the refinery, having modernized many systems over the years, including the installation of solar power for the crown jewel of the building.
I remember riding with my parents as a kid and seeing this sign as we drove in and out of town. You knew you were home when it appeared in the distance. Back then the skyline was dotted with industrial cranes as goods were shipped to and from this historic seaport city just upstream from the Chesapeake Bay.
Photographed millions of times, there can be no doubt about the sign’s popularity. It has also appeared in many movies and television shows like The Wire and, Homicide: Life on the Street among others. Those TV shows were so successful that many have erroneously come to believe that is all that goes on here. But I digress. Baltimore’s own, Film Director Barry Levinson created the popular movies Tin Men and Diner which also featured shots of the famous neon as well.
Some say "what's the big deal?" Its just an old neon sign, right? Perhaps so, but it is also represents a link to the industrial past when corporations manufactured products for not only the US, but global consumption. The sign and the nearly century-old building it rests on are in sharp contrast to the new modern architecture surrounding it. There has been speculation for years about the plant closing but I don't think Domino Sugar wants to give up that prime real estate it rests on. Why give up on such a strategically advantageous shipping location with easy access to the sea? Perhaps that's why the building and the iconic sign remain in place today.
If you're a Baltimorean, its somewhat difficult to imagine the skyline of the inner harbor and Locust Point without Domino Sugar.