We’ll take “Quirky Portland Signs” for $400, please.
Clue: A beverage container that inspired a 30-ft display in the West Hills that, when lit, unofficially signals the start of the holiday season.
Question: What is a martini glass?
Ding ding ding.
Portland’s iconic, illuminated martini glass is shining brightly once again. It’s a familiar sight this time of year — but do you know the story behind it? Bottoms up, we’re jumping back in time.
An Italian family named the Martinis were the first to build a martini glass sign in the West Hills — albeit on a smaller scale — which they would light up to signal a party was happening. After the family moved away, a high schooler in the neighborhood named Monty Meadows decided to keep the tradition going. He made a larger version of the sign using two-by-fours and some borrowed Christmas lights, and then affixed it to the side of his family’s home.
Wintry Northwest weather had other ideas, though. The rickety sign was blown down and repaired multiple times until Monty’s dad offered to help. Together, the duo improved the emblem every year, adding stronger aluminum piping and more lights. By the time Monty’s parents separated in 1982 and the family home was put up for sale, the sign was iconic enough that the new buyer insisted it be included in the deal.
Fast forward a few decades to when the property changed hands again. The buyer — Portland architect Aaron Hall — tore down the house in 2013 and built a new one, but the effort took years… and the martini glass was sorely missed. “Everybody was calling, saying ‘Where’s the sign, where’s the sign?’” Aaron told KOIN 6 News. “I said, ‘It’s coming back. I just have to build the house first.’”
True to his word, Aaron has not only maintained the tradition but he’s also improved upon the sign’s design. In 2015, he unveiled a three-story-tall martini glass (complete with a “stuffed” green olive) that uses LED technology and sports a sleeker, more modern look. And while Aaron himself doesn’t drink, he shakes up a mean martini for his guests.