Classic Brookline Street Signs

Letters submitted to FHWA in support of Brookline’s cast-aluminum street signs during the public comment period on street sign regulations in January 2011.

High Street Hill Association

Street Sign Comment to FHWA
January 13, 2011

The board of the High Street Hill Association, a neighborhood association that has represented residents in the Pill Hill Local Historic District in Brookline, Massachusetts for more than 50 years, is writing to request that our historic street signs be exempt from the MUTCD letter height and retroreflectivity requirements.

Our cast aluminum street signs, which are still found throughout much of our town, are very special, representing a time when skilled local workers manufactured what was needed locally. These distinctive black and silver signs, which were produced from 1937 to 1955 in a town-operated foundry, are of historic significance on both the state and national level. They appear to be unique in the US, in having been designed to be made of cast aluminum and they appear to be one of only two such extensive sets of cast metal signs in the US that pre-date WWII (or even that are more than a decade old). Approximately 500 of these signs survive, the great majority along granite-curbed residential streets with tree lawns and with 25 MPH speed limits within the older northern part of the town. These signs have been specifically recognized by the Massachusetts Historical Commission as being National Register Eligible Contributing Elements within the Cottage Farm National Register Historic District (on the other side of Brookline) so we expect that the remainder are also eligible to be recognized in an amendment to Brookline’s town-wide comprehensive National Register Survey. These signs were also exempted from replacement or change by MassHighway during the state-funded reconstruction of Beacon Street in Brookline, the entire length of which in Brookline is a National Register District.

The residents of our town see these signs as an important part of our identity as a town. The were designed well and with little maintenance have served their function well for as long as 70 years. We see no reason why they can not continue to remain part of our community. For these reasons we strongly urge you to exempt them from the MUTCD letter height and retroreflectivity requirements.

For more information about their history and for photos please see our association website.

Respectfully submitted,
Robert Daves
President, High Street Hill Association

Senator John Kerry

January 14, 2011 (pdf)