By Seth Daniel
There are only a few vestiges of the old South End left on the streets, but one of the old South End landmarks – the old Hite TV lighted sign that shone over Washington Street for 80 years – is still intact and looking for a good home in the neighborhood.
Lauren Prescott, director of the South End Historical Society, is trying to find anyone who might have the ability and the space to take on the 11-foot-tall and 600 pound sign that comes in three pieces.
“We would like to find a good home for it in the South End because we don’t have any space outside and we want it to be preserved,” she said. “We have the old Dutch Candy Shoppe wooden sign that was on Tremont Street, and we can keep it inside, but we can’t keep this one inside so it sits in our backyard. We would definitely be excited if someone wanted to take it either for good or on loan.”
Hite TV was opened in 1937 by Arnold Hite across from its long-time location at 1672 Washington St. It was likely originally in the building where Andy’s Cleaners sits today.
Hite’s son, Bob Hite, took over the store when he was 18 years old, leaving Boston University to lead the business when his father died. In 1968, the Boston Housing Authority purchased the building where Hite TV was, and they moved across the street to 1672 Washington St., where most remember them being until 2011.
The store mostly did repairs, and was infamously known in the first iterations of the South End’s revival for its pay phones outside the store. The phones were a constant bone of contention between Hite and the neighbors, as they attracted drug and prostitution activity at night constantly.
The fight was legendary, and the pay phones did eventually come down.
Today, neighbors who were involved in that fight laugh, as few today even recall using pay phones on Washington Street – let alone fighting to get them removed.
By 1999, Bob Hite was semi-retired and left most of the repairs and operations to his employees. A deal to purchase the building by the owners of Mike’s City Diner and Toro Restaurant fell through due to neighborhood opposition.
However, New Boston Ventures did succeed in buying the building in 2011 and putting up a new six-story condo building on the site.
During construction, David Goldman of New Boston didn’t want to see the sign trashed, so a work crew spent the better part of a day delivering it and unloading it at the South End Historical Society’s headquarters in Chester Square.
In a perfect world, Prescott said they would hope that someone – perhaps a developer with a dedicated crew – could move it onto the site of a development or an organization to be repaired and preserved.
“When it came down in 2011, it was one of the only signs left that was part of the old South End when the elevated came down Washington Street,” she said. “Right now, the only thing really left of that type is the Syrian store or the Syrian restaurant.”
The only requirement to take possession of the sign, she said, was for her board to approve it, and for the new owner to come and get it – which is no small operation.