• Austin signs and murals. Austin, Texas, USA. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved. Austin, City of Signs.

Austin, City of Signs

Everywhere we look in Austin, there are signs. Some are vintage signs that remind us of the neon signs we saw illuminating motels and diners on a Route 66 road trip we did years ago — like the original, iconic Austin Motel sign, below, installed when the motel was built in 1938.

Others are modern, retro-inspired signs that are virtually works of art — or at the very least pay homage to 20th century American pop culture — like those created by urban archaeologist Todd Sanders of Roadhouse Relics, who travels the country’s highways looking for inspiration for his custom-made signs. There is a wonderful quote on Todd’s website about this mid-century Americana, that it was “a time when Americans found adventure simply by following the glow of gas-filled tubes beckoning toward fanciful roadside attractions.” The 1950s in particular was a time of optimism and positive energy and also the beginnings of technology playing a part in people’s lives, before paranoia about Russia took hold.

Check out the gallery below of Austin, city of signs:

While many of the signs are rich with history and loaded with meaning for nostalgic locals — especially those on South Congress Avenue and South Lamar Boulevard, two streets that are emblematic of the dynamic social and cultural life of the city — the signs also just another cool feature of Austin’s colourful urban landscape.

At Roadhouse Relics, Sanders has his own ageing process for his signs to accelerate rusting, the same way that Fender sell guitars that are ‘aged’ at the factory — and it’s not a coincidence it’s for the classic guitar models of the 1950s either. There is something about the innocence of the time that make us nostalgic — and it’s incredible that just looking at these signs can bring on that feeling.

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2018-11-26T11:43:48+00:00By |

About the Author:

Professional travel/food editorial/commercial photographer and food and travel writer based in Asia. His photography and writing assignments has seen him visit over 70 countries. Has authored some 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides. Photography has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust, Get Lost, Travel+Leisure Asia, DestinAsian, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee and many more.


  1. todd sanders August 16, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Great Blog, thanks for including me!

  2. Lara Dunston August 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Todd – wow! How did you find us? I was going to email you and let you know we included you – love your signs! – but hadn’t got around to it yet. Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  3. Limdsey August 18, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    As a former student of semiotics, it’s hard to not
    looking at the signs as
    “signs”! Great photos, have been very curious about Austin, hope to get there one day!

  4. Terence Carter August 19, 2010 at 6:43 am

    As another former student of semiotics, I say sometimes a sign is just a sign 😉

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