Historic Pierre sign to be restored, enshrined

Rosenbaum’s Signs in Rapid City will be restoring the Fawn Motel’s steel neon sign, which was made in 1955.

A neon sign from the Fawn Motel may soon find its way into the South Dakota State Historical Society Museum.

The Fawn Motel, located on Euclid Avenue in Pierre, was named for Fawn Pashby, who opened the motel in 1955. Pashby moved to Pierre in 1947 and operated a service station, sold Studebaker cars and eventually built the motel that bears his name.

Pashby also served two terms in the South Dakota State House of Representatives and one term in the State Senate.

Greg Pashby, Fawn Pashby’s son, said his parents sold the business around 1962, but he still remembers the time he spent in the motel with its 10-foot-tall neon sign.

“I spent my high school years sleeping in the basement,” Pashby said, “Over the years I watched that sign get older and older and deteriorate.”

Pashby said it was surprising that the owners of the Fawn Motel had kept his father’s uncommon name for the motel so long after it was sold.

“Where that name came from I have no idea,” Pashby said. “The only other Fawn I’ve known was a woman … [Fawn Pashby] used to get letters addressed to Mrs. or Miss Fawn Pashby.”

Marshall Weber, the current owner of the Fawn Motel, replaced the old neon sign this summer but did not throw it out. Paul Swedlund, who has restored many signs himself, said he drives by the motel every day and noticed when the neon sign was removed. Swedlund decided to stop and ask if he could have the sign.

“Luckily they didn’t just haul it straight to the dump,” Swedlund said. “[Weber] told me, ‘If you want it, you can have it.’”

The sign has been donated to the South Dakota State Historical Society and will need to be restored before it can be displayed.

The sign is being restored by Rosenbaum’s Signs in Rapid City, which will be donating part of the labor cost. Museum Director Jay Smith said the cost of restoring the sign has yet to be determined, but anyone interested in donating money for the restoration should contact him by email at jay.smith@state.sd.us or by telephone at 773-3798.

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