The Diving Lady Sign on 6th Ave. Will Get a Facelift

August 29, 2011

By Teya Vitu


The clock started as soon as the City Council revised a sign code June 28 to allow restoration of battered and rusting historic signs.

It was more like a stopwatch for Downtown’s most prominent historic sign – the diving lady at the Pueblo Hotel & Apartments office building, 145 S. Sixth Ave.

You’d think getting to work on the diving lady the next day would be pretty fast.

“It wasn’t actually the next day,” said attorney Barry Davis, a partner at Piccaretta Davis and co-owner of the building. “Immediately after the meeting, I made a call.”

OK. That’s been more than a month now and the diving lady still stands weathered and worn at Sixth and 12th Street, as it has for some 40 years.

But two bids were quickly submitted by structure rehabilitation firms, one “sketchy” and the other “fairly complete.”

Davis hopes to have bids in line some time in September and is shooting to have the neon sign lighted by “Jan. 1 or so,” the first time the sign has been illuminated since at least 1974.

“I look at it as the lighting of the Armor Park District,” Davis said.  “I think it completes the area. It’s the cherry on top of the whipped cram on the sundae.”

Davis’ sundae includes the spiffing up of the Children’s Museum Tucson, which a couple years ago tore down the wall that blocked the view of the historic Carnegie Library building; the new UniSource/Tucson Electric Power headquarters and the arrival of DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails. Others have been calling this sundae SoCo or South of Congress for the past year or two.

“It adds a lot of pizzazz,” Davis said about a cleaned up diving lady.

Davis said research at the historical society didn’t reveal any tidbits about the sign. It’s most likely 1950s.

“We know it’s pre-1974,” Davis said. “The building was empty from 1974-91when we bought it. We can’t find pictures relevant in time. It’s whenever they put in the pool and refrigerated air. The building was built in 1903. Then after that we get lost.”

Davis and two attorneys have owned the Pueblo Hotel building since 1991. Have they wanted to fix up the diving lady for the past 20 years?

“Absolutely,” Davis said.

They were stopped by an arcane city sign code that did not allow building owners to take down old sign, fix them up, and put them back up. But leaving signs up in disrepair was acceptable. It was a Catch-22: leave old signs up or take them down without being allowed to put them back up.

The June 28 City Council action removed that restriction.

The Pueblo Hotel and its sign also illustrates one of the quirks of historic. Both the 1903 building and 1950s signs are historic even though the stem from very different eras.

Restoring the sign to its original look does present challenges. Such as, What was it’s original look?

“It’s kind of like an adventure,” Davis said. “We’re just in the exploration stage. We’re not sure what the exact color was. We’ll scratch a little away and see what’s underneath.”