Iconic Paramount Theatre sign may (partially) return to downtown Chilliwack

A replica version of the famous sign's P may be erected in a pedestrian area

Twelve years after it was pulled down, one of Chilliwack’s most iconic landmarks seems unlikely to ever rise again in the city’s downtown. But a facsimile may, depending on a decision today by the city’s council.

In 2012, the art deco sign of the Paramount theatre was removed from the condemned building, loaded on a flatbed truck, and sent to a storage facility. The sign had lit up Yale Road for more than 60 years and was one of downtown Chilliwack’s most prominent landmarks.

It has been tucked away in storage for more than a decade, with its memory occasionally stirring hopes that it would one day make a reappearance.

Now those dreams could be realized—but the sign’s re-appearance might not be as grand as what fans of the theatre’s sign once imagined.

The fact that the Paramount sign—or at least a portion of it—has sat in storage for 12 years is an indicator of the place it holds in Chilliwack residents’ hearts.

Ever since the sign came down in 2012, locals have dreamed that it would rise again over their downtown.

In 2018, the sign’s P was hauled out of storage to provide the backdrop for a ground-breaking ceremony. 📷 City of Chilliwack

In 2018, a proposal for a mixed-use building at the former Paramount site included renderings that suggested the old sign could be erected on the facade of the new building.

When construction began on the new building four years later, the P for the old sign was hauled to the site for a ground-breaking ceremony. A long line of shovel-wielding politicians stood in front of the huge P for photos. But in the updated rendering for the new building, the sign was completely gone. Officials said they didn’t know how it may be incorporated in the new building.

Indeed, the rusting, paint-peeling state of the P suggested the original dreams for the old sign probably wouldn’t work.

Restoring the top of the old Paramount sign would be expensive because of its lead-based paint and physical state. 📷 City of Chilliwack

Two years later, the building is nearly complete, and the sign is still nowhere to be seen. But a version of the original plan lives on.

The city has been working on a plan to mount one-ninth of the old sign—specifically, the P in Paramount—on a post in a nearby pedestrian walkway off Yale Road. A rendering suggests the P would be prominent, but hardly dominate the view in the same way the old sign did.

It would be matched with signage that explained the original sign.

A city rendering of the proposed new sign. 📷 City of Chilliwack

Ideally, the city and its public art advisory committee had hoped to re-use the actual P from the old sign. But a city contractor working inspected the old sign and suggested that using it would cost twice as much up front than creating a replica from scratch. The contractor pointed to the likelihood of lead paint that would need to be removed, uncertainty about the deteriorated condition of the sign’s surface and internal structure, and long-term maintenance costs.

Instead of using the old sign, the consultant suggested creating an “exact heritage replica” based on the original sign but using light-weight metal and “heritage-inspired” lighting components.

A staff report says that the city’s public art advisory committee preferred to use the original sign, but conceded that a replica made more sense.

But the final say will go to Chilliwack’s politicians, who are set to discuss the matter at today’s council meeting. The Paramount isn’t coming back. A piece of its history may, though.

In 2018, Chilliwack History Perspectives wrote about the history and future of the theatre and its sign.

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