The Orange Court Motor Lodge first opened as the Orange Court Hotel in 1924. With stylish interiors and the city’s first indoor swimming pool, the hotel was a popular resort destination for celebrities and Orlando locals alike. The hotel changed ownership in the 1960s and was renamed the Orange Court Motor Lodge. It also was outfitted with a new neon sign featuring 115 incandescent bulbs and weighing close to 1,000 pounds. When the Orange Court Motor Lodge closed in 1990, Hugh F. McKean (1908–95), the Museum’s first Director, stepped forward to save the sign from demolition.

The Orange Court Motor Lodge sign is one of many saved by McKean as part of the collection at the Morse Museum. Nearly all the signs are from local businesses and establishments, representing an important part of Orlando history. As McKean told the Orlando Sentinel in 1990: “We think [the sign collection] is lively. It isn’t self-conscious. It comes right out of society, right out of our people.”

The neon signs offer connections to other objects in the Morse collection. Neon is created by passing electrical currents through specially bent glass tubes of rarified gas. Likewise, additional works of art in the Museum’s collection feature a plethora of color and light effects produced by chemical reactions and specialized techniques.

Neon signs reached peak popularity in the 1950s before they were replaced by more cost-effective colored lighting like LED. Over time, neon signs were destroyed because they were too costly to maintain. Today, there are few artists working in the original techniques that crafted signs like these. By collecting and conserving them, the Museum is helping to preserve an important art form along with local and design history.

Please scroll through the highlights below to see additional neon signs in the Museum’s collection.


Earle G. Ward Auto Parts sign, c. 1950
Miller’s Hardware sign, c. 1950
Fair Banks Inn Liquors sign, c. 1950
Club Juana sign, c. 1963
Circus Circus sign, c. 1955–70
Ronnie’s sign, c. 1950s
Merita Bread sign, c. 1960