A high-profile landmark east of Terre Haute will soon get a major restoration.
A 44-foot-long billboard along U.S. 40 has welcomed visitors to the city for more than 80 years. On Thursday, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology announced the institute, along with the Clabber Girl Corp., are working to restore the billboard promoting Terre Haute as the home of Clabber Girl Baking Powder.
According to visitindiana.com’s Indiana 200 bucket list, the iconic sign is Indiana’s oldest billboard, erected by Clabber Girl in the 1930s, with a working clock. The billboard is among the first electric billboards in the country.
The sign has been repainted several times, most recently within the last six years.
Now, Wabash Valley professional artist Becky Hochhalter will hand paint the sign with the same colors and images, including the Clabber Girl Baking Powder logo and the words, “Five Minutes to Terre Haute ... The Home of Clabber Girl Baking Powder.”
Rose-Hulman took over ownership of the sign in the fall of 2017 as part of the institute’s purchase of more than 1,100 acres of property from the Hulman family, founders of Clabber Girl. That property includes the southwest corner of U.S. 40 and Hunt Road on which the billboard stands.
Hochhalter will handpaint metal panels for the signs inside a heated building on Rose-Hulman’s campus.
However, before she can start, the sign’s wooden frame will be restored and the clock will have its mechanics and frame replaced.
“I will use mural acrylic [paint] and blend to match,” Hochhalter said. “It has been repainted over and over, with the last time five years or more. It didn’t last, maybe the wrong paint and materials. We will keep to the historical image and restore it to its former glory.”
Hochhalter, who is currently finishing a 60-foot mural at Crossroads Plaza in downtown Terre Haute, painted the side of Deming Park’s train bridge, which still has vibrant colors.
“It will have a UV clear coat to help maintain its color, just like I did at the park’s mural, which is all metal,” the artist said. “The mural at Deming Park is in the sun all day and it is just as vivid now” as when it was finished in 2015, Hochhalter said.
“I know a lot of people have been curious about this billboard. The intention all along was to restore that. Rose-Hulman worked with Clabber Girl and intend to keep it the way it is,” the artist said. “I have wanted to paint this billboard for years. The community still values that sign.”