PORTLAND — If all goes well, the time and temperature will soon be flashing again from the top of 477 Congress St.

The landmark sign on the Time and Temperature Building has been blank since a circuit board failed Friday afternoon. If the replacement arrives this morning, as expected, the sign could be running again at lunchtime, said Carl Trottier, property manager with CBRE/The Boulos Co.

As long as there’s nothing wrong with the programming that controls the lights on the sign, it will be only a matter of sliding in the new circuit board.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Trottier said. “It’s mind-boggling how much this has an impact on the city.”

That impact was clear Friday afternoon. The Boulos company’s property management division fielded about 60 calls in the first hours after the sign went dark.

“The good news is, it shows you it’s good advertising. People are looking at it,” said Daniel Greenstein, a Boulos partner.

People who live and work in Portland started looking to the top of the 14-story building for digital messages in 1964. That’s when the original sign started flashing on what was then the Casco Bank building. The current sign was installed in 1999.

“It’s a good security blanket for us, driving in to work, to make sure we’re on time,” said Eileen Chretien, volunteer director of the Maine Make-A-Wish Foundation, which is housed in the Time and Temperature Building.

The sign also can broadcast two-line messages of four letters each. WMTW NEWS was a fixture for years, BOAT SHOW has been another promotion, and PARK BAN is important news from the city once the snow begins.

The current ad is CALL JOE – for the personal injury and disability lawyer Joe Bornstein.

Advertising emerged as a way to pay for the sign’s long-term maintenance after the cost made the building’s owner consider turning it off in 1991. A special bill in the Legislature was needed to exempt the sign from a state law against flashing messages that are visible from state highways.

The Time and Temperature sign is so appealing that one of the building’s tenants has drawn inspiration from it. Clocks and thermometers – and some barometers – adorn Right Time Cafe and Catering.

“We do it because it’s historic,” said owner Karl Whipple.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: akim@pressherald.com