Iconic Sign Comes Down at Downtown Haverhill Storefront; Developer Plans Apartments

The iconic Magnavox sign comes down. (Peter Carbone photograph for WHAV News.)

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A downtown Washington Street landmark came down yesterday—the first step toward rehabilitating the former Haverhill TV and Appliance building into a new storefront and market rate apartments.

The at least half-century-old vertical Magnavox sign, which has seen its way into at least two Hollywood motion pictures, was removed about a month after the sale of the building to a West Newbury developer. Frederick “Rick” A. Battistini Jr., grandson of the store’s founder, was among those waxing nostalgic.

“We were very sad to see it go. It’s been part of Haverhill history. It was a landmark and we were hoping the Haverhill Historical Society would say, ‘keep it up,’ and we’ve even had some of the people from City Hall say they had talked about refurbishing it and putting a light in it, but that’s just a lot of talk,” he told WHAV.

Matthew E. Juros, a member of the city’s Downtown Historic Commission, says he is one of those who wanted the sign restored. He compared it to Boston’s historic Citgo sign that had its beginnings in commerce, but became a public landmark.

“I consider that one of the important, character-defining elements of the historic downtown. That is a term that the (U.S.) Department of the Interior uses for elements of a building or neighborhood that need to be preserved,” Juros said.

He said he is disappointed his Commission did not receive an opportunity to review the sign’s removal or any advance notice. Building Inspector Thomas Bridgewater told WHAV he is investigating whether there is any conflict between the city’s building ordinances that require signage removal and historic district guidelines. The ordinance reads, “All signs, either wall or freestanding, announcing businesses which have since discontinued operation shall be removed within five days from the date of discontinuance.” There is a $100 daily penalty for failing to comply.

Battistini said the sign has been preserved. The bottom part will remain available for public viewing, as he explains.

“We have saved the red part with the 1921 on it and we’re going to donate that to the Buttonwoods Museum. We’re hoping maybe we can get a little plaque or something with it,” Battistini said.

One side of the top, 16- to 18-foot vertical section with the word “Magnavox” is staying with the Battistinis and the other side is slated for sale. Battistini said he and his brother Matthew bore the expense of the sign’s removal.

New owner Theodore P. Ammon of First Light Ventures bought the building within the Washington Street Historic District for $500,000. He told WHAV the sign remains the property of the Battistini family, but he was concerned it could be a “safety hazard.”

“For what it’s worth, it’s been there quite a while and it was in poor condition,” he said.

Ammon is in the earliest stage of city permitting to make the four-story historic building into a new storefront and up to nine market rate apartments.

“I love what’s happening in downtown Haverhill, the renaissance that’s occurring. I wanted to bring the building back to life. It has been dormant and neglected.” Ammon said he has 10 years’ experience as a developer.

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