For more than half a century, it towered over commuters bustling up and down Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.
But now, the familiar White Haven Motor Lodge sign is broken into four pieces and kept in a storage unit.
The Johnson County Museum, which bought the sign at an auction in 2010, is raising money with hopes to restore it this year.
“The sign tells us so much about the history of the area,” said Anne Jones, collections curator at the museum. “When White Haven opened in 1957, its sign became an icon for Johnson County residents. It’s something very deep in many people’s memories.”
Restoration of the sign would include repairing the neon lighting, fixing weather damage and rust and preventing future rust.
“We’re not going to make it look brand new, just more visually appealing,” Jones said. “We want to keep its history. We don’t want to erase its story.”
The museum hopes to raise $25,000. It has raised about $8,000 since May. Funds are being raised via the museum’s website. People who donate $10 will receive a commemorative key chain in the shape of the White Haven sign.
“The motor lodge was a well-known place to stay, especially in the 1950s and ‘60s before the big hotel chains came around,” Jones said. “It was a mom and pop operation that survived 50 years. You really don’t see that anymore.”
Since the sign will not fit in the current museum space, located in Shawnee, Jones hopes it will be completed by the time the museum relocates to its potential new home, the former King Louie space in Overland Park.
“It will be bringing the sign back to its old neighborhood, which we felt was very fitting,” she said.
In addition to the sign, the museum has other White Haven artifacts in storage, including blueprints, a key rack and plaques from the lobby and numerous photos.
Those photos will be featured in a slideshow at a fundraiser next week held by Cypress Springs, an Alzheimer’s and memory support residence.
From 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Cypress Springs, located at 6921 W. 81st St., will celebrate its first birthday by accepting donations for the museum’s sign restoration and installation plans.
“Because Cypress Springs sits adjacent to the former White Haven, I often use it as a landmark when I am giving folks directions on how to find us,” said Carrie Homstad, pokeswoman for Cypress Springs. “When we heard about the museum’s efforts to restore the sign, I thought ‘How can we somehow honor this local landmark?’ ”
Her idea to raise money for the effort delighted the Johnson County Museum.
“Every little bit helps,” said Jones. “Our goal is to raise the money and restore the sign as soon as possible.”