FRESH LOOK NEEDED
I remember meeting with Cheryl Lyon in my shop sometime early in the spring of 2020 after she sought out my company from a Facebook referral. She laid out across my shop table drawings and photographs of an existing billboard sign in Dayton that had deteriorated and wanted to hire me to upgrade it, sharing her artistic shematics for a new look.
The original mill on Silver Lake was built in 1822. It burned in 1856, was rebuilt, and was burned again during the Civil War in 1864. It was last operated as a mill by Rockingham Milling Co., which ceased operations around 1990 after constructing a new facility near Harrisonburg.
Lyon, a member of the board of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, heard the mill was up for sale and thought it would be an awesome building for her growing specialty glass ornament business and purchased it around 1999. Soon afterwards she had an advertising sign erected by another firm to direct local customers to her business, which was a distance off the main road, Route 42. In order to erect an off-premise sign she had to coordinate construction of the sign with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) as well as the Town of Dayton and Rockingham County.
After years of wear, the original sign lost its luster, hence her trip to my shop for fresh ideas. When Cheryl first approached me I was just finishing a custom church sign in Bridgewater and getting ready to start a huge job for the Blue Ridge Tunnel on Afton Mountain. I suggested she get in touch with me in June.
When June rolled in, Cheryl and I were able to complete the sign design work and applicable permitting via emails. I used help from Lisa Brady, a free-lance artist and graphic designer in Bath County, to provide several design concepts. Cheryl took care of the permit research. I always like it when customers secure their own sign permits. Especially in this case where so many agencies are involved in the permitting process. I was able to help with the cost worksheet needed by VDOT and also coordinated inspections with Rockingham County, but Cheryl did all the heavy legwork.
Finally, in October, Cheryl was ready to pull the trigger on making a sign purchase. Once I received her deposit, I quickly ordered materials and began to fabricate the new sign. We took advantage of great weather, disassembled the old sign, and dug the 24 inch diameter by 4-foot deep holes for the new posts. We covered the holes with plywood covers and returned the next day to set the posts while finishing the sign in the shop.
We laminated new 3mm thick Aluminum Composite Material (ACM) panels to the existing boards. Then we applied digitally printed 3M vinyl graphics to the ACM on one side and reinforced the joint between boards across the back. We fastened refurbished steel angles to the new 4 X6 X 15-feet long treated posts, and loaded up the trailer.
Upon reaching the jobsite on the third trip, we hoisted the large 7-feet high X 7-feet wide sign up and between the posts, and fastened them securely. To finish it off, we attached the two 23K gold leaf ball finials to the top of each post and hung a separate directional arrow sign from the bottom of the main billboard.
On the fourth trip after a week’s time to let the concrete footers cure, we dismantled the bracing and touched up the posts.
NOT A RUN OF THE MILL PROJECT
All in all it was a very fun and interesting project and awesome weather to work in. I truly appreciated the chance to play a part in directing the public to the historic mill! It is reminiscent of the Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland, located about 5 miles north from where I grew up. That was also an old mill turned into a glass ball ornament factory before later becoming an artisan center. The reason I am familiar with it is because my Grandpa Hackley used to work in the original cotton mill before it too became an ornament business. He made Christmas balls there up until his death at age 79. Grandpa died instantly from a heart attack at the Savage Mill in 1964!
I hope I will go that way…while doing something I enjoy most…making signs!
Mark Hackley owns Augusta Sign Company, Staunton, VA