We are looking forward to unveiling a very special piece of history at the grand opening of the new Bob Evans Farm – the sign that once stood in front of the Transit House at the Union Stockyards in Chicago, Ill. The stockyards were the center of the American livestock and meat packing industry for decades. The Transit House was the hotel adjacent to the yards, frequented by heads of industry. Writer Upton Sinclair stayed at the Transit House when he arrived in Chicago to write his famous novel “The Jungle,” which was based on the yards.
The sign, which says “Union Stock Yard & Transit Co.,” and which was constructed in cast-steel in the mid-1800’s, was purchased by Bob Evans at an auction of Chicago memorabilia in the 1960’s. Evans, an avid collector, was taken with the sign as a symbol of the stockyards and the meat-packing industry – his own line of work. He hired a driver to transport it to Ohio, though since it was too long to be driven safely on the highway, it had to be transported at night.
Reportedly, the sign stood at the Farm until the 1970’s, when a talk radio show in Chicago featured a segment about lost Chicago memorabilia. After a caller mentioned that the famous Transit House sign was on a farm in southeast Ohio, Bob began receiving angry calls. Not wishing to offend his Illinois customers, the sign was removed, and was cast onto the back of a hillside, where it sat until 2010.
When renovations began, Bob Evans executives decided to exhume the sign and restore it to its original glory. The sign, covered in vines, weeds and wood scraps, was taken to artist and steel fabricator Dave Snyder’s shop in Gallipolis, where it was restored over the course of many months. Snyder had to completely rebuild portions of the scrollwork, which had rusted away.
Snyder reassembled the three pieces of the sign using steel rivets, which is how the sign was constructed originally due to the fact that welding hadn’t yet been invented in the mid-1800s.
The sign is being restored with the original name plate facing inwards toward the Festival field, and a newly constructed Bob Evans Farm sign facing Route 588, with Mr. Evans portrait painted onto the center medallion. The sign will be flanked by benches, where we will invite guests to rest a while and marvel at this beautiful piece of history.