Grain Belt


The Grainbelt Breweryerected a large billboard on Nicollet Island next to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge around 1940. For years, it flashed the letters in sequence (“G-R-A-I-N B-E-L-T BEER”). This sign still stands today as a local landmark. This iconic neon sign on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis has been dark for several years.  In the past Signcrafters has restored the sign to its original glory.  There is a new movement underway to relite the sign again.  There will many hurdles to clear including financiang and city approval. Signcrafters has been in contact with the owners of the sign and is hopeful that we will once again be involved in the relighting of the landmark on the river.  In the mean time read the article below from the Star Tribune and watch the video of the previous relighting.


Going against the grain?

An island that puts a premium on its iconic Grain Belt sign is debating a developer’s proposal for financing it into perpetuity.

Steve Brandt

You can view a video of the 1989 relighting of the Grain Belt sign and learn a little island history at this link:

Chris Steller’s video of the recent spotlighting of the Grain Belt sign is available at

In the old days of the 1970s, back when a donkey still numbered among Nicollet Island’s residents, the island’s quasi-bohemian aura set it apart in a city where historical quaintness often has been scrubbed off the map.

Those days seem wilder and woollier than the proprietary attitudes about the island that have emerged more recently. Area residents failed in a long fight to halt construction of DeLaSalle High School’s small stadium, for example, but did manage to keep its turf real grass.

Now there’s another tussle brewing that’s turning out some residents who populate the island and some from the riverside housing developments that overlook the island.

Garfield Clark, who sells commercial real estate, last week came before the Nicollet Island-East Bank Neighborhood Association to explain a proposal he’s working on that involves the island’s iconic Grain Belt sign, which faces downtown beside the Hennepin Avenue bridge. He’s been listing for sale the sign and the property underneath it on behalf of the owners — heirs of the Eastman family that played a major role in developing the island.

Clark’s concept involves both renovating the historic sign, which was relit in 1989 but has been dark for years, and creating a flow of money to keep the sign maintained and pay the electric bill. It’s his idea for how to raise the latter money that’s creating the fuss.

Clark is discussing installing an electronic billboard on the back of the Grain Belt sign, pointing to a similar sign atop the Stimson building on Hennepin Avenue. This new sign would replace the seldom-used traditional billboard that backs the Grain Belt sign now. People living on the billboard side of the sign are objecting to the possibility of adding advertising in a historic district that’s in a national recreation area — an area recognized by the National Park Service.


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