Shell Oil Spectacular Vintage Sign – Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Shell Oil Spectacular Sign in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a Moderne vintage signage dream. Erected in 1933, this beloved sign has been blazing for a incredible 90 years! In 1994, the sign found its way onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Shell oil spectacular vintage sign - boston  cambridge Massachusetts
built in 1933 by Donnelly Electric Manufacturing Company

Shell Oil Spectacular Sign – Cambridge Historical Landmark

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of the sign, some interesting construction and historical facts can be found in documents from the Cambridge Historical Commission.

As someone who is not familiar with reading governmental documentation, the level of detail regarding the history, construction, and technology related to the sign included in the documents was surprising!

In 2009, the case for making the Shell Oil Spectacular sign a Cambridge historical landmark was resurrected and passed by the Cambridge Historical Commission.

Shell Oil Spectacular sign boston

Welcome to Hell!

As a humorous aside, according to Cambridge News, in 2019 the “S” became unlit, providing a decidedly different and hilarious view of the great sign:

My First Brush with Greatness

The day that we dropped our daughter off for her first year of college in Boston, we drove passed this aptly named Shell Spectacular sign for the first time. And this sign is exactly that – spectacular. From that day forward, each time I’ve been to Boston I’ve said to myself “I need to snap a picture of the sign this time!” It only took me 4 years to make good on that.

While visiting Boston a few weeks ago, we made a little detour during our Blue Bike ride and I was able to see this gorgeous baby up close, and while stationary. A real looker, huh?

Visit the Shell Oil Spectacular Sign

187 Magazine Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts


Rachael is the whimsical writer behind the 20+ year old Girlie Motorcycle Blog. As a freelance blogger, she is on a mission to inspire laughter, self-examination, curiosity, and human connection. Girlie Motorcycle Blog can be found on several Best Motorcycle Blog lists.

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5 Responses

  1. Bob B says:

    I worked in Cambridge for several years, so this is a familiar sight. It is nicer lit up at night.

  2. Jack Davis says:

    Each time I dropped my two sons off for college I drove away with tears in my eyes. How did you do?

    • Fuzzygalore says:

      Oh, Jack – much the same. Still. For me there is no telling whether the trip home will be a marathon full-duration blubber or just a sprint 🙂

      You’re so filled with pride and hope and wonder, but it is so hard to let go.

  3. Ted Kettler says:

    Please come to Boston in the spring time…. I’m staying with some friends and they got lots of room….
    Passed by Boston once. I do want to go there and start my Route 20 ride to the west coast. It’s a dream that is huddled under the dusty tarp of “Someday”.
    Too bad the shell sign is spoiled by the modern day vehicles parked under its awning. It needs some 1950’s classic cars under there to make it right.

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