Iconic sign removed from historic Tower Theater

John McDevitt
August 13, 2019 - 12:51 pm

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The tower atop the Tower Theater in Upper Darby is no more.

Many onlookers watched — shaking their heads and recording the moment — as the iconic "TOWER" sign on the 92-year-old theater came down Tuesday morning due to safety concerns.

First, the sphere was sawed off and hoisted down by crane around 8 a.m. Then, letter by letter, it was dismantled and lowered to the ground by a giant crane.

The theater is still operational, and plenty of concerts will still frequent it. But the sign was removed after a recent inspection — orchestrated by the venue's owner, Live Nation — found severe deterioration in the metal base and structure of the tower. 

Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie said the township did everything it could to save the sign to no avail.

"We actually, as a township, hired a structural engineer to review their structural engineer plans to make sure that there was anything possible that could have happened," he said, "and all of the engineering studies that came through and the professionals I rely on basically said it was a threat and in danger of falling down. So it's a safety hazard."

Marvin Faison of North Philadelphia watched the sign come down.

"It's something I look at every morning when I come to work," he said. "It's going to be sad to see it gone."  

Sheila English of Upper Darby will also miss the sign for its history.

"You would say, 'Meet me at the tower. Meet me at the tower.' You could see it from far away. Even from the El coming up, you could see it standing there," she said. "But the reason it has to come down is understandable."    

The Tower was one of Upper Darby Township's first movie theaters. It was renovated in the early '70s after a fire, and it quickly became a premier concert venue, bringing early performances from the likes of David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Bowie even recorded a live album there.

Live Nation donated the old sign to a music museum in Lancaster. No new signage is in the works for the theater.