Bayer Pulls Mt. Washington Ad; Nonprofit Looks To Revitalize Hillside

Aug 1, 2014

Bayer Corp. decided to pull the plug on its 30-foot tall Mt. Washington sign Thursday, ending a 21-year-old contract with Lamar Advertising.

With the future of the billboard up in the air, nonprofit group Scenic Pittsburgh is asking for community input via a Facebook survey.

Mike Dawida, Scenic Pittsburgh executive director, said the majority of people polled want to see some kind of change made to the more than 90-year-old sign.

“Overwhelmingly, 99 percent of the people polling say they want to do something to this sign and are really upset with the way that it has been handled over the last decade or so,” he said.

Right now, the survey has three options: remove the billboard and add the land Mt. Washington’s Emerald Park; renovate the sign to read “Pittsburgh” in a similar fashion to the famous Hollywood sign; or, do nothing and continue to allow advertising.

Pittsburghers can also submit their own ideas online.

Dawida said the billboard isn’t in line with city ordinances.

“Current city law doesn’t really allow this,” he said. “This is actually a nonconforming billboard, currently. The only reason it’s even allowed to exist is because it was grandfathered.”

According to Dawida, the sign is too bright, too large and improperly placed.

In a written statement, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he understands why Bayer would want to cut ties with the billboard as soon as possible.

“Lamar has a responsibility to maintain the sign and it hasn’t done anything to it in 20 years,” he said. “It’s an eyesore for the Mount Washington neighborhood and the whole city.”

Peduto continued by saying the city would work with Lamar to restore the billboard.

The 30-foot tall, 226-foot wide sign was erected in the 1920's and had several sponsors before Bayer came around in the early 1990’s. Iron City Beer advertised on it more than 60 years ago, and from 1967 until 1992 Alcoa used the billboard.

Dawida said he’s looking forward to updating the Mt. Washington hillside.

“It’s a very beautiful setting,” he said, “and it is a big part of the identity of Pittsburgh and whatever we do in a better way will be good for Pittsburgh.”