Is the Zakim Bridge the New CITGO Sign?

Boston’s CITGO sign (left) and Zakim Bridge (right), two iconic symbols of the Massachusetts city.
Boston’s CITGO sign (left) and Zakim Bridge (right), two iconic symbols of the Massachusetts city.

The 3600-square-foot CITGO sign in Boston’s Kenmore Square is a sight synonymous with the city itself. And it’s no surprise the sign gets so much notoriety: it is located on Commonwealth Avenue, on top of Boston University’s campus bookstore, within walking distance of Fenway Park, and has been around in some form since 1940.

But beaches erode, time passes, and symbols change.

Enter the Zakim Bridge. The sleek, modern cable bridge opened in 2003 near Boston’s North End, and it appears to be fast overtaking the beloved CITGO sign as Boston’s favorite landmark.

It’s time that we be honest about the CITGO sign. It’s a glorified advertisement for a gas station. Yes, it’s big. And sure, it’s old. But so what? None of that is remarkable.


The Zakim bridge, on the other hand, has a lot more going for it. It’s functional, for one. The Zakim Bridge helps get you from point A to point B. It does a fine job getting cars across the Charles River, and it looks pretty amazing to boot.

The elegant cable design is coupled with bright lights that bring life to the bridge with a variety of colors. What’s the CITGO sign got on that?

The CITGO sign’s function is the same as any billboard. It’s a giant ad. Some red, some white, and years of weather damage reminding you that you have to fill up your tank. Blech.

Do yourself a favor: next time you’re thinking about taking that iconic Boston picture to share with your friends, turn your back on the symbol of old in Kenmore Square and make your way to Boston’s bridge to the future. It’ll be worth the trip.

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