Since this week's question focused on towering public art, I'm reminded of another sky-high outdoor installation — the Falstaff weather ball. It was illuminated for the first time 63 years ago on Aug. 1, 1952. The ball and its accompanying neon letters spelling out the now-defunct brewery's name sit atop the former Falstaff Brewery at 2600 Gravier St. Falstaff began brewing there in 1936. Starting in 1952, even those who never drank a bottle knew of the towering 21-story neon sign that carried the beer's name and forecast tomorrow's weather.
According to a promotional brochure from the time, green meant fair skies, while red meant cloudy weather and a red flashing globe predicted rain. Red and white flashing lights indicated a storm warning and a white light meant showers. If the letters in Falstaff were illuminated from top to bottom, it meant cooler weather was coming. If they were lighted from the bottom up, the mercury would rise. If the letters flashed on and off, the temperature would remain constant. The lights went dark in 1978, when the brewery closed. In 2005, the building was purchased and converted into the Falstaff Towers apartment building, which opened in 2007. The owners brought back the neon sign and weather ball, which are illuminated once again.