Iconic red light atop Detroit’s Penobscot to flash again (with photos)

Panorama of Windsor Skyline from Penobscot Roof

View from the Penobscot Building of the Windsor Skyline // Photo by Jon Liedtke

The iconic flashing red light atop the equally iconic Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit will be relit after having died out and gone dark for months.

“We are fixing up the flashing red light,” said Kim Farmer, vice president of operations and leasing for Triple Properties which manages the Penobscot.

Todd Farnum, Green Light Detroit, Penobscot Red light

Todd Farnum (Green Light Detroit) & The Tower of the red light atop the Penobscot Building in Detroit // Photo by Jon Liedtke

Todd Farnum is the owner of Green Light Detroit, the company repairing the red light. He found out about the project when he saw a news story on Facebook about the light being off.

“… so being in my industry, I contacted them about wanting to fix the light and I was reading some of the comments and people were upset that the light wasn’t lit, so I called … she had me come down, we talked, and I got the project.”

Farnum estimates repairing the light will take him “a couple hours” and that it entails climbing the 60 to 80 foot ladder to reach the peak, and making the repairs while secured in a harness.

“… replacing the broken neon that is up there right now … I’m going to go up there, put the new pieces of neon, wire it up and fire it up and hope the transformers work and get the thing lit so everybody can have that landmark back.”

Farnum describes climbing the ladder to the top as “pretty exhilarating”. “It’s like somebody who does rock climbing and things of that nature, but they’re not harnessed in like me … I’m always clipped in …you’re always secured to something, to the ladder or the platform we do the servicing.”

Guardian Building, Windsor Skyline, Ren Centre

View from the Penobscot Building in Detroit // Photo by Jon Liedtke

“I have a healthy fear of heights, but it doesn’t me that I can’t work, and I’m harnessed in at all times.”

In 2009 the red light was relamped at an estimated $25,000 and fixing the light now is part of a broader project to improve the lighting throughout the building’s interior and exterior, along with reopening the observation deck which has been closed for decades.

“I actually thought that that was sort of a pipedream until I got up there … once I looked into it and saw the all of the area that actually faces the river is in really good condition,” she said. “… we would merely have to replace brick, maybe put an awning, block off the other area, it could happen a little sooner than what we planned, but we’re going to leave it at that 2016 summer date, so if we come ahead of schedule it’ll be better than behind schedule.”

For Farnum, the chance to work on the iconic building is exciting and noteworthy.

Ford Field, Comerica Park, Penobscot, Detroit

View from the Penobscot Building of Ford Field and Comerica Park in Detroit // Photo by Jon Liedtke

“I’ll be able to show my daughter and say ‘I’m the guy that scaled that and fixed that light’, tell my friends,” Farnum said. “It’s just a cool feeling that I have a project that most people don’t get a chance to, I’m one of a dozen people that have ever been up there. It’s a huge thing for me personally to know that I did that, to feel a part of, it gives me a sense of accomplishment just knowing that I’m helping the city, in just a small way….”

The Tower of the red light atop the Penobscot Building in Detroit // Photo by Jon Liedtke

The Tower of the red light atop the Penobscot Building in Detroit // Photo by Jon Liedtke











To read the story in its original format with photos by Ryan Brough – Zeebrah Photography – visit the Windsor Independent: http://windsorindependent.com/penobscot-light-to-flash-again-with-photos/

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About the Author

jon liedtke

Jon Liedtke is a writer and musician in Windsor Ontario. He tells stories using words, pictures, audio and video.

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