For the last 76 years, "Jesus Saves" has been a message proclaimed through bright red neon in downtown Los Angeles, a legacy of the evangelical fervor of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
In September of 2011, the signs — perhaps Biola's most iconic visual imprint on the city — made headlines when one of them was moved out of downtown for the first time in eight decades, just the latest chapter in their long and storied history.
February 17, 1935
The Rev. Louis T. Talbot and the congregation of the Church of the Open Door dedicate the first 7-foot neon red "Jesus Saves" sign, installed atop the north dormitory tower of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles at Sixth and Hope streets. A crowd of nearly 3,000 sing "We have heard the joyful sound, Jesus saves, Jesus saves," as the switch flipped on the sign for the first time. A few years later a second sign is added atop the south dormitory. Visible for miles, they quickly become landmarks of the downtown Los Angeles skyline.
Biola moves its campus to La Mirada. The Sixth and Hope building remains, with the Church of the Open Door still occupying the space and the "Jesus Saves" signs still shining.
June 23, 1985
The Church of the Open Door holds its final service at the Sixth and Hope building before relocating to Glendora, California.
February 17, 1988
After preservationists and potential buyers had spent nearly three years trying to determine the fate of the Sixth and Hope building, it finally sells to a demolition-minded developer, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The signs are removed and taken to a storage lot next to the Pasadena Freeway. The building is soon demolished, but by Christmas the signs are still visible from the freeway — awaiting a decision from the building's developer about what to do with them. The storage lot's manager tells the Los Angeles Times, "To us, it's junk. We'd just like to get it out of our way."
Television preacher Gene Scott purchases the signs and moves them to the former United Artists Theatre building downtown, which he transformed into the Los Angeles University Cathedral.
September 10, 2011
One of the signs is removed and transported via truck out of the city. It is reportedly moved to the Faith Center in Glendale, pastored by Gene Scott's widow, Melissa.
The Hollywood Reporter announces that the old United Artists Theatre building — where the "Jesus Saves" signs stood for the last 22 years — is being renovated and turned into L.A.'s first Ace Hotel.