Old photo showing the star that was to the right of sign
Book available about the falls by historian Doris Gregory.

Box Cañon Sign History

by Doris Gregory 1983

December 7, 1908 – Mayor Charles A. Sperber presented the City Council the idea of erecting an electric sign at the Box Canyon Park. The site and size of the sign was chosen; 35 feet long and 20 feet high with letters Box Cañon being six feet tall and five feet wide illuminated by 100 4-candle power incandescent lights.

The purpose of the sign was to enable visitors coming into Ouray to determine the location of Box Cañon at any time from any part of town. The sign would be discernible night or day as it would be placed so that it could be read without lighting in the daytime. According to Mayor Sperber, … “it will attract attention, will be talked about, will advertise Box Cañon and Ouray and will show a progressiveness on the part of the city. It is conceived to be a feature that will bring us more into notoriety of the kind that will prove profitable…”

The sign met with favor among the Ouray councilmen, provided the expense of maintenance would not be too great. The committee appointed to investigate thought the cost would be approximately $225 to pay on the first cost of the sign providing the city would take care of the expense of its maintenance after installation.

At their April 9, 1909, meeting, the City Council accepted the proposition of the Electric Power and Light Company to place an electric lighted BOX CANON sign on the cliffs above the high bridge at the Box Cañon Park.

The Forestry Service issued a permit to the city of Ouray in 1909 since part of the sign is located on Forestry Service property. Only one letter is located on private property.

Source: Doris Gregory and the Ouray Herald.

Other info on the name as it is spelled, Box Cañon, might come from the name Cañon City.  It is pronounced Canyon City.  Info from their history indicates that the town was to be named Canyon City, but the reporter who covered the event used the Spanish spelling for his news story and thus it became the name of the town.  The name of Canyon City became Cañon City, It has been spelled that way since 1858.

For some reason, when the sign was built, the Spanish spelling was used on the sign same as Cañon City.  All that is missing is from the present day sign is the tilde (or diacritical) as it is referred today.