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A beloved landmark is gone from Hillsborough Street. But not for long

The iconic bulldozer sign on Hillsborough Street came down Thursday, making way for student apartments as the old N.C. Equipment  Co. building is demolished.
The iconic bulldozer sign on Hillsborough Street came down Thursday, making way for student apartments as the old N.C. Equipment Co. building is demolished. Courtesy of Ted Stevenson

One of Raleigh's most beloved landmarks left its perch Thursday on Hillsborough Street: the yellow bulldozer sign that stood and growled for decades at the city's western edge.

The prominent tractor sign came down as crews demolished the red-brick N.C. Equipment Co. building to make way for student housing. An Athens, Ga.-based developer has pledged to save and restore it to its gritty glory.

The tractor business that the bulldozer advertised had long ago departed Hillsborough Street but the sign endured over the headquarters for Lulu, an online bookseller that also has relocated. Though the bulldozer no longer followed sign laws, the city granted it an affectionate exception.

The 1936 building and its iconic sign once signaled visitors coming from the west that they had arrived in Raleigh. Neighbors lamented its removal Thursday, even if it's temporary.

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A historic photograph of the bulldozer sign at N.C. Equipment Co., which once marked Raleigh's western edge.

"It should be on Hillsborough," said Ted Stevenson, a longtime resident nearby. "That's what we're hoping. I've lived here since 1948, and at one time it had lights that went around.

"I once 'gave' it to my daughter. She was fidgety in the car and I told her she could have it."

A spokesperson at the Georgia-based Landmark Properties said Thursday that it will be safely stored during construction and will restored to return to grace the front of the new mixed-use building.

But the sign had garnered ardent support online, sincere though at least somewhat in jest, as shown in a semi-fictional campaign from ITBInsider.com.

Whatever happens to the sign, Stevenson warns decision-makers must answer to his daughter, now 52.

"It no longer belongs to anyone but her," he joked. "I told her, 'If you can get it in your trunk, you can have it.' "

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Josh Shaffer: 919-829-4818, @joshshaffer08
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