Jackson Heights’ newest street sign is earning a “triple word score” with neighborhood residents.
The sign, which is located on the southeast corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue, commemorates the birthplace of the beloved board game Scrabble.
It was originally installed in 1995 outside the Community United Methodist Church, where Alfred Butts invented the popular game, but it mysteriously vanished in 2008.
After Councilmember Daniel Dromm introduced legislation to approve its reinstallation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized the creation of a sign that indicates Scrabble point values to each letter in “35th Avenue.”
“The Scrabble sign was ingenious and added a special historical charm to the neighborhood,” said Dromm. “Scrabble is celebrating its 62nd anniversary this year, and Alfred Butts’ achievement in Jackson Heights should be recognized.”
Dromm pushed for the reinstallation of the sign after witnessing how the Jackson Heights community “sorely missed” it. The sign was also noted in guidebooks and maps as a local attraction, spelling success for the neighborhood.
“The Scrabble street sign will again be a point of pride in our community, thanks to the inventive genius of Jackson Heights resident and Community Church congregant Alfred Butts,” said Daniel Karatzas, a Jackson Heights historian. “It always brought a smile to those who bothered to look up at the corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue.”
After being fired from his job as an architect in 1938 – in the midst of the Great Depression – Butts strove to create something revolutionary. Following countless trials and errors and scrupulous studying, Butts invented Scrabble, which has now sold 150 million sets in 121 countries and 29 different languages.
“This street sign is a creative homage to the game created by Jackson Heights resident Alfred Butts during the Depression,” said John Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association. “Thanks to Alfred’s ingenuity, generations have enjoyed the game. Scrabble is played all over the world in many different languages, and we hope people will once again travel to Jackson Heights to celebrate our favorite word game.”