Javaman’s thread on cement graffiti got me to thinking about ghost ads (see James Lileks’ link to some at http://lileks.com/ghosts/index.html ). Whenever I’m in an older section of town I gaze upward and am frequently rewarded by signs for carriages, corset makers or long-dead stores. Two of my favorites:
• The Wool Building, outside Philadelphia. It’s falling down, but you can still see c1930 signs beseeching you to buy wool: “The Wonder Fibre,” “Accept No Imitations,” etc.
• I still miss the red, white and blue All-American Bus Depot sign at 41st Street in New York (“Buy War Bonds for Victory!”). Those bastards at Staples painted over it.
There are lots of ghost ads back home in Albany and Schenectady, NY. Lots in Schenectady are for companies that made shirt collars and the like. I intend to take pictures of some of them whenever I get a chance - maybe when I drag my photographer sweetie, Gunslinger, up to New York with me for Spring Break.
I love that kind of stuff! There are a couple of those in downtown Baltimore, one in particular that I see going home on the train every day. I can’t actually remember what it is for at the moment, but trust me, it’s very cool.
I spend a lot of time strolling through the Gommint District in NYC (the West 30s) and practically every building has a faded old ad for some company dealing in hat trimmings, ladies’ suits, corsets, shirtwaists . . .
Somewhere in the Village, there’s a building with a HUGE pair of scissors painted all the way down the side, and nearby there’s an enormous bottle of Fletcher’s Castoria.
Someone told me that on lower B’way you can still see a sign painted on the glass in a second-floor window for “Mathew Brady, photographer,” but I myself haven’t seen that one.
The side of the old Scribner’s Bldg. on Fifth Avenue still has a sign on the side about how Scribner’s Bros. was founded in, I think, 1829 . . . A few years ago Scribner’s—such a wonderful bookstore!—went out of business and it’s now a Benetton . . . sob . . .
I don’t know if it’s still standing but I used to pass by an boarded-up building with a ghost of a theatre near the top. The sign was so faded that I couldn’t read the name of the theatre anymore. The building is (was?) off First Street, NE, just north of DC’s Union Station.
There’s a building in Portland on which you can see a faded red swastika! It dates from the 1930’s and was the logo of a biscuit company. It was before Hitler and the Nazi party, and not at all related, but it still upsets some folks.
One thing I love about ghost ads is that they often preserve the old telephone exchanges. On Sixth Avenue, just north of the Jefferson Market public library, there’s a very large, bright one for “Emil Talamini, Real Estate. ALgonquin4-5678.” All up and down Sixth there are quite a number of these - often just for industrial lofts, etc., but fascinating no less. Although I forget which block it’s on, another of my favorites is for Griffon Scissors and Pinking Shears.
Well, in Govan there’s a poster advertising the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, and it’s one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. It hangs in tatters on a wall filled with broken windows, beneath which a small bunker-like structure contains the local bingo hall.
Here in Flint, Michigan we have an entire wall that is painted with a mural for Vernor’s Ginger Ale. The Vernor’s mascot is a gnome and the mural has a whole gaggle of gnomes gathering the ingredients and making the ginger ale. The mural was recently repainted so maybe it does not really qualify as a “ghost ad,” but it was originally painted in the 1930s.
In East Lansing, there is another old Vernor’s ad that was recently revealed when the building next door was torn down. In this one, the gnome is wearing a Spartan helmet in honor of the Michigan State University Spartans. Another sign on the same wall makes reference to “Michigan State College,” which MSU was known as prior to about 1940-something. Just down the road is another old sign for “MAC Restaurant,” which refers to an even older name of MSU-Michigan Agricultural College.
Ann Arbor has an ancient Coca Cola ad high up on the side of a Main Street building. I have also come across old Gold Medal Flour and Bull Durham signs in various Michigan locations. There are a few Mail Pouch signs on barns still to be seen as well.