Ghost Signs
March 13, 2013 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Ghost signs are old hand painted signs that have been faded by time. Dr Stefan Schutt at Victoria University studies ghost signs in Melbourne, and he's been interviewed by ABC Local Radio and written up in the Sydney Morning Herald (photo gallery). You can see more ghost signs at the Ghost Sign Project or the the ghost sign Flickr group, which has more than 21,000 photos. Previously.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (14 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I love these when I get to see them - I don't look them up and track them down, it's much nicer to find them by surprise. I feel lucky to live in a region with lots of old buildings more or less intact. Amazing that some of the signs manage to last as well as they do through so many years exposed to the elements.
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2013

I love these when I get to see them...

A favorite thing of mine as well. It's always a delight to see one long hidden exposed when a next door building is torn down to build a new one. I remember when they tore the old bowling alley down on top of Queen Anne, across the street from the KIRO tower, and on the north side of the Ace Hardware appeared a giant Sherwin-Williams can of paint pouring a rainbow on the world under and above the even more giant titles of Queen Anne and Radio & Electric, respectively, in blue on white appeared as bright and unfaded as the day they were painted in the 1930s. And then got hidden again a few weeks later when the next building went up. Well, at least, it will never get bombed or tagged.
posted by y2karl at 4:53 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Then there was the side of the old brick warehouse, a block east of Fairview down in what is now known as Allen Town, with those old arched brick windows under its saddle back front facade, that had these giant faded letters on its south side that I could not decipher for decades until NORDSTROM'S rose from the mists one summer dusk. And it's still there but you can't see that one anymore either.

It was, I found, their fur storage building back in the 1930s. Now, fur storage -- there's a customer service they no longer offer...
posted by y2karl at 5:09 PM on March 13, 2013

Jeez, my previously was 7-1/2 YEARS AGO??
feels old
posted by spock at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Previously on Metafilter, just because ghost signs are awesome and the more, the merrier.
posted by Miko at 5:47 PM on March 13, 2013

Oops, I missed that one had already been linked.
posted by Miko at 5:48 PM on March 13, 2013

This is a neat post. Thanks!
posted by cribcage at 6:46 PM on March 13, 2013

In grad school I did some work with Seattle's Urban Archives, whose digital collection of ghost signs is hosted by the University of Washington Libraries. Well worth browsing around for Seattle nostalgia. And general coolness. Which is pretty easy to come by with ghost signs.
posted by stet at 7:12 PM on March 13, 2013

Senart's Oyster House recently opened in DC in a building with a turn-of-the-century ghost sign for Senart's Oyster House.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:13 PM on March 13, 2013

There was a really cool one on the side of what used to be Cyclops, and the IXL Tavern before that, on First Avenue and Vine, an old faded sign on the north wall that had the Pepsi logo fading into 7 Up. It was so cool. The building changed hands and the owner had it painted over one night to the outrage of the neighborhood. Now it's covered in a sheet of plastic and a part of the Ackerley empire. But, lucky me, I took a picture of it back in the 70s.

And I recall an old style black sign with white letters on the side of a building where the Wells Fargo building now stands that read PALACE HIP. I always wondered what the story on that one was. And I wish I had taken a picture of that one.
posted by y2karl at 7:56 PM on March 13, 2013

What really gets me off are the remenents of torn up posters, especially as they get piled on and then ripped off so multiple layers are exposed. I don't know if there's a catchy term for that.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:19 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! I take ghost sign photos in LA all the time and now I have a Flickr group to add them to!
posted by rednikki at 7:37 AM on March 14, 2013

I took a whole set of these in Leith, Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago (self link). Must get around to Flickrising them.

It was great fun to do - I only knew a couple of them before I started and just wandered about snapping others as I found them. Kind of like a treasure hunt.
posted by penguin pie at 9:16 AM on March 14, 2013

I'm going to check out the Flickr group - thanks for the link!

Frank Jump has a collection of New York ghost signs,, and James Lileks has a collection of signs on his site.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:31 PM on March 14, 2013

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