Monday, March 9, 2009

Ghost Signs: Chicago

My grandfather sold men's clothes. He worked for a company based in North Carolina, and travelled throughout the coal region of PA selling to mom and pop stores in the days before the big chains and the malls destroyed the Main Streets of Forty Fort, Shamokin Dam, Mahanoy, Milton, etc.

He had a showroom in a "mart" in center city Philly at 8th and Arch. One of my favorite things to do when he'd take me and the Malagan down to his showroom was to look around at all of the faded advertisements painted on the buildings.

Here are a few from our Chicago trip:

Clearly this is the well-known Brunswick Corporation. According to their website this logo was adopted in 1960 when the company changed its name from the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. Not sure if there was a bowling alley here or just an ad.

This appears to be the Carl Whitinger Company, a floral supply business. According to the American Floral Endowment Annual Report for 2004, the company was a contributor. Other than that, I got nothing.

Gotta be the W.W. Kimball Piano Company. At the bottom of the sign is a section that appears to say "piano" and "organ." The original Kimball factory was at 26th and Rockwell Streets in Chicago in the early 1880s. See The Encyclopedia of Chicago for more detail.

From Chicago Architecture, this building was built in 1910-1911, is 265 feet tall, and has 512,000 square feet of floor space. The Chicago Architecture website has some great pictures of the building from the front, to get the full effect. I was more interested in the rear top and the idea that the giant pipe running in front of the sign could be carrying the People's Gas.

Any time I see a Ghost Sign, I think not of the product sold, whether still with us or long gone, but about the guy that painted the sign. Did he expect it to last forever? Did he bring his kids to see it? Did he brag to the ladies that he painted that particular sign? As the sign faded away or the buildings got torn down did he feel the loss? Could he ever imagine some guy with a free website would be taking pictures of his creations and trying in a small way to preserve his work?


Anonymous said...

I used to love going down to his office, and running the halls!!!

FFJewbacca said...

I remember pushing you on one of those big clothes racks, running down that main long hallway.