“Since demolition crews removed the siding from an 1890s two-flat in Lake View a few days ago, ghost sign fans have been rushing to the corner of Ravenswood and Addison to take pictures of a series of vintage ads — hand-painted on the building’s original wooden siding.”
“They’re rushing because they know full-well “ghost signs” can disappear as suddenly as they spring up.
“Get it now, see it, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch another one,” said ghost sign fan Barry Kafka, who biked over with his cameras.
Kafka is among a steady stream of fans showing up to capture photos.
“They just blew me away,” said WTTW Program Host and Chicago Historian Geoffrey Baer. “The colors are so vivid.”
Baer said he’s never seen a ghost sign on wooden siding in Chicago. They’re normally painted on brick, and typically aren’t as well-preserved as the ones uncovered, because the paint used was not meant to last.
“The paint that was used fades, so when these things are hidden from the sun and weather for decades, they’re vivid,” Baer said.
One of the uncovered ads is for Shell Gasoline, another for Ward’s Soft Bun Bread, and a third is for a car repair shop. Baer said unlike today’s wall advertisements, these vintage ads were all painted by hand.
“It’s a link to the past. The typographic styles, the amateurish artwork on some of them, it’s just a great Chicago vibe. I really love it,” said Kafka.
“They’re like a moment in time,” added Baer. “That Shell gasoline logo, you can identify when that was painted there because Shell only used that particular iteration of that logo for a particular period of time.”
If you want to see them for yourself, Baer’s advice: don’t wait.
“Get on your bike. Get over there. Take a picture of it. See it while you can because it’ll be gone very soon.”
The building is expected to be torn down to make way for a new 5-story condo building.”