Archive for the ‘Ghost Signs’ Category


Murals in The Grove

September 27, 2010

In the past couple of months the Grove has hosted two street celebrations that contributed murals to the view from Manchester.  The most recent one is pretty cool.

New Mural in The Grove - Pays Homage to another nearby Mural of a Dragon

Even better, these two new murals (one of which is an Ad for PBR) aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood.

Window Washer Mural on Manchester

In fact, The Grove was already home to some of the coolest murals in the city.

Boombox Painting by Peat Wollaeger

The painting above features Peat’s trademark eyeball and is an appropriate accompaniment to The Atomic Cowboy.  Even the local Post Office sports a mural.

Mural on the Post Office in The Grove

Along Manchester there are several more murals than the ones I have shown above and an excellent collection of Ghost Signs (which also exist both North and South of Manchester throughout the neighborhood).

Ghost Sign and Recent Paint

I would personally love to see some of the Ghost Signs restored to accompany the growing arsenal of Murals.  In St. Louis, a city with far more than its fair share of abandoned buildings and blank walls, we need more than just a couple of areas to embrace murals as a way of improving a neighborhood with minimal monetary investment.  The Grove is setting a great example.

More about this year’s mural can be found at St. Louis Core dot Com.


Spokane Washington’s Ghost Signs and Pavement Markers

August 8, 2010

I spent last week in Spokane, Washington and was thrilled by the abundance of Ghost Signs and Pavement Markers (mostly Sidewalk Contractor Stamps), two features I love to admire in cities.  Both advertise the history of their surroundings and symbolize investment and Pride.  The city also has some wonderful architecture, but like St. Louis its built environment has been scarred by demolitions.  Unlike St. Louis however, Spokane’s Urban Riverfront Park actually links the two sides of the city together instead of existing by itself as an island like our Arch grounds (even though part of Spokane’s park is in fact an island).  People who visit downtown Spokane can easily walk across Spokane Falls Blvd and be in some part of the park’s southern boarder.  See for how we can fix the problem with our Urban Park by reconnecting it to Downtown.

Downtown Spokane Washington

Being able to travel freely back and forth between the well preserved downtown street grid and the park allows businesses alongside the park to flourish.  Although a big chunk of the land opposite Riverfront Park is surface parking (a problem their city is trying to fix), buildings with their backs to the park still share its success.

Downtown Spokane Skyscrapers

Spokane cares about its city park and its city streets.  Concrete Contractors like WM Winkler and Cameron-Riley have been taking pride in their work for as long as they have been in business, and stamping the sidewalks they pour.

WM Winkler - 1936 Spokane

Seeing the excellent state of this 70+ year old concrete is wonderful.  Like a work of art, the sidewalk is signed by it’s creator.  I even found one Brass Sidewalk Marker.

Laid by A.K. Copson.

A.K. Copson also stamped the adjacent squares of sidewalk with a similar logo.  The competition is everywhere.

Laid by Mootz - 1930

In addition to these great pavement markers, Spokane has a wonderful collection of Ghost Signs, with a nice concentration downtown.

Ghost Signs in Downtown Spokane

Along the railroad tracks one building proclaims itself as “Home of Snowflake Saltines” and as both the Washington Cracker Company and Nabisco.  I could not help but laugh at the advertisement for Snowflake Crackers in a city that is 92 percent white.

Snowflake Crackers

Although choosing one was not easy in this haven for Ghost-Sign-spotters, my personal favorite was a advertisement for the most delicious brand of “pop:” Squirt.  I found it hidden behind trees and bushes on a small building that currently houses a boot store.

Drink Squirt

Spokane is a very cool city well worth a visit.  They set a good example of how a city should embrace its river and parks.  For more photos of Spokane and its Sidewalk Stamps and Ghost Signs see my flickr photo set from the trip.


Midtown Alley

June 27, 2010

Ever since I first rode my bicycle down Locust Street East from Theresa (as a SLU student and Grand Center resident) I have considered this area one of St. Louis’ coolest.  Once known as “Automotive Row” and recently re-branded as “Midtown Alley,” this district has many advantages including its 2005 placement on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is centrally located and in close proximity to SLU, Harris-Stowe and Wells Fargo Advisors not to mention Grand Center and existing residents of the immediately surrounding area.  It has a fairly intact built environment with fewer gaps in the street-wall than most of St. Louis and it already had a few churches, residents and many small businesses scattered throughout it (most notably on Washington Avenue which has a Limousine Business, a Sign Maker, Salvation Army Harbor Light, Grand Wig House, several auto-related businesses and more).

Washington Avenue in Midtown Alley in 2007

Unlike many concentrations of commercial activity in the city of St. Louis, Midtown Alley is not restricted to one street.  Washington, Locust, Olive and all the streets that connect them are part of this district and each have been benefiting from recent investment.  Midtown Alley also has short, walkable blocks (which Jane Jacobs is a big fan of) and an ability to expand in any direction it wants!

Map of Midtown Alley

In the last few years the area has improved dramatically, particularly along Locust and Olive Streets.  Restaurants, nightclubs, barber shops, residences, offices of professionals and more have made the decision to move into Midtown Alley.

Motorcycle Event Outside Moto Museum

There is a motorcycle museum, a tanning salon, a boutique clothing store, a Taekwondo school, a recording studio, a very popular rock venue, the Black Alcohol/Drug Service Information Center, and more.  SLU is opening a boutique hotel in Midtown Alley next year and next door on Locust will be a Motorcycle Dealership (SLU had better have a lobby that connects Locust and Olive).

Hotel Ignacio and MotoEuropa

This is from the website of the Tour de Grove bicycle race (which included the Midtown Alley Grand Prix:

Moto Europa coming July 2010, Moto Europa located at 3410 Locust is the latest addition to a true motorcycling destination right here in StLouis, MO. Attached to the Moto Museum and the Triumph Grill Moto Europa will offer new Ducati and Triumph motorcycles combined with a beautiful state of the art dealership and providing customer service second to none. Opening July 30, 2010.

Personally I’m excited.  And not as a Motorcycle fan.  The transformation this area is undergoing is just incredible.  And the best part is that Midtown Alley is not alone.  It is just one of many places around the city that people are rediscovering.

Anti-Aging and Wellness Center next to Arch Taekwondo

Areas where people concentrate themselves generate economic and social activity that makes our city a city.  We can never have enough of these places where St. Louis actually looks like a real city and we can really learn a lot of lessons from seeing what works when redeveloping neighborhoods.

Midtown Alley's Grand Opening was September 26th 2009

The slow and organic growth that Midtown Alley has been experiencing has actually been going pretty fast!

Locust Street in 2008 - The Two Buildings on the Right are now the REO Lofts

I commend Midtown Alley and its businesses/organizers for their great work.  Pappy’s attracted the New York Times to Midtown Alley (even though they didn’t name drop it) and I’ve been recommended the chicken wings and sandwiches at The U, the pizza at The Good Pie and recommend to others the beer at the Buffalo Brewing Company (and the food).

2 Buildings SLU is converting to Apartments and Retail

Unfortunately, despite all of the success Midtown Alley has had, it still faces some pretty big obstacles.  Just like the Loop owes much of its success to Wash U, SLU and Harris-Stowe are key to the success of Midtown Alley.  Although they literally touch Midtown Alley, both institutions have turned their campuses inwards leaving fences to face the outside world.  Olive Street already suffers from it’s extreme width that discourages pedestrians from crossing it.

SLU's Face Fence to Midtown Alley

If SLU were to add street entrances to it’s buildings along Olive and allow students and staff to enter from the inside OR outside of the campus, people would be better able to take advantage of what the school’s prime location has to offer.  In addition, the blight of surface parking between Midtown Alley and Grand Center must be addressed.  If re-connected, these areas could benefit each other greatly.  I recommend driving through Midtown Alley at the very least.  While a lot of what it has to offer is still just potential, that potential is still great.

More photos of Midtown Alley.


Sweetie Pie’s Progress in Grand Center

April 10, 2010

My love of Grand Center (and my addiction to the Best Steak House) has kept me driving past the future fourth location of Sweetie Pie’s, keeping me up to date on the swift progress that is being made on this project.  A few days ago, to my delight, I noticed that as the outer layer of the building was being peeled off to reveal the brick underneath, Ghost Signs were also revealed on the West side of the building.

San-Del Strickland Printing Co Sign @ New Sweetie Pie's Location

Here is a closer look at the wall in 2 chunks:

San-Del Strickland

S-D Bindery Co.

Google doesn’t seem to know much about the business advertised here but I hope to come across more information as I continue to look.  Still, it is exciting simply to see history excavated like this (even though in this case the brick will still have to be covered up again because of the strong adhesive used to initially cover it).


A day trip on Metro

March 14, 2010

Today I decided to take a day trip using public transportation.  I walked down to Manchester, took the 57 Downtown to the Civic Center, and then hopped the Link out to Belleville, Illinois AKA Belle-Vegas.

The trip was very interesting – the view contrasts sharply on the two sides of the river, with Illinois being predominantly woods and rural looking homes (at least in my opinion).  I imagine that this trip would be very pleasant and surrounded by a lot of green during the summertime.  Being able to really enjoy the scenery is wonderful for someone like me who usually drives places.  Not having to focus on the road lets you notice so many wonderful little things!  Being a pedestrian and a transit rider is great – especially if you are a photographer. Despite the cool and damp weather, I had a great time exploring this small but well preserved town (and seeing some new Ghost Signs).

Ghost Sign on the Exchange Club of Belleville

Ghost Sign on the Exchange Club of Belleville

I was getting pretty hungry by the time I made it to Main Street, but the only places open to eat were Quizno’s, St. Louis Bread Company, and Jimmy Johns (okay there was also a Caribbean restaurant but I just didn’t feel like it).  They must really love sandwiches in Belleville.  I’m surprised that I didn’t see a Subway.

Bread Company on Main Street in Belleville, Illinois

Instead of eating at one of these chains (even though two of them are fairly local), I ended up randomly buying movie tickets and watching “Green Zone” at the Lincoln Theater on Main Street.  This option left me eating a hot dog, nachos and chocolate covered almonds.  Actually not too bad.

Lincoln Theater - Belleville, Illinois

The tickets at the Lincoln were only $4.50 for the Sunday Matinee, and food was also shockingly cheap (in comparison to what I’m used to paying at movie theaters).  Afterwards, the walk back to the Metrolink station was just as pleasant as the walk there (thanks to daylight savings today it was still light).  Anyway, the trip home was pretty uneventful, but it really proved how easy it is to take a little day trip using Metro.  Total transportation fees?  $5.50 – approximately what I would have spent on gas if I had decided to undertake the hour and a half round trip (an amount of driving that I simply don’t like to do).  The moral of the story is to vote yes on Prop A.  Transit is great.  View the rest of the pictures from my day trip here.


Ghost Sign on Centene Center for the Arts

January 27, 2010

Today, while reading Misfit Stream, a great River des Peres resource (there is so much information out there about this river), I stumbled upon a historic photograph with a familiar looking building – the Continental Life.

Olive looking towards Grand in the 1960s(?)

Just above and to the left of the bowling pin on the right side of this photo is a painted sign for the INTL ASSN of Machinists.  This same sign is still visible today on what is now the Centene Center for the Arts.

Centene Center for the Arts - Grand Center

Although it is quite faded, the wording is still fairly legible at the right side of this photo.  The harsh juxtaposition of a busy, dense, street with one that is now all but abandoned is a little bit sad, but it should inspire us to restore Grand Center into an area that better reflects its Grand history.


Downtown East St. Louis

January 6, 2010

A couple of months ago, I decided to hop on the Link and find somewhere new to take a few photographs.  I convinced a friend of mine to come along and then tricked him into jumping off the train at 5th and Missouri to check out downtown East Saint Louis.  As far as I can remember I had never seen East St. from anywhere but the highway and Built St. Louis, but I have also never gone long without hearing a reference to the city as an undesirable place.  My first first-hand experience of East St. Louis was the sprawling, parking lot facing Metrolink station, which is really only in the general vicinity of 5th and Missouri.  Unfortunately I had not done my homework and was not sure where I wanted to go, but luckily I was pulled in the right direction.

First Glance North on Missouri

Immediately after stepping onto Old Missouri Avenue I became very excited at what I was seeing.  This must have been a wonderful place to live.

East Saint Louis Streetscape

In the hour that I spent walking around East St. Louis I only ran into one other person on the street (who was looking to purchase a building on Collinsville Avenue to open a night club in), besides some people at the Metrolink stop and a man waiting at a bus stop but I’ll have to return again on a day other than Sunday.  Anyway, the city is very cool and I really hope that some of these amazing buildings can be saved and reused.  Here is a link to my photos from the day.


Ghost Signs

December 18, 2009

One hobby of mine that I have recently learned more about is photographing and researching Ghost Signs.

Ghost Signs off Washington

I have been drawn to them for years and was very pleased to find out that others are interested in these remnants of our city’s past, as close to home for me as just a few blocks up the street from where I live in dogtown.

Restored Ghost Sign near Tamm and Clayton in Dogtown

KETC has a great collection of youtube videos about St. Louis and their Ghost Signs video is very interesting.  I still have yet to pursue this hobby nearly as much as I hope to, but have so far compiled a decent group of them on my flickr site in this set and have found many photos taken by others all around the world that inspire me to continue looking out for more ghost signs.