Posts Tagged ‘History’


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.


Bus Stops In Philadelphia

April 29, 2010

I am currently in Philadelphia for my very first time and am discovering how wonderful this city is.  So far, one of my favorite features of the city is its varied collection of Bus Stops.

A Bus Stop in Philly

Some stops are very visually appealing with beautiful colors and designs making a bus commute much more attractive (literally!).

Ornate Modern Bus Shelter in Philadelphia

In addition to being visually appealing (and providing shelter), Philadelphia’s bus stops also offer history lessons.  Each bus shelter includes a photograph of its location at some point in the past, along with a few paragraphs discussing the significance of the block at that time.

Great Information in a Great Place - On a Bus Shelter

St. Louis has such an incredible history that a similar program (which would likely be fairly easy/cheap to carry out now that Metro is looking pretty stable – I’d volunteer to help!) could really boost civic pride and even provide a new reason to ride the bus.


Jacques Clamorgan/Clamorgan Alley

February 10, 2010

Soon after reading about Alleys on STLDotage a couple of weeks ago, I took a walk around Laclede’s Landing and stumbled upon Clamorgan’s alley (one of the most popular locations to photograph the arch).

Clamorgan Alley

Then, on the website of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in an online exhibit called 1804, I found the origins of Claymorgan Alley.   Apparently, the name of this alley is one of the last references to pre-United States St. Louis that we still have in the city.  Jacques Phillippe Clamorgan (1734 – 1814) was a Haitian Refugee (leaving Haiti along with the founder of Chicago Jean Baptist DuSable) who became a wealthy fur trader in St. Louis in the late 18th century under Spanish Rule.

He was part of St. Louis’ “Colored Aristocracy” (a phrase possibly coined by one of his own children Cyprian Clamorgan).  In 1804 he owned an entire block of Laclede’s landing and had “several houses, structures, barns and outbuildings on this block” including a “small stone house [that] was built in 1800 by Jacques Clamorgan and used by his children.  Clamorgan’s children all had slave mothers.”   Jacques Clamorgan has an interesting story involving one of his mistresses, Esther.  The story says that before taking on a risky business venture (The Missouri Trading Company, an attempt to add to what was already a monopoly Clamorgan held on trading with area natives), he freed his current slave mistress Esther so that she could shield some of his assets from a potential bankruptcy.  The business was in fact a failure, but Esther had invested herself in the property and refused to give it up.  Lawsuits ensued over this for years, even after the death of Jacques Clamorgan.

More on Multicultural St. Louis can be read here.  My favorite fact outside of the Clamorgan history is that after Missouri was admitted to the Union as a Slave state (preventing black people from receiving an education), “an ingenious minister, the Rev. John Berry Meachum, established the Freedom School aboard a steamboat anchored in free territory in the middle of the Mississippi River.