One thing I love about cities is that they rebuild themselves over and over again. Go back a hundred years and the city you know so well would be almost unrecognizable . Though it is sad to lose pieces of the past, its a necessary evil; most cities can’t grow horizontally, and in the case of Boston for example, there are limited vertical opportunities as well. Which is why I love walking through cities looking for glimpses of what they used to be.
This brings us to Ghost Signs, those old faded hand painted advertisements on the sides of buildings. They fascinate me for a number of reasons, nostalgic appeal aside. These signs give us a glimpse of the products and business that ruled their day, the values that society held and words and images that were persuasive to consumers at the time.
You can find these signs just about anywhere, and once you start looking for them you’ll see them all the time. I found a few on a recent trip north of Boston (you can see a few more here). But no matter what city you are in, if you keep your eyes open, you’re more than likely to find a few of your own.
Advertising has changed a bit over time (hello television!), so these painted signs have become something of a lost art. Fortunately many remain, and are still being discovered. As cities continue to evolve, and structures are torn down to make way for something modern, there is always a chance that a well preserved sign is waiting to see the light of day again.