Coca-Cola ghost sign on the side of a brick building at 144 Court Street (U.S. Route 11) in Binghamton, New York. “Delicious and refreshing – Relieves Fatigue” … because it used to contain trace amounts of cocaine. Coca-Cola didn’t become completely cocaine-free until 1929.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with old signs–neon signs, ghost signs, populuxe styles, etc. They represent a living memory of the past, and express uniqueness and character from a time when business owners displayed confidence and the promise of permanence.
Nothing lasts forever, of course, especially in the realm of business, but these signs were clearly designed for the long term. Proof is the fact many of these signs have outlasted the businesses themselves. Some, like the Crystal Restaurant in Watertown, New York, beat the odds and have survived for nearly a century.
Ghost signs, or fading ads or brick ads, are vestiges of hand painted advertisements on the sides of barns and brick buildings, usually for businesses that are no longer in operation. Sometimes a ghost sign can be an old advertisement for an existing business. Sometimes construction reveals these signs when a neighboring building is demolished. They were most popular in the years during and prior to the Great Depression. Some municipalities have repainted the signs as cultural artifacts, and I love these signs because they’re living reminders of the past.