Blog Archives

Ghost Signs of Upstate New York

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.

Googie and Populuxe Signs of Upstate New York

Googie and Populuxe were mid-twentieth century architecture and design styles characterized by consumerism and futuristic and Space Age aesthetics. It promised luxury for the masses, convenience, leisure, and upward mobility. Consequently, this style was adopted most often by the service industry–gas stations, motels, laundromats, diners, car washes, and drive in theaters. Colorful geometric shapes, neon lights, and atomic or space themes are identifying characteristics. How can you not love these old signs? Unfortunately, many have been sent to the trash heap since they are often considered gaudy eyesores.

Adirondack Motels and Motor Inns

New York State established the 6.1 million acre Adirondack Park in 1885. This picturesque region of the Adirondack Mountain Range is home to 102 towns and villages and approximately 132,000 people. Seven to ten million tourists flock to this area annually to enjoy hunting, camping, boating, and fishing in the summer, skiing and snowboarding in winter, and to see the beautiful autumn colors in the fall.

Many old motor inns, lodges, and motels sprung up to cater to seasonal tourists, especially around Lake Placid. Lake Placid, New York was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and sits in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains. Many of these motels still have old signs advertising luxuries like air conditioning and color TV. I love these vintage signs, rich with character and charm.