|Old vs new in downtown Calgary. See what you find while lurking in an alley!|
Another favourite thing of mine is ghost signs. These you will not usually find on back roads or in rural areas. They are most likely to be found in older downtown commercial areas of cities and towns. In the US there are several great examples of ads painted on barns, but I have not ever come across one in Canada. If you don't know what a ghost sign is, I can guarantee you've walked by one at some point and not even noticed. I bet after reading this you'll start seeing them! A ghost sign is what's left of old hand painted advertisements. These were popular in the early 1900's. I've seen them from illegible, to just uncovered (usually when an adjoining building get demolished), to restored. The paints that have lasted the longest likely contain lead, which is why in some cases you can see ads showing through other ads.
|Painted over. |
With all things I photograph, you never know how long they will be around, so shoot it now, don't wait. Case and point, a ghost sign that I photographed 3 years ago has now been painted over, for no apparent reason. This particular sign was on a side of building in a narrow alleyway, why not leave it?? You can make out 'Jenkins Groceteria'. It was a chain in Calgary and by 1928 they had 17 stores. This was about the same time Safeway came to Calgary and offered to buy Jenkins stores. He refused and instead opened up a bunch more in Calgary, central and southern Alberta. He was the first in Canada to change to self-serve groceries. Now every time you go grocery shopping and grab a cart you can thank the forward thinking of Mr. Jenkins. These Groceterias have been gone for decades and now this sign is gone too. For more info on Jenkins Groceteria 'checkout' this: http://www.glenbow.org/collections/stories/jenkins-groceteria/index.cfm.
On the flip side the revitalization of Calgary's East Village has restored some of the old buildings including some ghost signs. These include the Biscuit Block and Simmons Building pictured below.
I have many more photos of ghost signs but have chosen a few here to highlight. If you want more info please drop me a line, I could go one for hours about these and what came next for advertising, Hint: it's bright and flashy and glowing!
The writing is on the wall:
|Calgary - Simmons Building|
|Calgary - Biscuit Block|
|Calgary - 17th Ave SW|
|Calgary - Kensington (almost gone!)|
|Medicine Hat - area now turned into a park/plaza|
|Nanton, AB (see similar ghost sign below)|
|Fort Macleod, AB|