'Ghost signs' fading across STL

ST. LOUIS - An effort is underway to preserve a part of St. Louis history. It's something you've probably seen all around the city without paying much attention.

"The writing is on the wall" is a phrase that points to the apparent, but sometimes that writing isn't very clear at all. A "ghost sign" is a gateway to St. Louis' past. Preservation expert Michael Allen said the old, faded advertisements came about in the 19th century to get a business' name out.

"These painted signs came out at of practicality," said Allen. "There were no billboards."

Artists stopped painting them as St. Louisans started to drive more instead of walking. But, if you look closely, you can still find them all over the city.

A giant facade on 18th Street downtown wants you to get yourself a King Bee Hat. Or possibly use an arrow stamp the next time you go to the post office.

"They're really interesting," said native St. Louisan Jeff Vines. He said the ghost signs on Washington Avenue caught his eye. Many of them advertise St. Louis' once nationally-renowned garment district. And, it was enough to give him an idea.

"It would be an interesting project to kind of restore some of these ghost signs," said Vines.

In March he submitted his plan to the crowdfunding site Rally St. Louis. Vines believes restoring the signs could give artists work, all the while preserving St. Louis' rich history.

"If we don't take care of them, they're going to disappear eventually," he said.

But, Michael Allen warns such a job must be done the right way.

"Actually restore, and not just paint over it," in order to truly bring light to everything St. Louis once offered.

Vines' idea is still competing for support on the Rally St. Louis website. It would also need the approval by individual building owners.

That said, there are still a lot of ghost signs around the entire bi-state. If you have one in your neighborhood, we'd love to see it. You can either tweet it to us or post it on Facebook.


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