Ghost Signs of Buffalo: Part 2

Back in 2017, I published a blog post about ghost signs (click here for the original post) and described some of the history behind why they used to be so popular throughout the early to mid 1900's. Ghost signs, also known as faded ads, are the disappearing painted letters and illustrations on the sides and fronts of old buildings. They once lined the streets of almost every town and city, especially common in the business districts of the rust belt cities in the early 1900's. During that era, it was not uncommon for a business to be located on the second, third or fourth floor in certain business districts and these signs were the most practical means of letting people know where their store was. In many cases these are advertisements or store names painted on brick that remained over time, typically placed on the top side corners of brick buildings or sometimes right on the front of the building in between floors. As cities continued to become more dense over the past 150 years, wall space became increasingly rare and many ghost signs were covered up due to construction of adjoining buildings. Signs on the side of old brick buildings are occasionally discovered upon demolition of later-built adjoining structures. A fraction of these ghost signs from the 1890s to 1960s are still visible today and were commonly used in the decades before the Great Depression. 
Specific to Buffalo, one can find several ghost signs by simply understanding our commercial history. The major roadways leading through the east side, such as Seneca, Clinton, William, Broadway, Sycamore and Genesee used to be filled with brick buildings and all have great examples of ghost signs you can see today. Main Street might have the most signs from my experience, with pockets of examples found in the First Ward, Cobblestone District, Niagara Street and parts of Elm, Michigan, Oak and Ellicott Streets. I'll do my best under each photograph to describe the area and signage details. 

The famous "Laube's Old Spain" restaurant on Main Street in Buffalo's Theatre District. I received numerous messages after my original post asking if I was to include this ghost sign, and I had to make sure I did this time around. Popular back in the 1950's, Laube's is a distant memory for those who might have experienced it. 

Found along Main Street in the Theatre District. I'd be interested in knowing when these signs were painted, they're all in amazing condition! The top sign reads "Albert's Curtain Store" with details below it visible. The sign below it reads "Willet and Draper Furriers", a popular high-end fur manufacturer that once boasted a storefront on bustling Main Street.  There's a long, skinny ghost sign below the Willet sign that reads "Fox & Staniland Opticians". They appear to still be in business, operating at a different location in North Buffalo.

One of my favorite ghost signs in all of Buffalo! This building on the corner of Broadway and Hickory Street has a ton of history and early 1900's character. Looking west on Hickory is this "Drink Coca Cola" ghost sign. What's even cooler is the "Pleskow Bro's Pharmacy" lettering, dating back to a pharmacy that is believed to have operated at this location during the 1920s. Today, the building has recently been renovated by HELP USA and Flynn Battaglia Architects to it's former glory, which now houses apartments for homeless veterans and low to mid income residents. The first floor is currently used as a community room and office space for project management and service staff.  In doing some research on the building, I stumbled upon an archived article mentioning a police report from 1922 about two people who robbed one of the brothers, Ivan, at gunpoint at this location (click here for article).

One of my favorite signs in Buffalo, this ghost sign reads "Hygrade's Honey Brand" with something underneath. I googled a few images and they all came up with Honey Brand Pure Lard - so maybe? Oh, the building is found on Niagara and Hamilton. 

** Update: several readers messaged me that the words under "Honey Brand" are "Hams & Bacon" - which makes much more sense! One reader, Elvis, even stated that this building was a pig slaughter house back in the day. Very neat!

Horsefeathers Market building on Connecticut Street in Buffalo's West Side neighborhood. Several ghost signs that give light to what this beautiful building once housed, including businesses that offered products such as Gas, Coal, Wood, Steel and numerous kitchen appliances. Today the building houses numerous winter market small businesses, Perks Cafe and is home to over two dozen people living on the 2nd - 5th floors. 

"1931 TH Kleinschmidt's Malt House 1931" found along Pratt Street in the Crosby Complex. This building is believed to have supplied Iroquios Brewery much of their malt during the 1930s and beyond. Thank you to the Preservation Board for saving this structure, amongst others in the immediate area, from the almost destined demo just a few years ago!!!

"The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company" ghost sign found in Larkinville. Built in 1917 and acted as one of the company's main warehouses for the east coast until 1975. The building is currently undergoing conversion and rehabilitation into loft residential units. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

As we head over to Niagara Street, this building immediately stood out for obvious reasons. These ghost signs proudly advertised for "Great Lakes Pressed Steel Corp" which manufactured metal stampings, dies and other tools. 

A side view of "Great Lakes Pressed Steel Corp". I wanted to capture the traditional side corner ghost sign on the same building shown above at 1400 Niagara.

"Paper Box Specialist" ghost sign found on the side of the 500 Seneca building in the Larkinville District of Buffalo. Originally, the building housed one of the world’s largest paper-box manufacturers, the F.N. Burt Co., in a 1901 wood structure that grew to include numerous brick and concrete, four- to six-story additions up through 1927. In 1909, founder F.N. Burt hired Mary R. Cass as the company's new General Manager, a groundbreaking move at the time when women weren't commonly in leadership roles within national companies. Mary led the company to what would become one of the nation's most innovative companies over the next 25 years, The plant was eventually shuttered towards the end of the 1950s before regaining life in the 2000s with New Era Cap taking up residency. Today, the building houses dozens of offices and businesses in the now thriving Larkinville District. Ghost signs like these are a small window into the history of this significant building!

Another view of the building on Broadway and Hickory. On the other side of this building a ghost sign that reads "Buffalo Awning & Tent Manufacturing" (lead image). You can make out "Tent" and "MFG Co." on this image, presumably for the same company. Today is part of the HELP Buffalo complex previously mentioned, being utilized as offices and low-income housing.

"IRC Continues Transit Progress, More Buses, Postwar Models" read along this brick building on Broadway. IRC stands for International Railway Co. and this building used to be a rail and bus repair building where many of the last street cars were retired from service. Close by is the Broadway Fillmore District and Buffalo Central Terminal.

The popular"Saperston Management" ghost sign in downtown Buffalo, view from Delaware Avenue. Saperston has several ghost signs around the city, this one being one of the best preserved. 

My first edition on ghost signs captured the newer "Lafayette Hotel" ghost sign found on the west side of the building, and I received a lot of comments regarding the fact that I didn't include the OG ghost sign, so here it is  :) I agree - this one boasts much more character! Notice the "Fire Proof" sign below "Hotel", how cool!

Several ghost signs found along the side of the SImon Electric Co. building on Ellicott Street near Huron. The top sign reads "People's" with possibly "Furniture" underneath. I can't make out the other words to the right. Below is another ghost sign with the words "Refrigerators, Ranges, Home Freezers, Morton Kitchens and an arrow with "At Corner" indicating where to enter the door. 

Unknown ghost sign found on the east side of 149 Swan Street. The building dates back to 1896, which was built for for Sibley & Holmwood Candy Company, a local confectioner that later partnered with several other businesses nationwide to form the National Candy Company. The building now holds dozens of apartments (Dubbed the "Apartments at the Hub"), a fitness studio and has been a previous home to Handlebar and Black Button Distillery tasting rooms.

Another severely faded ghost sign located at Smith and Clinton Streets. A few words I'm able to make out are "Groceries, Flour". 

Several faded ghost signs along Ellicott Street in Buffalo's downtown area. The top ghost sign possibly reads "Manhardt Printing Co." Buffalo was a top 5 printing city during the early 1900s with dozens of businesses focused in the trade. 

Colorful but faded ghost signs found on the west side of 730 William Street, current home to Sloan's Antiques. I can't make out most of it, possibly "Wolf" at the top left corner? If anyone knows, please send me a note!

"Battenfield American Oils & Grease" ghost sign found near Clinton and Bailey Avenue. This building once housed the F. X. Kaltenbach Brewery starting in 1886 which was at one point owned by Buffalo Mayor F. X. Schwab in the 1920s, eventually being named the Buffalo Brewing Company.

Extremely faded ghost sign found along Clinton Street in Buffalo's east side. Tough to make out, however I believe a couple of the words might read "Warehouse" and "Food"

"Laub" across their warehouse at 1051 Clinton Street in Buffalo's East Side neighborhood. Their warehouse boasts over 360 thousand square feet of space and has been providing distribution and warehousing services since 1979. 

Almost missed this barely noticeable ghost sign along Clinton Street near Emslie, I'm unable to make out any wording, but I'd image it once advertised for a business in one of the two store fronts on Clinton. 

Right across the street from the above image, this ghost sign is on the front of the once former Simon Pure Brewery. The faded ghost sign reads "William Simon Brewery" on the building at the corner of Emslie and Clinton Street. Founded in 1853 as the John Schusler Brewery. German brewer William Simon became its brew master, and purchased the company in 1896. It reopened after Prohibition and built a strong local following. The William Simon Brewery managed to outlast all the other breweries in Buffalo, finally closing in 1973. William Simon IV still owns the complex and has rumored to be interested in re-opening as a micro-brewery in the near future. If completed, it would instantly become the second oldest American brewery, only behind Yuengling. This has given me a future blog post idea, covering the buildings and complexes of Buffalo's original breweries. More to come!

A view of the Crosby Company complex on the corner of William and Pratt Streets. This building has several ghost signs visible in numerous directions, including this vertical ghost sign shown above as seen from William Street. Travel down Pratt a bit more and you'll discover a few more signs, including an old adjacent brewery that I will be covering in a future post!

Another ghost sign found along William Street near Sherman. William Street certainly boasts a number of beautiful 100+ year old buildings! I'm unable to make this ghost sign out, but the building is believed to be over 140 years old and once housed an Aaron Goldberg Furniture store in the early 1950s.

Several stacked ghost signs found at the building on the corner of Broadway and Madison Street. Recently for sale and exchanging hands a few times in the past decade, this building is now owned by Peyton Barlow and will hopefully be restored to her former glory. The Pollack and Blackemore ghost signs are believed to be around 30 years old, relatively new in ghost sign standards.

 A couple ghost signs found on a 100 year old building in the Broadway Fillmore District in Buffalo's east side.

Faded ghost signs on the side of 395 Broadway. One of the bottom words might read "Refrigerators"

Ghost sign facing Broadway at the corner of Pratt. The word "Machine" is visible, but unsure of the rest. Notice to the far right (down Pratt) there is another ghost sign, which reads "Star Supply".  This building was home to Northstar Supply, which focused on roofing, siding products, gutters and downspouts. Later it focused on the HVAC industry. 

"Public Parking" ghost sign along West Huron in downtown Buffalo. With the building currently being renovated, this sign likely won't last long.

A top the same building of the previous image on West Huron (the C.W. Miller Livery Stable), possibly "Hertz" as the first word. The original Miller Livery was converted to a parking garage for cars and renamed the Huron Street Garage, and later the Hertz Garage in the 1950s.

Further down Niagara is this relatively newer ghost sign, I honestly was drawn to it because of the car in the center of the wall. Lettering reads "Ultimate Auto Service", which it appears to still be the current business at this location.

"Bathroom Vanities" on a building on Niagara Street. 

Several classic ghost signs found along Rhode Island Street in Buffalo's West Side. Unsure of the top sign, however the lower is clearly defined as "Gold Medal". 

"Webster-Citizens Co" ghost sign along Essex Street. This building used to be home to the company's 5th and final ice house in the WNY region. Webster Ice and Citizens Ice merged in 1907 and became the largest ice distributor in the region, operating near Lime Lake and Lake Erie. The following two pictures are also a part of the complex. 

"Station No 5" ghost sign on the Webster-Citizens Co Building on Essex Street. This location was their 5th ice house they operated in the region, and the company held a monopoly on the ice trade in WNY for several decades.

"Manufactured Ice" ghost sign on the Webster-Citizens Co building as mentioned above. This third sign looks to be the best preserved of the three. Today, several businesses occupy the complex, including The Simon Griffis Studio, Big Orbit, and the Essex Street Arts Center.

Faded ghost sign along 17th street in Buffalo's west side neighborhood. 

Arched ghost sign above one of the main garage doors on the same building above on 17th Street. Appears to have been a firehouse or some type of public use building at one point. Current studio for Jim Bush Photography. 

"The Teachout Company" I believe it reads. "Wholesale Sash and Doors" reads below it, found on this circa 1910 warehouse building off of Genesee Street in the east side. Notice at the left of the image, there's another ghost sign facing the side street.

"Flexo Transparent" ghost sign found along Seneca Street near Babcock. 

"Paisaro Pizzeria" along Clinton Avenue on Buffalo's east side. Although the restaurant is now closed, this relatively newer sign will live on.

Taken from a parking ramp in downtown Buffalo with one of my telephoto lenses. Notice to the left there's "Buffalo Christian Center" and "Cabaret" in the foreground. To the right there also appears to be several severely faded ghost signs just past Shea's Theatre.

"Spankin Detail 852-1566" ghost sign found at 365 Swan Street near Myrtle just east of downtown Buffalo. Age of sign unknown, but believed to be from 1980s - 1990s timeframe, relatively new compared to the rest of these signs. 

"Entertainment" ghost sign to notify people entering the famous Buffalo Theatre District along Main Street.

Found on a building along Main Street near Coe Place.

Found in Larkinville, one of the words on this ghost sign appears to read "Cabinets". 

Back to Top