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.