WIN: 100-Year Old ‘Ghost Signs’ Rescued Just Days Before Demolition

Bob Behounek, Robert Frese, Kelsey McClellan and Andrew McClellan pose for a photo at 3609 N. Ravenswood Ave. on Aug. 3, 2022, where well-preserved signs dating back to the early 1900s were recently revealed when the siding was removed. Photo credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
The siding on 3609 N. Ravenswood Ave. was removed recently, revealing decades-old ghost signs, as seen on July 18, 2022. Photo credit: Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago

“Preservationists were able to safely remove rare ghost signs that have brought people from across the country to a Lakeview building just days before it was set to be demolished.

“Chicago-based sign painters rallied and set up a fundraiser so they could rescue decades-old painted ads that were found on the building at 3609 N. Ravenswood Ave. when its siding was removed in July. The building and its long-hidden ads were set to be destroyed as developers transform the property.

“But this week, the painters got on scaffolding and pried each nail from the nearly century-old wooden boards and gently took down the massive ads. On Friday, as the team removed the two-story-tall Shell ad from the building, they labeled the planks and stacked them in a truck. They’ll be stored until a permanent home is found.

“Another ad on the building — the Ward Soft Bun Bread sign — was removed Wednesday and taken to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati by its founder.

“More than 200 people have donated so far to find the ads a new home where they can preserved. The campaign has raised more than $12,800, but it has a goal of $20,000. The money will be used for removing, moving and storing the ads.

“‘It’s been overwhelming,’” said Kelsey McClellan, the sign painter who started the GoFundMe. ‘We’re just incredibly grateful and thankful of people just being interested in supporting. … We wouldn’t have been able to do this’ without them.

“‘I think it’s really sentimental to them because it’s a part of their neighborhood, and they’ve seen their neighborhood change so much,’ McClellan said. ‘I think they’re thankful that part of that history is going to be preserved.’

“People have come from around the United States to see the ghost signs, and they’ve been shared widely on social media.

“Local experts dated the ads to the late 1920s and early ’30s. They were painted directly onto wood panels as opposed to the common practice of painting onto brick, adding to their rarity.

“McClellan is taking inspiration from the preservation work of Chicago architect John Vinci, who helped save artifacts of legendary architect Louis Sullivan. She sees the ghost signs as a history lesson for Chicago, she previously said.

“‘It’s an interesting look into how people were able to build their lives in Chicago as immigrants and develop businesses and provide to the community,” McClellan said. ‘It’s kind of like uncovering a time capsule.'”(Boyle, Block Club Chicago, 8/12/22)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago

Rare Lakeview Ghost Signs Saved Just Days Before Demolition Thanks To Donations; Local sign painters rushed to preserve the advertisements before their building is destroyed for a development. They’re collecting donations to safely store them, Colin Boyle, Block Club Chicago, 8/12/22

Sign Painters Raising Money To Save Rare Ghost Signs In Lakeview Before Building Is Bulldozed; A collective of Chicago sign painters hopes to raise $20,000 to safely remove and store the signs before the building they’re on is demolished in two weeks, Colin Boyle, Block Club Chicago, 8/4/22

Rare, Decades-Old ‘Ghost Signs’ Revealed On Lakeview Building Facing Demolition; The siding on a wooden two-flat dating back to the 1890s was taken down recently, revealing well-preserved walls of advertisements for Shell Oil and Wonder Bread’s predecessor that might date back to the ’50s., Colin Boyle, Block Club Chicago, 7/19/22

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