While you might not know what a “ghost sign” is, chances are you’ve seen hundreds of them. Ghost Signs are the faded signs of the past, which are still visible on historic Buffalo buildings. Buffalo was once inundated with bold marketing signs that broadcasted an array of Buffalo businesses, from product to hotels and restaurants. If you pay attention when you’re bouncing around town, you can still catch glimpses of these images, which have been weathered and worn throughout the years.
In an attempt to catalog and preserve the remnants of these old signs, some people have taken up the job of photographing them. One such person is Mike Shriver, who has uploaded the images to this website. Since originally uploading those images, he has added a Part II to his cataloging effort.
“The painters of the signs were called “wall dogs”, often times hand painting these signs from 3 story ladders placed on the roofs of next door buildings. As signage advertising formats changed, less durable signs appeared in the later 20th century, and ghost signs from that era are less common. Ghost signs were originally painted with oil-based house paints and the paint that has survived the test of time likely contained lead, which keeps it strongly adhered to the masonry surface. Due to this, many of the surviving signs today are believed to be 80-100 years old.” – Mike Shriver
On his website, Mike is calling out for the preservation of these signs, which will one day disappear from the faces of the buildings. Over the last few years, a couple of new painted signs have surfaced on the walls of Buffalo buildings in Downtown Buffalo, and a couple others have been expertly preserved (repainted) in the city.
Here’s a good example of a new hand painted sign. Also, check out the Bike & Sign shop for information on getting a new or repainted sign. It’s a dying art but there are still some artists out there who specialize in hand painted signs. Hydraulic Hearth is another great example of hand painting a new sign. Let’s hope that this trend continues!