Ghost Signs AKA Fading Ads

Metropolitan Stores Head Office

Ghost Signs

These are a reminder of the past.  Usually on the side of a building and painted by hand, early in the twentieth century.  Many are visible, but so weather damaged they can’t be read.  Others are quite clear with faded portions.  Some others have had windows installed in the wall.  A few I’ve photographed have since been demolished.

Most of the ghost signs in North America I’ve encountered have been in the US – mostly in smaller towns, but even larger centres, like New Orleans.


Chattanooga, TNGhost sign for the Grand Hotel, Chattanooga, TN

This one is a good example.  Located on Market Street in Chattanooga, the once stately Grand Hotel had fire proof rooms.  The third line has been decayed by time.  The Coca-Cola sign on the smaller building has had windows put through.

The former Grand Hotel was converted to apartments in the 1990’s.


Cincinnati, OH

Dennison Hotel, Cincinnati, OH
Ghost sign for the Dennison Hotel, Cincinnati, OH

The Dennison Hotel was originally built in 1892, but was not used as a hotel until about 1931. The hotel offered 105 rooms and 60 baths. In 1963 the building was sold, with the intention of converting it into studio apartments.  That did not happen.  Demolition came in 2017.

Read more here:  Death of the Dennison Hotel


St Thomas, ON

Ghost Sign Sutherland Press
Ghost Sign Sutherland Press

The Sutherland Press was located on Talbot Street in downtown St Thomas, Ontario, Canada.  Built sometime in the late 1800’s it had been abandoned for years.  There was an effort made to convert the building to apartments, hence the new windows.  These plans did not come to fruition.  Abandoned again, the city had to block the sidewalk in case the front of the building collapsed.  Demolition took place in 2018.


Toronto, Ontario

Ghost Sign for The Phantom of the Opera
Ghost Sign for The Phantom of the Opera


The original Toronto production of Phantom of the Opera began in 1989 and ran for ten years.  Many actors were cast in the lead, including Paul Stanley.  Seven million people saw this production in the restored Pantages Theatre.

This art remains on the building, in an alley facing south.


Niagara Falls, New York

Jenss Department Store, Niagara Falls, New York
Jenss Department Store, Niagara Falls, New York

I visited Niagara Falls a few years ago, stopping on my way home to Canada.  There were lots of ghost signs and many abandoned businesses.  Quite different from across the border, where Niagara Falls is a major tourist trap.






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