Faded Beauty: Ghost Signs


They watch you as you drive by, trying to catch your attention one more time before they  fade into lost memories. Maybe you glanced at them while waiting at a light. Or maybe they’ve been there for so many years they no longer register in your consciousness.

I’m talking about the painted advertising signs that grace the old, downtown Ghost Sign: Rosen Bros., Douglas Street, Wichita, KSbuildings. Often called “Ghost Signs”, other names are “ghost ads”, “phantoms”, “fading ads, “brick ads”. Few and far between, some still remain around town; the graphics and lettering often the only reminder of the what was once sold. Some are visible only after it rains, which is where they get the nickname, “ghost signs”.

I was drawn to these fabulous reminders of yesteryear when I first began my “day job”.  My workplace is located in the “Historic Midtown District” of my hometown: Wichita, Kansas. Every day on my drive, I am treated to the sights of what used to be a bustling area of the city. My imagination is piqued when I think about what these old buildings would say if they could talk.

Advertising Signs: Meade Street, Wichita, Kansas

Meade Street, Wichita, KS

Many of these buildings are clustered together, different facades of varying sizes; some have the old glass bricks, others have old, creaking awnings. They were built so close together that they have just enough space for a cat to squeeze through; most won’t allow a piece of paper between them.

I’ve taken a few photographs of the painted ghost signs around town, but the one that really got my interest was near my workplace. I had taken a photograph of this great Orange Crush sign that I would pass every day.

Then about a month later as I was driving to work, I noticed that the building was undergoing some sort of construction with scaffolding along the wall. Leaving work for lunch, I passed by it again and behold–the entire building was gone and with it the Orange Crush sign! I was so grateful I had taken that photo!  But that’s not the end of the story…

Ghost Sign: Orange Crush, North Broadway Street, Wichita, KS

No longer standing

That same day as I passed by on my way BACK to work, I could hardly believe my own eyes–there was ANOTHER old ghost sign that had been hidden by the Orange Crush building! The “new” one was selling crackers! How cool was this!?! Of course I stopped immediately and took a photo of THAT sign while I had the chance. I didn’t want to leave work that evening to find it, too, was torn down!

Ghost Sign: Gold Medal Crackers, North Broadway Street, Wichita, KS

Replaced Orange Crush

My new hobby interest is now photographing these ghost signs and documenting them for my collection. Although I am still gathering information on the signs and the buildings they grace, I’m hooked for life.

I’ve include here a few of the photos I’ve taken.

I would be very interested in your photos and stories of any ghost signs you’ve seen in your area. And if you want to post some photos, contact me first and we’ll work it out.

Have fun!

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