Tag: Ghost Signs

  • Spring Lane Hotel, Arlington

    Ghost sign

    Making your establishment a “hotel” was an easy way to get a liquor license for a neighborhood bar. There did have to be rooms available, of course, and it was noted of some of these establishments that the traffic was mostly local. This one is a little larger than many; perhaps it made some of its money as a rooming house. Hotels like this were still common in older neighborhoods as late as thirty years ago; few are left now, since there is no longer much advantage to maintaining the dusty little rooms upstairs.

    This hotel probably dates from before Prohibition; it was here by 1923, at any rate. Layers of ghost signs document multiple proprietors; the only one old Pa Pitt was able to read with certainty was Wm. Deckenbach.

    Spring Lane Hotel
    Front of the hotel
    Spring Lane Hotel
  • Matz Furniture Building, Allentown

    Ghost sign

    Until fairly recently, almost all the businesses along Warrington Avenue in Allentown bore German names. This building still bears a ghost sign for Geo. Matz & Sons Furniture and Carpets. The style of the building is typical German Commercial Romanesque, of the sort that is very common in the old German neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. The storefront has been filled in with Perma-Stone, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the windows have been replaced with smaller standard-sized windows (with fake “multi-pane” slats, because window companies insist on adding those even though they look completely wrong on most buildings from the middle nineteenth century onwards). But both those things could be undone when Allentown becomes trendy enough to make restoration worthwhile, and otherwise the façade of the building is very well preserved.

    Matz Building
  • Win Some, Lose Some

    When he published his recent pictures of the Craig Street automotive row, old Pa Pitt promised his readers pictures of some of the other nearby buildings from the early days of the automobile. Yesterday he walked over to Melwood Avenue to get pictures of the old Chevrolet dealer and found that he hadn’t walked fast enough, because this is what it looks like now:

    Construction site

    Yes, it has been demolished for another apartment tower. Doubtless this will bring rolling waves of prosperity, though not everyone in the neighborhood is happy about it:

    Graffito: Yuppies get out

    On the bright side, the demolition revealed an old painted sign that probably had not been visible for more than a hundred years:

    Ghost sign

    Father Pitt has not been able to read the names of the two superimposed companies. This wall had been obscured by the Chevrolet dealer since before 1923, so this sign dates from the first decades of the automobile.

  • T. R. Mackey Baking Co., Uptown

    Mackey Building

    The T. R. Mackey Baking Co. became the home of the Famous Biscuit Company in 1911, and you can still see the Famous Biscuit sign on the eastern wall of the building. The style bridges the gap between Romanesque and classical. After a long period of deterioration, the building has been beautifully restored as loft apartments.

    Famous Biscuit
    Photographed in January of 2021.

    Would you like to know the whole exciting story of the founding of the Famous Biscuit Company? You can read it in the biography of founder John Archibald Simeral in the massive History of Pittsburgh and Environs published in 1922. “Among its well known brands are the ‘Dlekta,’ ‘Orienta,’ and ‘Bon Ton,’ and the slogan used by the company in its widespread advertising campaigns is ‘One Hundred and Fifty Good Things to Eat.’ ”

  • Famous Biscuit Sign, Uptown

    Ghost signs preserve history otherwise forgotten. Who remembers the Famous Biscuit company? In this case, the sign also preserves another bit of history that might escape the casual observer. It faces east on Forbes Avenue, thus serving as a memorial of a time when Forbes Avenue Uptown was a two-way street.

  • Thos. E. Morgan Sign, Main Street, Carnegie

    Thomas E. Morgan, a Civil War veteran, was a big deal in Carnegie, a member of the local Grand Army of the Republic post, on the board of a local bank, and proprietor of a general store.

    AuthorFather PittPosted onCategoryCarnegie BoroughTagsGhost Signs

  • Beckert Seed & Bulb Co.

    This old sign is still fairly clear on the back of a peculiarly triangular building on Liberty Avenue. You can see it from the Diamond; it’s just off Forbes Avenue over the little alley called Delray Street.

  • Layers of History

    A change of tenants in this Victorian building on Liberty Avenue reveals an earlier layer of signs—one that makes old Pa Pitt wax nostalgic. For many years there was a Foto Hut here. Foto Hut was a chain of photography stores where amateur photographers could get all the basics for photography—including, of course, film and film developing. Digital photography is much cheaper, but Father Pitt still misses film.

  • Katsafanas Coffee Sign

    The Katsafanas Coffee Co. has been gone for many years, but this sign still looks fresh on its old building on North Avenue.

  • German National Bank Sign

    The Granite Building was once the headquarters of the German National Bank, and this sign is still legible on the back of it (along with remains of other generations of painted signs). Father Pitt has altered the perspective and contrast to make the old lettering as plain as possible; below is what you actually see today.