Philly Ghost Signs Being Repainted / Gallery By Laura Kicey

The AP’s Kathy Matheson wrote a piece about a new project for Philadelphia’s ghost signs–those faded remnants of business names once brightly painted onto a building’s side. The timing of the piece coincides with a Temple University-Mural Arts Program partnership dedicated to revitalizing the signs, including the first one: “Est. 1898, H. Henssler, Expert Locksmith. Any Lock, Any Key” on the side of fifth-generation locksmith John Henssler’s building.

Naturally, the approach is not without controversy. Some who study distressed places–who indulge a fondness for “ruin porn,” let’s say–prefer to let nature take its course and see time refracted through the prism of erosion. 

The Temple administrator working on the project understands this inclination, but this project is a bit different:

But Mr. Blackson noted that in Mr. Henssler’s case, the sign isn’t just about the art — it’s about making a living. Mr. Henssler is struggling to carry on the family tradition alluded to on his business cards: “We changed your great-grandmothers’ locks.”

“I think if John was no longer in business, then maybe it should just go the way of the weather,” Mr. Blackson said of the sign. “I want to make it clear he’s still open for business.”

The remaining ghost signs in the Temple-MAP collaboration will also belong to businesses in operation, so that the project pays tribute to the style of the past–in terms of typography and language–but also addresses that timeless if discomfiting reality: It’s all about advertising.



Painters Brush New Life Into Philadelphia [AP]