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Historic “Ghost Signs” in Chicago Facing Demolition

A group of signpainters is now out to save the relics, which are dated to the late 1920s and early 1930s.

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Credit: Kelsey McClellan

This story has been updated.

The countdown is on to save a pair of painted advertisements in Chicago that are nearly a century old.

The relics were recently discovered beneath the siding of an old wooden building, which is scheduled for demolition in the next month, Block Club Chicago writes.

The well-preserved “ghost signs” are advertisements for Shell Oil and Ward’s Soft Bun Bread – which would become known as Wonder Bread – and date back to the late 1920s and early 1930s, according to a group of Windy City signpainters that includes Bob Behounek, Robert Frese, Kelsey Dalton McClellan and Andrew McClellan.

Credit: Kelsey McClellan

The same group has launched a fundraising effort to save the signs from destruction. Its GoFundMe campaign reads:

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“Dating back almost 100 years, these signs are an unprecedented find and a unique look back into Chicago’s history and the important influence sign painting and design have had on the visual landscape of our city. The legacy of these signs and the individuals who painted them continues, and we feel it is vital to preserve and share this history.

The plan is to remove the wooden slats and put them on permanent display. The raised funds will cover scaffolding, removal costs/labor, transportation and temporary storage.

The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati has already offered to give the works a permanent home. The group is also seeking interest from institutions in the Chicago area.

Bob Behounek, Robert Frese, Andrew McClellan and Kelsey Dalton McClellan stand in front of the Shell Oil “ghost sign.”

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