Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ghost signs: An update

IDAHO FALLS, ID -- It's been a weird winter and early spring in eastern Idaho -- not much snow, some rain, and unseasonably warm. Coupled with the usual Idaho wind, the rain revealed a treasure in downtown Idaho Falls that had been hidden for decades.

The stucco on the side of the building that houses the Great Harvest Bread Company began to peel away. Rather than being a disaster, it unveiled a building-sized antique -- a hand-painted sign running nearly the full height of the side of the building, originating from somewhere around 1910. Here's a portion of Zach Kyle's report in the Post Register.

Great Harvest owner John VanOrman did some sleuthing since the wind unearthed his ghost sign three weeks ago. The sign reads "IDAHO FALLS DEVELOPMENT CO. LTD." VanOrman's chain of title records show the business owned the building from 1907 to 1912.
The sign presumably was painted in that five-year window. VanOrman looked up city maps showing the Gayety Theatre was built next door -- inches away, if not touching -- between 1911 and 1921.

The building containing the movie theater and businesses that followed was torn down in the '80s to make room for a bank parking lot. That building, however, acted as a buffer that protected the now 100-year-old sign.

"Really, that sign hasn't seen the light of day for 80 years," VanOrman said.
The sign brought out the typography geek in Roy Dye, who works a block and a half away as a graphic artist at Idaho Falls Magazine.
The ampersands, or "&" figures, are an unusual combination of "8s" and "c's," Dye said. The "L" in "Ltd." underlines the rest of the word and the letters in "CO." are fixed inside one another, probably to save space, he said.
"Styles come and go," Dye said. "It's just nice to see something that's basically a time capsule that hasn't been looked at for a long, long time.
"Design and art and fashion and everything like that come back around."
I've written about ghost signs before; once discussing ghost signs in general, and again in a post focusing on ghost signs in eastern Idaho.  What's so great about the Great Harvest sign is its sudden emergence from oblivion. Fortunately, VanOrman promises to preserve the sign. Kudos to him.


  1. Nice fins - love he photo from China too!

  2. It's a lovely reveal, an unusual case of the weather working to 'save' a sign rather than eroding it.