It seemed wonderfully appropriate to arrive in Butte, Montana on Halloween, since I sought out this historic mining town for its architecture and, especially, for its many ghost signs. Ghost signs are painted billboards on the sides of decades-old buildings and, like decades-old people, some have survived better than others. There’s a conscious effort in Butte (and in Port Townsend, Washington and Eureka Springs, Arkansas) to preserve these artistic beauties as time capsules from the past. Nearly 100 of them survive in Butte, in varying conditions. A few of my favorites —
WRIGLEY’S SPEARMINT GUM
Alley behind 83 E. Park Street
This 4-story-tall ad was hard to photograph because the alley isn’t much more than 10 feet wide. I did take photos to stitch into a panorama (good winter project!), because I don’t have a super-wide lens. The gum label reads Pepsin Gum, which dates the design between 1893 and 1913. If you look closely, you can see that it is painted over a previous advertisement for Elgin Watches.
Lots of excellent sign info available at MainstreetButte.org
OVERLAND RYE WHISKEY
15 W. Park Street
“Cures the Blues” (doesn’t all whiskey?)
East wall of Stephens Hotel on Park Street
This gorgeous rainbow has at least half a dozen ads on top of each other.
19 W. Broadway, from 1913-1957
“Booths for Ladies”
Walkerville (just north of Butte)
You can see this from Main Street as you drive into town, off to the right. Just take the first right in town and it’s one block away. It’s a gorgeous example of a very common advertisement. Apparently it was kept in good condition when it was covered by siding that was recently removed. I noticed they seem to be doing the same thing on the opposite side of the building but aren’t finished yet.