Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Fates of Some Fading Signs

The Schuster Electric Co. sign was once relatively obscured, hidden behind a parking garage. For a short time, it once again saw the light of day. When a new building went up nearby, it survived. If you know where to look, you can still find it. Meanwhile, other signs aren't so lucky.

- The Schuster Electric Co. sign as seen in Fading Ads of Cincinnati and in the summer of 2015.

In Fading Ads of Cincinnati, I lament the term “ghost signs” because these fading advertisements are still very much alive. Until they’re covered up, painted over, removed, or knocked down, they’re still working—sometimes long after the initial advertising contracts are expired or after the businesses or products they tout have gone away. These remnants of a bygone era wither away a little more with each passing day. While my book takes a look at those who created them, the businesses behind them, and more, the photographs document them at a particular point in time. Most of the images were made during summer 2015. Since its publication, some signs have disappeared.

There was one in particular that I figured would be gone relatively quickly: the name of the Schuster Electric Company painted on the side of the East 8 Lofts building. For years, this sign was obscured by a parking garage. When I was shooting for the book, though, the parking garage had been demolished in preparation for the construction of a new Holiday Inn. The Schuster sign was prominent for a while after that, visible directly from the street, and the residents of the East 8 building had a much better view. Then the hotel went up. My bus toward home passed by every day, and I’d occasionally think about the sign (and what happened to the view once enjoyed out of the building’s windows). I assumed that the new hotel had been constructed so close that the Schuster sign would be lost to the passing eye. Then I missed the bus.

- Schuster Electric Co. sign in February 2017.

Waking up too late to catch the next Rt. 11, I opted to drive. Once in downtown, I faced the usual congestion entering the Central Business District off Gilbert. I opted to park in a garage that had gone up as the base for a new condo tower. Winding up and up and up in an attempt to find a place to park, I finally found one facing eastward. I got out of my car, grabbed my bag, quickly glanced toward the new Holiday Inn that had recently opened, and there it was: the Schuster Electric Co. sign.

Hidden from plain view in a recently created drive-thru, the sign still remains. It can’t be seen from the street anymore, but it hasn’t been completely obscured or lost.

- The sign as seen from beneath the overhang of the Holiday Inn drive-thru.

The sign promoted the former downtown headquarters of an electrical component company that once produced parts for phonographs, records, and radios. Eventually, when the Schuster Electric Co. relocated, the building was renovated into loft apartments.

- The East 8 Lofts building, former headquarters of the Schuster Electric Co.

While new development has turned former parking areas into population centers and profitable business (while inadvertently helping to preserve a fading advertisement), there’s a different story across the street. The Dennison Hotel is the latest historic building to go down on the block surrounded by Main, Sycamore, 8th, and 7th. The rest of the block was demolished in the 80s by developers who pledged to build something new; ultimately, they never constructed anything more than a surface parking lot.

- The fading advertisements on the side of the Dennison Hotel building as seen in Fading Ads of Cincinnati and in the summer of 2015.

Now the Dennison is the next structure that the same group is bringing down, and there have been no released plans regarding what exactly will occupy the lot. The fate of the Dennison has been a controversial local topic; I covered it a bit back in April 2016. While there may still be a legal fight brewing, demolition is currently ongoing. Both the Quaker Oats ad painted on the side of the Dennison and the Schuster sign were featured on the cover of Fading Ads of Cincinnati.

- Dennison Hotel building being demolished in February 2017.

One sign from the book’s cover lives; the other is about to fall.

Fading Ads of Cincinnati is currently available in local book stores, through Amazon, and The History Press.  Additionally, a few signed copies are available here through QC/D.

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