Fading Ad: Midwest Barrel Company
This ad for Midwest Barrel Company (412 N. Peoria St., Chicago) is actually two ads for the same company. In the second photo, you can see the older ad across the top of the green rectangle ("Midwest", then a picture of a barrel, then "Barrel"). Then, superimposed on the older ad, there is a newer ad, with another barrel picture at the left, and "Midwest Barrel Company" to the right in an oh-so-1970s typeface, with the last two words stacked. The "412" at the bottom of the rectangle appears to belong to the older ad; in the first photo you can see a later "412" which was added to the right of the overhead door. I love the unusual green color of this, and also the delicate brickwork near the roofline - I'm always amazed that builders used to include this sort of detail on what was an ordinary building and for a very mundane, unglamorous business.
Midwest Barrel was in business from 1963 to 2006.
Fading Ad: H.C. Evans & Companycrooked casino equipment. Below is a nice image of the factory from the company's 1929 catalogue (source), looking much the same as it does today.
Fading Ad: Clinton Supply Companythe trademark registration for the logo.
Clinton was founded in 1910 (originally located on Clinton Street and later here on Jackson Blvd.) and is now part of Benjamin Power Group, based in Northbrook. The Dual-O-Matic was apparently some sort of power supply unit for electroplating and anodizing applications.
Interestingly, there is currently another industrial supply company in that building, which I assume is the source of the bold, newer text at the bottom of the ad.
Fading Ad: Oil Coal Gas Furnaces
Unusual find, on River Street in downtown Batavia, Illinois, where my mom lives. Other than ads I've seen on barns, this is the first one that I can remember seeing that was painted on wood instead of brick. And I don't even know what the name of the company was. And Google didn't clarify much, either. Nice little mystery.
Fading Ad: New Packing Company
New Packing Company, purveyors of sausages, other meats, cheeses and salads (including the "Country Maid" salad brand). Lake Street and Elizabeth Street, in Chicago's West Loop. This is the first fading ad I've seen that includes website URLs - both of which are now defunct, along with the company. If there's any consolation for the owners, it's that with the rapid redevelopment of the neighborhood, the building is now worth a small fortune.
Photographs from Hilton Head Island
We vacation in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, nearly every year. While there, we just take it easy - sleeping in, walking the beach, swimming in the pool, enjoying good dinners and cocktails. All of that down time means plenty of opportunities for photography. Here are some of my favorites from the past week.
Sunsets are so beautiful there, it's almost impossible to not take great images in the evening. It almost feels like cheating.
When the tide recedes, it often leaves behind a channel of water which sometimes flows back into the ocean, and sometimes remains stranded in a pool that lingers until the next high tide. This is the former; walking the ridged sand often leaves you at the end of a peninsula, at which point you either have to turn back or walk through water that can be two or even three feet deep.
Most of the jellyfish we found were washed up on the sand, and dead, but this one survived (momentarily?) in a tidal pool, where it was propelling itself around in its gentle manner. So gently, in fact, that it could be easy to forget how painful its sting would be. I wish I could say I'm such a brilliant photographer that I intentionally framed this photo to include the beach umbrella at the upper right, which echoes the shape and position of the jellyfish. But I never even saw the umbrella until I edited the photograph hours later.
Just before leaving the resort, while taking one last view from our patio, I admired the graceful curve of these deck chairs. But in the original photo, the curve was lost amid background clutter. So during editing, I turned down the brightness and turned up the contrast, and all that remained is the chairs and tables. Nicely abstract, I think.
Incidentally, the first three photos were taken with my new GoPro camera, which has an ultra-wide-angle lens that creates a fisheye effect. No, the horizon is not curved in Hilton Head.
Fading Ad: Red Cross Pharmacy, Antimigraine
This fading ad (in Savannah, Georgia, at the corner of Broughton and Habersham Streets) appears to actually be two ads, of two different but related businesses that once occupied the building: the lower ad ("Antimigraine Cures Headaches") must have been from the The Antimigraine Company, which was here from 1891 to 1892, while the upper ad ("Red Cross Pharmacy", with a faint yellow background), from 1904-05. The building has undergone an extensive restoration by the Savannah College of Art and Design; until recently, the ad was hidden by a coat of white paint, and was only painstakingly recovered:
When work began the entire building was painted white. There was no evidence of a commercial sign though students thought it might be "neat" if there was a Coke sign under the paint. To remove the white paint a chemical and power washer (hot water) were used. One day as Jim was inspecting the project he saw the letter "A" begin to unveil itself in the paint removal process. He immediately stopped the workmen. He did not want to strip away any of the historical evidence of the commercial sign. To uncover the sign, which must have been painted with lead-based paint, the paint stripper was diluted and the power on the washer was turned down. What eventually was revealed are the words "Anti-migrane Cures Headaches" of the original 1890 business of the Anti-migrane Pharmacy. The round disks shown simulate pills. Also revealed was "Red Cross Pharmacy" which was what the name of the pharmacy was at some point during its history. And, if you look closely to the south end of the sign you might see lady looking toward you in profile.
That lady isn't visible in this photo, and while I did take another that captures that section, the image is badly deteriorated and the lady can now be seen only with a great deal of imagination. How wonderful that the preservationist took such care to save this ad. If that is at all suggestive of the work that has been done on the interior of the building, it must be a lovely restoration indeed.
Graphic Papers of Joliet
One of my favorite buildings in Joliet: paper wholesaler Graphic Papers of Joliet. I particularly like the "GPJ" logo at the top. I don't think this building was originally a warehouse - it's adjacent to the former Joliet Steel Works, so I assume it was once something industrial. That weird peak is actually the end of an long, windowed, loft-like section above the roof that runs the length of the building, which must have allowed light and ventilation into the factory floor. I've seen this feature on a lot of old factories but don't know what it's called.
Universal Overall Company
Chicago's West Loop neighborhood may not have many fading ads, but it does have a lot of old factory buildings, many of which still have their cool original signage. This one is over the entry of the Universal Overall Company, (1060 W. Van Buren) which was founded in 1924 and is still family-owned and operated. That's something I always love to see. If a company has been around that long, and survived the strife which surfaces so often in family businesses, you know they're doing something right.
Joliet Industry: Triptych
Joliet Steel Works: Triptych
Fading Ad: Graphic Arts Finishing Co.
While walking back to the office after lunch yesterday, I happened to glance down a long, narrow alley and saw this ad. After discreetly allowing a restaurant worker, who stepped out from a side door, to pass (photographing signs in an alley is already weird enough without also having to explain yourself) I slipped down the alley and took the photo. The ad is on the back of a building at 119 N. Peoria, in the West Loop. The company seems to have moved to Melrose Park quite a few years ago, but it's nice to see that in addition to the usual loft condos, the building is also the home of Threewalls, an arts organization and gallery space. Which seems fitting, given the building's former usage.
Faded Ad: Culicchia & Co.
Fading Ad: Phil's Tavern
Here's a real obscurity: Phil's Tavern, on the northwest corner of Madison Street and Carpenter Street, on the Near West Side. I can find absolutely nothing online about this place - even searches of the approximate street address come up empty. My only discovery is a Google Street View image from last May, which shows a shingled awning that formerly obscured the sign; that awning is now removed, and the sign revealed. (But that also suggests the building is being renovated, which means the sign might disappear soon.) Based on the drab exterior and the tiny size of the building, it's probably safe to say that Phil's used to be a non-descript, hole-in-the-wall dive, perhaps dating back to the era when this stretch of Madison was the city's skid row.
Hibernian Hall, Joliet
In an effort to revive this blog, I intend to post something historical here every weekend. Above is a photo of the old Hibernian Hall on East Cass Street in Joliet. The building was the lodge for the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish fraternal society. The building has seen better days - many of the upstairs windows are broken, and the auto repair shop on the ground floor, with the gaudy checkerboard facade, looks like it might be out of business - but it still maintains much of its original dignity. If you look closely, you can read the Hibernians' motto ("Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity") and see the letters "AOH" and several Celtic crosses and shamrocks. An interesting relic on what is rapidly becoming a worn-down part of Joliet.
Heinz strained beets! Swan's soap! Public telephones!
I love this detail from Gordon Parks' 1943 photograph of a Harlem street scene.
The few things I will miss about Rosemont
Since August I've been temporarily working in Rosemont, where my company is based. This has required a long, tiring drive (85-mile roundtrip) on clogged expressways, and cramped office space. But tomorrow, I return to downtown Chicago, to a newly built office and a resumption of my daily train ride. Rosemont isn't much to speak of and I'm glad to be leaving, but there are a few things I will miss about the area.
Late lunches at Mac's Restaurant in Park Ridge, where they serve a great club sandwich and always greeted me with a smile. I always found quiet satisfaction at being their last customer of the day, before they closed up at 2:30.
Unobstructed sunsets over O'Hare.
A parking garage that was unexpectedly photogenic if I looked carefully enough.
Okay, the fact that one of the three things that I'll miss about Rosemont is a parking garage should tell you how little I'll miss the place.
Sixth in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet. Queen-sized headboard, circa 1980s, on Campbell Street. I'm guessing the garbage man will get this before any scavenger will.
I'm calling this "Sunset, St. Paul Estates, Joliet." Not quite "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico", but in Joliet we take whatever we can get.
I love this 1906 image of the McKinley Park swimming pool in Chicago, and particularly the fact that something as mundane as a public pool could have had such grandeur (and white-uniformed attendants). The park still has a pool, but the neo-classical structures are long gone.
(Actually, the building on the left still stands, though in sadly degraded form. The other structures and pool are gone.)
Clark and Madison
Lively image of the bustling (northeast) corner of Clark and Madison, in 1948. Ah, to be able to take in a show at the Clark Theater, followed by some liquid refreshment at the Bamboo Inn or Kozer's Tap, and then an afternoon nap in an air-conditioned room at the Planters. None of which, sadly, is possible at that same corner today.
Haskell, Barker, Sullivan
Detail of Louis Sullivan's gorgeous cast-iron facades on the Haskell and Barker Buildings, at 18-22 S. Wabash. The facades were rediscovered during a 2009 renovation, under twenty coats of paint. Alas, the exposure meter on my iPhone wasn't quite up to task; capturing the black detail resulted in the white detail being partly washed out.
Wabash & Delaware
I love this 1963 image by Vivian Maier. It almost looks like there's another world below the sidewalk, barely visible through a jagged fissure.
Fading Ad: Dexter Folder Company
Fading ad for Dexter Folder Company, on Harrison Street in the South Loop. At first I assumed that Dexter once made folders of the manila file variety, but I subsequently learned that its folders were actually automatic folding machines that were used to assemble newspapers, books and magazines. Which makes perfect sense: this building is immediately adjacent to Printer's Row, the city's old publishing district.
A true Chicago icon: the Vienna Sausage Company (now "Vienna Beef") at its grand opening in 1894. The building was at Halsted Street and 12th Street (now Roosevelt Road) near the legendary Maxwell Street open market, but no longer exists after the entire neighborhood was redeveloped as University Village during the early 2000s. Although the sign claims the company's products as "celebrated" and thus indicates the company was already in existence at this time, this may have been its first permanent location. The company first rose to fame during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Fading Ad: Schmitz & Gretencort
I strongly prefer to find fading ads on my own, finding much more pleasure in unexpected discovery than taking the shortcut of an Internet search. But yesterday, for some reason, I happened to google "ghost sign" (the more common term for fading ads) and "Joliet" and came across a Flickr photo of an ad in Rockdale, a tiny factory town that is almost completely surrounded by Joliet. I was surprised, as I had hunted in Rockdale in the past but hadn't found anything; apparently I must have always driven west down Moen Avenue, and thus missed seeing this west-facing ad.
Last night, after picking Maddie up from her guitar lesson, we swung down to Rockdale and found the ad, and that's my photograph above. Though the ad is in poor condition and hard to read, my knowledge of local history helped me immediately recognize the name "Schmitz & Gretencort", an old department store in downtown Joliet. (Here's an earlier blog post I did about the store.) There's additional wording above the name, the only clear part of which reads "The Boys." Oddly enough, the white van in the photo also appears in the exact same location in the Flickr photo. Possibly belongs to the owner, though, sadly, more likely a regular.
The photo at the top is an early home of E.J. Brach & Sons, on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Illinois, circa 1909. After seeing this online and, on a whim, doing a Google Street View of the address, I was delighted to see that the building is still standing. I took the lower photo today during my afternoon walk. Most of Chicago's once-thriving candy industry is now gone, so sadly this building now only houses nothing more unique than yet another Jimmy John's outpost, plus whatever happens to be upstairs.
I love Marco Cadioli's tumblr Abstract Journeys, with its stark satellite landscape images. The image above is my own take on the idea, and shows the square block that includes my house. Not quite as abstract as Cadioli's farmstead images (and not as sharp; his are from Google Earth, mine are from Google Maps, which seems to have lower resolution) but, I think, still interesting.
19 S. Peoria Street, then and now
Sure, that parking lot is convenient and the employee picnic table looks inviting, but, still, I'm sure things were a lot more lively at Waller's Public Bath.
Duncan Ceramic Products, Authorized Dealer
Yesterday, I took a detour down a stretch of Center Street, on the north side of Joliet, that I had never driven before. Standing out amid the usual hundred-plus-year-old houses, I was very pleased to discover this old storefront building. I would guess it was originally a corner tavern or grocery (the name near the roof reads "Sievert"), though it's now empty and for sale. The decal on the front door for Duncan Ceramic Products indicates its most recent incarnation was some sort of art supply store, though I can't find any confirmation of that online through an address search. Such a store seems somewhat incongruous with the surrounding working-class neighborhood, which might mean it's been empty for a very long time.
Fading Ad: Joliet Litho-Print
I've known about this ad for a while now, but only just got around to photographing it yesterday. This is Joliet Litho-Print, on Chicago Street in downtown Joliet. In the inset photo, you can make out "Service Printers", "Pamphlets" and "Catalogs", and if you look even closer, there's a lime-colored swoosh stripe (inverted, anti-Nike) just above "Litho-Print." Based on the company's limited web presence - I couldn't even find a website - it's unclear whether or not it's still in business, so I'm glad to have finally photographed this while I still could. I've been into fading ads for about fifteen years now, and have lost far too many ads by assuming they would always be around to photograph some other day.
Fading Ad: People's Gas Company
Here's another fading ad, one that's hiding and seems somewhat shy. I saw this from atop the same parking garage where I photographed the A.C. McClurg ad; it's the old Peoples Gas Company building at 122 S. Michigan. The ad is on the back on the building, facing west, and is mostly obscured by the taller, modern tower at the left side of the photo. Due to its height and the closeness of that modern tower, I doubt that this ad is fully visible from anywhere other than inside the tower.
Fading Ad: A.C. McClurg & Co.
I was quite pleased to suddenly discover this fading ad during my afternoon walk last Friday. I was strolling west on Adams, approaching Wabash, and happened to glance up, above the El tracks, where I saw the ad high up on a building at 218 S. Wabash. Because of where the ad is situated (facing a narrow gap over a small four-story building, next to which was a tall parking garage) the exact spot where I happened to be at that moment is essentially the only point where the ad can be seen from the street. I rode the elevator to the top level of the garage, walked past the cars and to the edge, where I was able to take this shot.
The ad is for A.C. McClurg & Company (you can see all but the "A.C." and the "Mc"), once one of the most prominent publishers in Chicago; McClurg most notably published Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books as well as The Dial, one of the most prominent literary journals of its day. McClurg also operated a major book store which eventually morphed into the legendary Kroch's & Brentano's. In an interesting twist, this photo actually includes a second ad: in the upper left corner you can see an ad for Lyon & Healy, which I have previously documented.
Parking garages are a great place to photograph from, or just to take in unique views. Most of what we see downtown is either from street level or from high up in tall buildings. But garages provide an interesting middle ground: five to ten stories high, with the uncovered top level providing an open, panoramic view. Especially on the streets along the El tracks (Wabash, Van Buren, Wells, Lake) where redevelopment has come slower than the more marquee streets of the Loop, garages provide a rare glimpse of scruffier and (to me) more charming older buildings. And since they're open to the public, garages are easily accessible without having to navigate through security.
Fading Ad: Brunswick
This building at 623 S. Wabash Avenue in Chicago was the headquarters of Brunswick Corporation (previously the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company) from 1913 to 1964. That distinctive logo should be familiar to anyone who's ever shot pool on a Brunswick table or bowled in a Brunswick alley. Brunswick is still in business, though it moved to the suburbs years ago. Interestingly enough, before Brunswick this building housed a showroom of the Studebaker automobile company, and the opposite (north) side of the building also has a Studebaker ad which must be over a hundred years old. Unfortunately I had to shoot that ad facing south, toward the bright sun, and the lettering of the ad was totally washed out. (You can just make out the ad in this shot from Google Street View.) It's rare for one building here in Chicago to have two fading ads, let alone ads for two iconic companies.
Fading Ad: Hollywood Tuxedo Rental
I just love this fantastic faded ad from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, photographed by Marian Saska. But the photo was taken in 1972 and, unforunately, the ad is now long gone. Still, nice to see it preserved for posterity. As for the ad content itself, I know they were trying to emphasize the tuxedo, but it's kind of unsettling to see the woman rendered so faintly, only in outline.
Cartier-Bresson in Chicago
Excellent: I didn't know that the great Henri Cartier-Bresson was ever in Chicago, let alone that he photographed memorable images here, like this one. I'm heartened to see he was as enamored with the abstract geometry of the El tracks as countless other, lesser photographers (myself included) have been since the system's inception. And I admire the juxtaposition between the hard rigidity of the tracks and the soft and slightly pained humanity of the boy's face.
Merchandise Mart, 1934
Love this gorgeous 1934 photograph looking east along the main branch of the Chicago River, with the Merchandise Mart on the left. The river was so placid at that moment that it almost looks like a reflecting pool, and not the open sewer it was back then.
Blymyer Building, Cincinnati
This 1912 photo of downtown Cincinnati is very cool in general (such bustling energy!), but even cooler is this inset photo of the top of the Blymyer Buidling and this glorious ad:
Unfortunately, it's not a fading ad now, since the building no longer exists - still, this is the most extensive "building directory" ad I've ever seen. That building apparently was quite the mecca of the writing trade - two typewriter dealers, a printer and a stationer.
Fading Ad: Boston Store redux
My good friend Frank Jump was kind enough to repost this photo that I put up last week on Facebook, where I've been running an album called "Photo a Day", of photographs that I've taken each day this year. One afternoon last week, I was walking down Washington Street and looking for a subject, and happened to look across the street at the Block 37 office building, and was very pleased to see the old Boston Store fading ad reflected in the glass. (I had previously photographed the ad - posted here - and inevitably look for it every time I'm walking nearby.) In his post Frank provides more background on the Boston Store, including a great old newspaper ad. I really like the photo, particularly its juxtaposition of modern and aged.
The guests posed politely, but were itching to go home.
Another marvelous found-snapshot from Ron Slattery at bighappyfunhouse. Apparently taken by a young girl, of a less-than-easygoing group. I wouldn't have guessed this was from 1973; based on the outfits, it seems at least a decade earlier.
Catholics and girlies and air raids, oh my!
Love this 1942 photograph by Fenno Jacobs of a magazine stand in Southington, Connecticut. If you click here for the full-sized image, you can zoom in on the various covers. I particularly like how randomly the publications are arranged - that inset photo shows, all within a few inches, Catholic International, Smiles (based on the cover, some sort of girlie/lingerie pulp?), Little Oscar's First (Air) Raid and an astrology magazine.
Ice Ice Baby
I love this photo. If my writing was at all comic - which it isn't - I'd want to have this as a book cover some day.
Fading Ads and Fading AIDS
My great friend Frank Jump is refining his Fading Ad Campaign series of fading ad photographs, and will soon be incorporating vintage ads into portraits of fellow AIDS survivors, such as the photo of Steed Taylor and the Griffon Shears ad shown above.
As this project has matured and I have become a long-term survivor, the original metaphor of the Fading Ad Campaign that rang true for me fifteen years ago still resounds, but the overtones have modulated. Although I continue to utilize these images to draw light upon the fading problem of AIDS, fostering awareness isn’t the primary focus anymore as is the condition of the aging survivors, many of whom have lost their fear of dying from AIDS but are succumbing to age-related illnesses and complications from pharmacological toxicities. Through this campaign, my life mission is to continue to shed light on this lingering issue that still affects many of us in the LGBTQ community.
Frank has always seen fading ads as a metaphor for perseverance and survival, but this series of portraits and interviews with AIDS survivors will undoubtedly make that connection even stronger. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.
Two views of 1950s Chicago
Rush Street, looking south from Delaware Street, in 1954. Love that tawdry, gaudy neon. The area is now informally known as the Viagra Triangle (for the middle-aged divorced guys haunting the steakhouses and trying to get lucky), but there's no way it has the hustle and throb it enjoyed well into the 1970s.
Doorway by Harry Callahan, 1955. Probably far from the glare of Rush Street, and likely in a working class neighborhood. Just in this tight frame, I see advertisements for three beers (Sieben's - painted directly onto the window at the upper right - Schlitz and Budweiser) and two whiskeys (Hiram Walker Imperial and Echo Springs). I like a place that gives you a hint of what's inside before you even step off the street.
I love the rusted decay of this door on the Harrison Street side of the old Chicago Main Post Office, which has been abandoned since 1997. Sixty hulking, empty acres of floorspace - 2.5 million square feet - just a short walk from downtown. The place still amazes me, in both its gargantuan size and its emptiness.
Fading Ad: Casey's Liquors
This fading ad for Casey's Liquors (1444 W. Chicago Avenue) is one of the more difficult ad photos I've taken. It was in a narrow, fenced alley that made it impossible to photograph in any manner other than from this extreme angle. I really like the now-defunct store's slogan: "Chances are we got it."
Fading Ad: A. Sulka & Company
Here's a different kind of fading ad. At the former Chicago branch of luxury clothier A. Sulka & Company at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue, the company name was affixed onto the building with some sort of raised script lettering. The signage must have been there for quite some time, because after it was removed, the years of weather left an outline of the lettering on the building. Nice little relic.
Monadnock Building, west-facing wall, taken during the late afternoon from the tight confines of Federal Street. One of my favorite buildings in the city. Somewhere in the back of my mind is a novel about the office denizens of just such a building.
Sometimes accidental photographic subjects are more interesting than what you intended to photograph. I was trying to snap a long-distance photo of the Santa Fe Grain Elevator from my fast-moving train, but although I did catch part of the elevator in this photo (at the center-right, beyond the telephone pole), far more interesting to me are the brick houses, garage and oddly-parked van in the foreground, plus the blurred rush of the trees. This is in McKinley Park on the near Southwest Side, at 33rd and Damen.
Hilton Head photographsLast week we were on our semi-regular vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. As always I took a ton of photos, but since the natural geography never changes much there, I'll skip showing the usual sunsets, waves and mountains. Instead, this time I'll focus on some strange and quirky images I managed to capture.
Nothing symbolizes the heaven-and-hell, saint-and-sinner tension of the south for me quite like this roadside scene: the sprawling Adult World sex superstore, towered over by a giant cross. This perspective is deceiving: the cross (a quarter of a mile down the road) is actually much taller than the store. It's almost as if the cross was built to give customers one last reminder, as they step into the store, just whom they're pissing off by satisfying their craven urges.
Tunnel through an Appalachian mountain, in the Pisgah National Forest. Julie cringes every time we go through a tunnel, especially a long curving one like this where you can't see the other end.
I always know we're arrived in the south when the first Waffle Houses begin to appear. I like how the motel sign next door seems to comment on the regional orientation of the restaurant chain.
Strange cover illustration of James Agee's iconic autobiographical novel. If I didn't know better, this cover would lead me to believe that Agee's mother was some sort of human-butterfly hybrid.
Narcissism, pure artsy narcissism.
I love the refreshing informality of Piggly Wiggly. Every other supermarket calls it bathroom tissue or toilet paper, but not The Pig, nosiree.