Monday, December 31, 2007

Vinton Building

Vinton Building, 1925

Most traces of the Vinton Building signs are now gone; faded, painted over, or marked with graffiti. Even by 1996 the descriptive sign down the right side of the building was indecipherable.

Adjacent to the A.G. Long "Fire Apparatus" building (my previous post), this can be seen from NW 6th and Couch.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Fire Apparatus

A.G. Long Building, 1904

Alexander Gotwald Long erected this building in 1904 to house his fire apparatus business. The signs are still nicely preserved and very visible from the corner of NW 6th and Couch. The building is adjacent to the Neville Bag Company in my previous post.

"While conducting his business at No. 170 Second street, in the Strowbridge building, Mr. Long erected his own building at 45-47 North Fifth street, near Couch, a three-story brick structure, fifty by one hundred feet into which he removed. He then began the manufacture of small apparatus but continued also to represent the large eastern factories. He continued in the location on North Fifth street until 1910, when he leased his building there, that property becoming very valuable. During the summer of 1910 he erected a fine brick three-story building, fifty by one hundred feet, on Sixteenth street between Marshall and Northrup, in the new warehouse district near the Hill terminals, and has recently removed his stock to the new location."
- Portland, Oregon, Its History and Builders, Joseph Gaston

His building on NW 16th also carries a ghost sign.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Neville Bag Company, 1905

The Neville Bag Company manufactured burlap, bags, twine, ropes, etc. in this building in the early 20th century at NW 5th and Davis. At least one paint-over makes this hard to decipher. You can see this from NW 6th and Davis.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bow Yuen

Bow Yuen & Co., 1889

Bow Yuen & Co. sold general Chinese merchandise from this building at the corner of NW 4th and Davis. "69 N. 4th St. - Oriental Goods & Brasswork" is still barely visible. It's tough to see any of this from the street, I took this photo from NW 5th between Couch and Davis.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Empire Uniform

The wall that held the "Empire Uniform Mfg. Co." sign is gone but the building remains. If you look closely at the brick building on the left, notice that the top floor was removed and the arches lowered; they are now level with the top of the building on the right. A new multi-story apartment building was then added above that in 1998.

Notice also to the far right of the 1996 photo, above the brown brick, you can see an "&" peeking out. That is the same "&" as in my previous Kleiser Signs post.

You can see this view from the corner of NW 4th and Everett.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Kleiser Signs

At one time this read "Foster & Kleiser Signs" and was visible from the corner of NW 4th and Flanders. Erected in 2003, The Pacific Tower apartment building now stands there.

Walter Foster and George Kleiser were outdoor advertising's original pioneers. They began doing business as Foster & Kleiser Outdoor Advertising in 1901 and were probably responsible for many of Portland's old painted signs I've illustrated in this blog. Their business grew tremendously in the 20th century, being sold and acquired several times throughout the years. It's now known as Clear Channel Outdoor, a division of giant Clear Channel Communications.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


The Biltmore Hotel, 1905

Harry must have had quite a nice little business to afford such a prominent and elaborate building ad like this. Unfortunately it's fading significantly and probably won't be readable for many more years.

See it from NW 5th and Everett.


Thursday, December 6, 2007



Several ads graced this wall at various times. Not much left except "Tires" and "Liberal Credit." Stand at NW Broadway and Flanders to see what's left.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Boxer Marcus Co.


You have to step way back to NW 4th and Glisan to see this sign almost three blocks to the west. "Boxer Marcus" seems to be painted over an older "Boxer Fixtures" ad. These are probably earlier iterations of the current "Boxer Northwest" restaurant supply business in this and adjacent property.


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Office and Factory


Not having written the location of this building on my 1996 photo, I thought the two buildings had been demolished because I had trouble finding either sign or buildings. Happily, the building on the left (with sign) remains, while the one on the right is gone. While the "Office and Factory" sign is still in existence, it's butted right up against the new high-rise to the east. Barring a catastrophe, we'll never see it again.

What kind of "Office and Factory" this was, I'm unable to determine. It may have been "Columbia Window Shades" or one of the other businesses advertised along the building's north face. The building stands at the corner of NW 5th and Flanders. The new building alongside is Old Town Lofts.

Look carefully from NW 5th and Flanders and you can see the tip of the backside of the sign, butted up against the new building to the east.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Columbia Window Shade


The north side of the building at NW 5th and Flanders has this nice "Columbia Window Shade" sign. It's deteriorated slightly over the past decade but it's only served to make the sign beneath it more visible, "Art Glass and Mirrors," if I'm not mistaken, is visible. There appears to be even more under that (I can make out the word "Crockery") so it's been a busy location.

Stand on NW 5th and Glisan to see this.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cyrus Noble Whiskey

Blanchet House, 1909

The Blanchet House building on the corner of NW 4th and Glisan has had a number of painted signs over the years, the most visible of the remains is, or was, the "Cyrus Noble Whiskey" sign on the east face. Whether it's been painted over or not is unknown, but it's now another that's been covered by a modern vinyl poster.

Look across the parking lot from NW 3rd and Flanders to get a view of this building.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Royal Palm Hotel, 1913

A decade ago only the single word "drink" remained of this sign on the side wall of the Royal Palm Hotel at the corner of NW 3rd and Flanders. That word has since been scrubbed and the original sign at that spot, due to deterioration, is lost forever. I suspect it was a Coca-Cola sign because of the little Coke-esque curley-cue at lower right and their early 20th Century slogan, "Drink Coca-Cola.".

Not much left to see but take a look next time you're standing in line for the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's the real thing. Coke.


Coke's "It's the real thing" slogan dates to about 1969. Whatever type of paint they were using then (probably not lead-based) certainly didn't stand the test of time like many old signs that are still quite readable after a century. This was severely defaced by graffiti anyway so its days are really numbered.

Look east from the corner of NW 4th and Everett to see what's left.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Drink Coca-Cola

Seamen's Bethel, 1881

This wonderful old sign suffered the same fate as Forbidden City; on August 14, 2006 it was painted over in black and an easily-updated vinyl poster installed over the top.

"Drink Coca-Cola" covered the original "California Lodging House" sign. Coke's "Delicious and Refreshing" slogan dates to about 1904 according to several web sites, making the sign a little over 100 years old when it disappeared.

Note on the next-door building (foreground) another partial "Delicious and Refreshing," still visible.

Look south from the corner of NW 3rd and Everett to see this.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Forbidden City

Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building, 1910

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!"
- Shakespeare's Hamlet

Once a sign of "most excellent fancy," the Forbidden City was perfect as a symbol of Portland's Chinatown. Today's frequently updated, lighted vinyl display is "abhorred in my imagination." What's worse is that it appears the original sign was painted over in black to provide a backdrop to the new sign. Alas.

"Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that."

The current incarnation rests above the corner of NW 4th and Davis.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Furnished Rooms

Sinnott Building, 1883

This "Furnished Rooms" sign held up reasonably well over the last decade, although overall it's in pretty poor condition. There may be remnants of another sign lower on the wall but you need to get to a higher vantage point to see.

See this from the corner of NW 4th at Couch St.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Merchant Hotel, 1880

We may never know what exports were being advertised on this sign as deterioration has robbed it of much of the paint. There is more to the left of what can be seen from the street but you need access to a higher vantage point to see it.

If you're looking at the Drug Company sign at NW 2nd and Couch, turn 90 degrees to the north to see this one.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Drug Company

Fleischner Mayer Building, 1906

As with many old signs, this one has been cut into to provide windows for the building, but otherwise it has shown little deterioration over the last decade, the bottom line "drug company" still being fairly legible.

See this sign from the corner of NW 2nd and Couch.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Rose City Classic Car Emp.

Building: 1914

Rose City Classic Car Emporium is long gone from this old brick garage but the old-style sign remains. Hidden from view behind a maple tree most of the year, you're likely to see this only if you purposely go look for it. Find it on NW Thurman between 16th and 17th.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Railway Express Agency Inc.

Wells Fargo Stables, 1895

I just recently discovered this very faded sign hiding behind trees at the top of a very handsome building at the corner of NW 17th and Northrup.

I could make out "...ess Agency Inc." on the right side but the left side was a mystery. Internet searches turned up the fact that this site was formerly stables for Wells Fargo. Aha! "...Express Agency Inc." the sign had to say. That led me to Guided by History, the Wells Fargo corporate history blog where I found a photo of the original drawings of the Portland stables building. Bingo! Exact match.

The Railway Express Agency came into being when the United States Railroad Administration nationalized the express businesses of Adams Express Company, American Express Company, Southern Express Company, and Wells Fargo and Company Express in 1917.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Imperial Paints


The age of the Imperial Paints signs is unknown; the company has been in business since 1945 and the signs could be that old. The west face of the building shows an old "WP Fuller" sign along the top that is long since painted over but is still slightly visible.

This building is on the corner of NW Yeon and Nicolai.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CBI Coffee Bean International

W.P Fuller Building, 1910

The "CBI Coffee Bean International" signs on the front and back of this building are fairly recent and cover the original signs, now unreadable. The W.P. Fuller Co. (paint and glass) occupied this building before, during or after occupying the adjacent Imperial Paints building so I'd guess these were Fuller signs.

Farmer Bros. Co. bought CBI in April 2007 and the building is for sale so this sign could disappear sometime soon. It's on the corner of NW Nicolai and Sherlock.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Dougherty Shoe Manufacturing Co.

A.G. Long Building, 1910

I can find absolutely no references to a "Dougherty Shoe Manufacturing Co." anywhere, anytime, ever. Complete mystery. The sign is pretty faded at the top of the A.G. Long building at NW 16th and Northrup.

Another sign once graced the top third of that side of the building but it is long gone now. I suspect it said something like "A.G. Long - Fire Apparatus." Mr Long operated a fire supply business from that building. He once ran his business from a building at NW 5th and Couch which still bears the "A.G. Long - Fire Apparatus" sign (more on this later).

Mr. Long's business was one of the most recognizable names in fire fighting apparatus (engines, hook and ladder trucks, hose carts, hand fire extinguishers, etc.) in the Northwest. A.G. Long hydrants can still be seen in Portland, Astoria, and other cities in the region.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Norm Thompson

Norm Thompson closed their flagship store at NW 18th and Thurman in 2004. The facade was ripped off revealing this old version of their sign. The building dates to 1953 so this sign may also. I'd guess this won't be visible for much longer so get up there and see it while you can.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Radio Cab Co.

Oregon Transfer Garage, 1910

Radio Cab Co. has been in this building since 1958. The signs appear to have been kept fresh over the years so they are not technically ghost signs, but it's nice to see how the phone number is presented has not been updated.

A little history: decades ago we had telephone exchange designations; CA in Portland stood for "Capital." People would say "Call us at Capital 7-1212," with the "CA" converting to "22" on the dial. Exchange designations went away in the 1960s so the Radio Cab number became simply 227-1212. Now of course we have to dial 503-227-1212, but the point is the sign remains true to its 1958 roots.

These pictures are from the back of the building but there are nice signs on three sides of the building at NW 16th and Kearney.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Star Tobacco / Bjelland Apartments

This is another double painted sign. I think "Chew Star Tobacco" was the original layer, painted in red. You have to look closely to see the word "tobacco." It's underneath the main outlined sign and is extremely faint.

Later came "The Bjelland Apartments - Furnished and Unfurnished" painted in yellow. Those parts that overlay the original red paint are much better preserved than those which were not.

Apparently neighborhood regulars call this building the “Rock Dorm” because so many occupants are musicians. See this sign from NW 16th between Lovejoy and Marshall.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Western Warehouse

Montgomery Ward Building, 1895

The seven story brick building at NW 18th and Upshur has ghost signs on all four sides giving indications of it 110+ year history. Originally built as a Montgomery Ward warehouse, it was vacated in 1921 when the more well known building at NW 27th and Vaughn was built (now known as Montgomery Park). Subsequent signs show that this building was used as a wholesale furniture store/warehouse and probably most recently, if legibility of the signs is any indication, Western Warehouse.


This postcard shows the NW 18th and Upshur intersection looking northwest, maybe in the 1910s or 1920s.
And roughly the same view in 2007: