Tuesday, December 16, 2008


While not old, vanishing, advertising signs, these signs from a current, ongoing Dewar's whiskey campaign remind us that hand-painted, old style ads can still be produced. I've found three in the Portland area; two downtown and one on SE Hawthorne. All photos taken in 2007.

West Burnside at SW 3rd:

SW 3rd and Ankeny, behind Dante's:

SE 49th and Hawthorne, at Mt. Tabor Legacy:

Thanks to Colossal Media for this video:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Crown Mills

Centennial Mills Warehouse C, 1940

The Centennial Mills complex on NW Naito Parkway between the Broadway and Fremont Bridges was originally named Crown Mills, its primary product being Crown Flour. Construction on the complex started in 1910. Warehouse C, bearing our sign here, was the last major building constructed at the site, in 1940. The complex became Centennial Mills in 1955. The Portland Development Commission bought the site in 2000 as a step towards implementing its 1995 River District Plan.

There's not much of this sign left, especially on the water end. I got this photo through the Portland Mounted Police Unit paddock area. It will be visible from the riverfront walk once construction of the Waterfront Pearl condo project is completed.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unknown Update

Sometimes it seems like signs are disappearing faster than I can keep up with them. I never was able to establish what this old sign (originally posted here) said, but it's gone now, lost to redevelopment of the 411 NW Park Building.

November 2008:


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fisher's Update


As with my previous Ruby Mist post, the reverse image Fisher's Flour sign has been covered by construction of the 12th and Washington project and is now gone forever.

September 2008:

March 2008:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ruby Mist Update

Whitney and Gray Building, 1919

As I speculated in my original Ruby Mist post, baring collapse of the new construction, these signs are gone forever, covered by construction of the 12th and Washington tower.

September 2008:


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hotel Navarre

St. Nicholas Hotel, 1909

According to the Portland Historic Resources Inventory, this building was originally the St. Nicholas Hotel. Sometime later it was renamed Hotel Navarre and the sign painted on its west face. You can see what remains from the corner of SW 12th and Alder. The day I was taking pictures I could make it out better from farther away, heading south on 12th about a half a block (bottom photo).


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cameron's Books & Magazines


The "Cameron's Books & Magazines" sign is about a hundred years newer than some signs around Portland. This is dated "84." That would be 1984, not 1884. Stop by SW 3rd and Stark to see this.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Packard Building

Packard Service Building, 1910

I've not been able to determine if this building was originally related to the Packard automobile. The logo is similar, but not identical, to the auto logo. In any case, the sign is a nicely done old-style building sign on the corner of NW 23rd and Westover.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Northrup Food Center

Northrup Food Center, 1924

I'd guess this wall of signs dates from the 1970s or 80s. The building housed a grocery store from 1929 until 2001 but has been boarded up since then. A small recycling business is now operated from this parking lot. It's located at NW 21st and Northrup.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pomona Hotel

Erickson's Saloon Building, 1912

As long as I'm somewhat off topic with my last post, I'm going to include another sign on an Old Town/Chinatown building. I took the black-and-white photo in 1971 and the color photo in 2008, obviously after the sign was long gone. What I find particularly amusing is that in the old photo, on the sidewalk face (right side of the photo), was a nail hammered between the bricks, with a piece of rusted wire twisted around it. Incredibly that bit of wire is still there, 37 years later.

The Pomona Hotel gained notoriety when an arsonist torched the building in July, 1975, killing eight and injuring 26.

This was on NW 2nd just north of West Burnside.



The Pomona Hotel was housed in the Erickson's Saloon building which has a colorful past. This from the historical plaque mounted outside the building:

"Erickson's fame spread around the world, as sailors carried word of its 16-ounce nickel beer (hard drinks two for a quarter), its free meal of gargantuan proportions (as long as you kept drinking), its bar 684 feet in length and its delightful lady performers in the Cabaret Grill. Loggers, farm hands and other robust working men came to Erickson's, some to spend their stakes in one night revelries, buying drinks all around.

"The powerful and elite of Portland also came to Erickson's. The balcony afforded those of wealth a better view of the stage and of the 'sea of life' undulating below.

"On the top floor there were cardrooms and cribs - small cubicle-like rooms on either side of the hall - for entertainments of a more private kind."

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Glade Hotel, 1900

This hand-painted, vertical "Rooms" sign is certainly on a smaller scale than most signs I've featured here. I took the black-and-white photo of the "Hotel Glade - Weekly - Monthly - Steam Heat" in 1971 when this area was ground zero for Portland's flophouses. The current photo shows that the adjoining Fritz Hotel to the right has been restored to its original brick and glass configuration.

This is on NW 3rd, just north of West Burnside.



Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Seamen's Bethel, 1881

Sandwiched between the old Seamen's Bethel building and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society building is this unknown sign. It stretches the whole width of the west face of the Seamen's Bethel building but only a sliver of it can be seen from the street. What's visible might be a "5c Cigar" ad, and above that, "Rooming House." See for yourself on NW Davis between 3rd and 4th.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wild Rose Brand

Modern Confectionery Building, 1907

I had previously featured the Modern Confectionery building but had failed to see the small items flanking the second floor windows. Though extremely faded, I was able to determine that these were logos for "Wild Rose Brand Pure Lard." It was also painted on the band above the second floor windows, probably before "Modern Confectionery" was painted over it; the word "Lard" can still be seen to the far right.

You can see this from the corner of NW 13th and Hoyt.

Here is a detailed history of the Carton Services Studios from the Portland Art Studios website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Irving Street Lofts

Blumauer-Frank Building, 1924

The Irving Street Lofts sign is one of of the pioneers of the transition from the industrial district to what we know as the Pearl District today.

A short history of the building:
1924: Built for the Blumauer-Frank Drug Company, a wholesale pharmaceutical company.
1937: McKesson Robbins, another drug company, bought it to warehouse supplies.
late 1980s: Converted to rentals and artists lofts.
1995: Converted to loft condominiums by Grancorp, Inc.

This view is from NW 14th and Hoyt.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whaling Wall Mural

Fox Theater, 1911-1997

The "Orcas of the Oregon Coast" mural was painted by the artist Wyland on the back of the Fox Theater wall in 1993. At 120 feet long by 60 feet high, it towered over Vat and Tonsure, Crocodile Records, Rock 'n Roll Fashions, The Spot, and Hamburger Mary's (a favorite breakfast spot of mine).

The entire block was demolished in 1997 to make way for the 27-floor Fox Tower, opened in 2000. This view is from SW 9th and Taylor.



Thanks one more time to thrift store cowboy for use of his "before" photo.

Here's a Portland Mercury interview with the Greg Higgins who was the Heathman Hotel's executive chef during the late 1980s. Near the end of the interview he talks about what this area was like then.

If you're in the mood for more reminiscing, here are some more people talking about what we've lost in the downtown core over the last couple of decades.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



As advertised, this building at one time housed Umbra Penumbra, Avalon and Magpie as well as the Salvation Army Greenhouse School, an alternative school for street youth. They are all gone now, along with the signs. The building is now home to New Avenues for Youth drop-in education case management center. This view is from SW 9th and Stark.



Thanks again to thrift store cowboy for use of his "before" photo.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Danmoore Hotel

Danmoore Hotel, 1912 (west half), 1924 (east half)

The Danmoore Hotel at SW 12th and Morrison was built in two stages. The top two photos show the "FREE GARAGE - HOTEL" sign on the newer eastern half of the building and the completed hotel. When that part of the building was demolished in 2005 (lower photo), it exposed the original outer wall of the older west end; "HOTEL" and "ON THE CORNER" signs are clearly visible.

The Danmoore came down in 2005 to make way for the First Presbyterian Church's garden and underground parking garage.


2005 - east half (photo: thrift store cowboy):

2008 - east half:

2005 - west half (photo: thrift store cowboy):

2008 - west half:

Thanks again to thrift store cowboy for use of his 2005 photos.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bickel Block Building

Bickel Block Building, 1883

The Bickel Block Building underwent a complete renovation the last couple of years. Many great old signs were lost in the process. Some of the signs attested to the building's early years: "BOILERS" "MACHINERY" and "LOGGING" were a few that were visible before being painted over. Read more of the building's history below. You can see this colorful building from the corner of NW Couch and Naito Parkway.







Thanks to thrift store cowboy for use of his "before" 2006 photos.

The gothic Bickel Block Building was designed in 1883 by Justus Krumbein. It has complex geometric patterns in its detailing and is an example of cast-iron architecture built in downtown Portland in the 1880s. The intricate cast-iron columns were made by Architectural Iron Works of San Francisco—the western branch of the famous foundry begun by Daniel Badger in New York in 1842.

The Bickel Block was owned by German candy-maker Frederick Bickel. He was a business partner of Frank Dekum, and the two opened their first confectionary shop in Portland thirty years before this building's construction. With the success of their candy business, both men began to invest in real estate development in downtown Portland.

The Bickel Block Building originally housed the Parke & Lacey Machinery Co., which used the north half for retail and the south half for manufacturing and warehousing. Parke & Lacey made and sold engines, boilers, sawmill machinery, logging cars, and so forth. The Fraser Paper Co. bought the building in the 1950s.

Three historic buildings—the Bickel Block Building, the Skidmore Block Building, and the White Stag and Hirsch-Weiss Building—will form the new White Stag Block that will house the University of Oregon's Portland programs.

(from: http://pdx.uoregon.edu/index.php?p=about/history)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Riverfront Seawall

Without doubt, Portland's largest ghost sign (almost a football field in overall length), and in my opinion, the most unique.

In 2002 a 120,000 square-foot wood, steel and concrete dock on the river was demolished to prepare for construction of the Riverscape condominium project. That demolition uncovered this great "IBD" painted on the old existing seawall. The bottom photo shows Terminal 1 after the concrete had been removed, exposing the steel girders. Under the steel is the original seawall with the lettering.



Barney Blalock, webmaster of the very informative Portland Waterfront website, thinks this may have stood for "International Breakbulk Dock." Break bulk cargo refers to loose material un/loaded individually, as opposed to today's container carriers or bulk materials like grain or oil.

I discovered this ghost sign while coming downriver on the navy's USS Kidd (DDG-100) in June. You can see it from the river, or from across the river on N. River Street where I took the top photo.

(2002 Photo: DemolitionX)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Povey Bros. Glass Co.


In December 2007 I wrote about the "Office and Factory" sign that stuck up above the roofline of the building at NW 5th and Flanders. Thanks to thrift store cowboy who snapped a photo circa 2000, we know a little more about that business.

When the building at NW 4th and Flanders (bottom photo below) was demolished, it revealed this great "POVEY BROS. GLASS CO." sign. Brothers John and David Povey started their glass firm in 1888. John died in 1917, David in 1924. The firm was sold to a Seattle company in 1929 and disappeared soon after. Stained glass was commonly called Art Glass in that era.

Old Town Lofts was constructed on the site, covering this excellent ghost sign (2008 photo).



2000 (demolished building):

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hotel Ray


I'd heard that the old Cindy's Adult Bookstore on the corner of NW 4th and Burnside was being demolished which got my ghost sign instincts all atingle. Instincts proved correct when I found that demolition had exposed this old "HOTEL RAY" sign on the adjoining building. That building, housing Chen's Good Taste Restaurant and Vegetarian House restaurant, dates to 1911.

I don't know what is being built on that site but I don't expect the sign to be visible for too long.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel, 1905

The Biltmore Hotel sign was restored during recent building renovation by Portland's Housing Development Center. The hotel originally housed dock workers and other men in single-occupancy rooms. It stands at NW 6th and Everett.



(2003 source: portlandmaps.com)