The Ghost Signs of Denver

I spend a lot of time driving down Colfax Avenue. I love looking at all the different neon signs, murals, and architecture that reside on it.  One of my favorite murals is an art nouveau inspired piece. I’ve always wanted to know the artist behind it, so I decided to do a little Google search. To my surprise, I found that the mural was done over an American Beauty Pasta ghost sign that had been defaced.

American Beauty Mural/Ghost Ad

The original ghost sign had been uncovered when workers were tearing down the old Calvin Natt Mortuary. The mural was vandalized almost as soon as it was discovered.

Before the age of neon, businesses would promote themselves by paying for the right to paint an advertisement on the side of a building. The painters of the signs were called “wall dogs” and many of the signs that have stood the test of time used paints that contained lead. Of course, this did not do wonders for the health of those who constructed these works of art.

The majority of the ghost signs in Denver are located in the lower downtown historic district, which was the originally comprised of warehouses. As Denver and the rest of Colorado continues to be under redevelopment, more and more of these signs are being found.  The good news is that thanks to a 2014 update to Denver’s Design Standards and Guidelines for Landmark Structures and Districts, there is now a requirement for owners of a historic property to “preserve a historic painted wall sign,”.

Eagle Flour Mills (now Flour Mill Lofts)

pioneer wire works ghost as

Pioneer Iron and Wire Works

 

 

Rockmount Ranch Wear

Famous western wear retailer that is located in Colorado’s historic lower downtown district.  Rockmount is the last remaining wholesale clothing firm in the area.

francis J. Fisher building

Francis J. Fisher building

general electric building 1

The original General Electric building. 

 

 

Buckhorn Exchange

One of the most historic restaurants in all of Colorado. The restaurant opened in 1893 and holds the first liquor license in all of Colorado.

coca-cola

Coca-Cola sign for the Yuye cafe (Now on the Goed Zuur brewery)

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Jonas Bros Furs ghost ad and neon sign (Building is now home to Bar Standard and Milk nightclubs)

The Jonas Fur Company is known for their fur clothing and taxidermy work. In fact, Coloman Jonas played a huge role in the formation of the Denver Zoo and Denver’s Museum of Nature Science, which holds one of the largest taxidermy collections in North America. The iconic neon sign is also one of the oldest of its kind, dating back to the 1920s. 

i_am_for_men_s_walker

Multiple ghost signs off of Santa Fe.

denver-tivoli

American Beauty Pasta and Tivoli Beer ghost sign  (Now the Tivoli Student Union building on the Auraria Campus)

The sister of the Colfax ghost sign. The Tivoli sign is from the time that building was an actual functioning brewery for Tivoli beer. The American Beauty sign may have been placed around the 1920s according to some sources. 

Those are some of my favorite ghost signs in the Denver area. What are some of your favorites? I would love to see pictures of any of the ghost signs you find.

P.S. I still have not been able to find the artist of the art nouveau mural. If you know please leave a comment below.

For further exploring:

Check out this directory for more ghost signs in Colorado

For more history about ghost signs, check out this informational guide from the city of Fort Collins. 

 

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