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Uncovering A 100 Year-Old ‘Ghost Sign’ in Port Richmond

March 30, 2015


So excited to get the opportunity this weekend to photograph this 100 year-old, two-story hand painted ad that’s JUST been uncovered by Urban Renewal Builders during renovations on one of their projects in Port Richmond.

The ad was for “Kolb’s Pan-Dandy Bread” by local baker, Kolb Bakery. Kolb had locations at 10th and Reed, Broad and Butler, and 56th and Market at the very beginning of the 20th century. They were then bought and bounded with a number of other small bakeries in 1911 to form the General Baking Co. [-via Ghost Sign Project and Fading Ads of Philadelphia]

This particular ad sat two-stories tall next to an empty lot on Richmond street in Port Richmond until 1915 when a building arose in the lot covering the ad – meaning the ad is at the very least 100 years old! The building that rose in that lot was recently purchased by Urban Renewal Builders, who are renovating it into apartments and a ground-level coffee shop. (Side thought: YES, let’s all please support a small business revival of Richmond street in Port Richmond!)

Despite being painted over a CENTURY ago, the ad is in such remarkable condition due in part to the fact that it was covered with a layer of horsehair plaster, protecting and hiding the ad until it was rediscovered this past week.

Urban Renewal Builders is currently cleaning the ad and applying a layer of clear protection to it to help keep it around and in good condition for (hopefully) another century.

While the ad is being protected for the future, interior walls are being re-added to the space this week. So, these are likely the last photos you, or I, or anyone else will see of the ad in-full for some time. Though, one lucky person will have the top-left part (the head) in their bedroom, the rest will live in the apartment building’s halls.

Such an incredible history, such a lovely neighborhood. My mom actually grew up in Port Richmond, where my grandparents lived their whole lives. My brother lives their now… THANK YOU to Joseph Livewell, an old classmate of mine from Holy Name in Fishtown, for inviting me to come document this! (Joe is also the owner of the ground-level coffee shop that will open later this year, so be sure to keep your eyes open for that!)


12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2015 5:30 pm

    What a wonderful find!

  2. March 31, 2015 8:31 am

    Thank you for this document. Great Recap Conrad, now we will never forget. Congrats to my brother Joe Livewell for finding it. I know from speaking with Joe that it was like being an archaeologist.

  3. March 31, 2015 1:26 pm

    Stunning, I’d happily keep that as a feature wall!

  4. Ryan John permalink
    March 31, 2015 3:46 pm

    Good stuff! BTW, it’s Richmond Street, not Avenue.

  5. Ellen permalink
    March 31, 2015 5:19 pm

    This is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!! I’m so excited to see this project as it develops, I live nearby and am super supportive of any small business development on Richmond St. This project in particular just got a LOT more awesome, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out! ( I also can’t wait to “pop-in” and see if with my own eyes!)

  6. Susan permalink
    April 1, 2015 12:54 pm

    What a terrific find! I was born and raised in Port Richmond and moved away years ago, but still love to hear about the good things in my old neighborhood. I always admired a tiny little building hidden away on a back street and then realized it was an old ice house with the name carved at the top. Little things like this are the things I miss the most about Philly.

  7. April 1, 2015 5:52 pm

    Why don’t they just leave the entire mural on view for coffee shop visitors. If not, I hope the clause in the lease for renters or owners of said apt states that they are never to ruin cover or destroy the mural.
    Thank you for preserving !!!


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