New push to preserve Chicago ‘ghost signs’ discovered in Lake View

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These fascinating “ghost signs” discovered in Lake View last week may have another life. There is a new push to preserve newly discovered pieces of Chicago history.

In the world of vintage advertising, it turns out that phantom signs discovered may be a once-in-a-generation find. Not only are they painted on wood, which is almost unheard of, but the artist behind them is himself a legend.

Additionally, the signs may be decades older than initially thought.

“This sign needs to go somewhere where people can look at it, appreciate it, and understand the story behind the painter and the story behind the world of Chicago sign painting through this sign,” said Bob Behounek , a longtime local commercial sign designer and painter.

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Behounek talks about a legendary figure in the lost art of hand-painted signs, the artist behind the uncovered advertisement for “Ward’s Soft-bun Bread” and Shell Gasoline, which appeared last week during the demolition of a two apartment apartment on the corner of Addison and Ravenwood. The artist is Jack Briggs, who started the Beverly Sign Company in Chicago’s far south end, the company responsible for most of Chicago’s hand-painted wall advertisements.

“I’ve never, ever seen a sign with his logo on it. His signature. I’ve never seen one. This is the first time,” Behounek said.

“I was blown away by how well they were preserved,” said gold leaf artist Robert Frese.

“It seemed to me like it was out of the 50s, but in reality it was in the 30s,” Behounek said.

Behounek and Frese are part of a small team now working to save the remarkably well-preserved “ghost signs” for future generations. Their GoFundMe campaign aims to raise $20,000 for the careful removal, transport and storage of the wooden slats until the sign finds a permanent home. The clock is ticking before the building is demolished.

“You only have 30 days to take this down and save it,” Behounek said. “Once you let those 30 days pass, the wreckers will come and this whole story will be gone. So we all have our running shoes here!”

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