A block long and less than seven feet wide, Elim Street is more akin to an apartment lightwell than a proper, navigable right of way. Narrow, deep, and short; it’s trajectory is amenable to sharp language. To adjectives and metaphors about blades and the cutting motions thereof – slicing, cutting, carving, penetrating, piercing. This language can be liberally applied to Elim’s smell as well. Perpetually dark, windless, and damp; the smell condenses and drips from the nose. Yes, it’s that moist. Yes, it’s that strong. Yes, I was lying on the ground to take some of these shots. Yes, I contemplated burning my wardrobe afterwards. I only wish I was exaggerating.
I love the blue tones in these overlapping motor company signs. The smaller, vertical sign is for the Pioneer Motor Bearing Co. The larger, perhaps older sign is for –ARK Motor Co and advertises their six other locations in Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Fresno, Boise, and Spokane. Look at the lovely art deco flourishes! This must have been a beautiful sign in it’s day.
The first sign: an Early Cambrian artifact showing evidence of usurious bank charges amongst trilobites. The second sign: a crime against LEDs.
As if the Li Po Cocktail Lounge could be any more apocalyptically ruinous, any more reminiscent of an alternate Blade Runner populated by toothless old Chinese men and hipsters in ironic cat sweaters – try going there on the Chinese New Year. The street recedes into a cacophony of smoke, flickering signage, firecracker flashbangs and this year, rain. A sort of neon noir that is pure, unadulterated, magical San Francisco.
Named after one of the greatest poets (and drunks) in China’s Tang period, this Chinatown institution has changed little since the 30′s as evidenced by these stills from Orson Wells The Lady from Shaghai. Go there. Now.
A little slice of Oakland in San Francisco! Built in 1920 by MacDonald and Kahn architects as a showroom for the now defunct California-Oakland Motor Company; this building also showcased Kissel, Dueasenberg, Auburn, and Delage automobiles before being decommissioned as a showroom in 1930.
From 1938 to 1990 the building was the site of Ahren’s Brothers Pie (later renamed Ahren’s Bakery and Coffee shop and finally Ahren’s Bakery and Restaurant). The building has been empty since Ahren’s closure. Continue reading
I really love this ghost sign. In an almost irrational, obsessive-aesthetic way. Something about the brick, the dinky little lamp, the arched second story doorway, the colors of the partial ghost signs. It doesn’t help that those partial signs pose such a tantalizing historical mystery. What is the full name of that lager? What is the full name of that restaurant? Is that a Gallo Salame sign at the bottom?
Now you know what keeps me up at night…
From my research I found the building was built in 1907 for the Independent Wood Co and is San Francisco Historical Landmark 104. It’s also served as a restaurant/bar and a sailor’s boarding house. Historical photos have been frustratingly elusive.
I love old soda signs and San Francisco has two exceptional midcentury Shasta Soda signs. Founded in 1931, Shasta Soda originally focused on alcoholic mixers, branching out into sodas in the mid 1950′s. Continue reading
Downtown San Francisco as framed by the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Look Ma! It fits!”
A really fascinating building with a plethora of ghost signs. As seen above, the main frontage reads Oriental DePoe Warehouse Company Bond and Free. Currently DePoe has been painted over in red and Oriental has not been maintained/refurbished. On the northern side are two other signs: a faded and partially intact Oriental Warehouse Co. sign (with no mention of DePoe) and a small wooden Southern Pacific Railroad sign. Continue reading
Great minds think alike; but so do great sign painters and great advertising campaigns.
A fairly well preserved Wrigley’s Spearmint sign on the side of 1255 Polk. Under the billboard you can see the faintest outline of an even older ghost sign. Perhaps it’s related to this sign on the back of the building? www.flickr.com/photos/kaseysmith/6287506027
A riot of faded color at 924 Geary. Two ghost signs are visible here: the lower one the ghostly geometric lines of a Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum ad, the other a barely decipherable sign for the Hotel Erle. Less well preserved than it’s twin on Polk Street, this Wrigley’s ad is nevertheless a great find for the eagle-eyed. Given the skeletal nature of the gum sign – it’s really little more than an outline – I’m wondering if the sign was even completed. If not, why? Did building construction and blocked lines of sight halt the job? Did that specific campaign push end? Did something happen with the building, the painters, the city billboard laws, etc?
A view of the building’s backside can be seen here: www.flickr.com/photos/kaseysmith/6172754525
Interesting historical note – the hotel was once a brothel: hchapot.blogspot.com/2011/11/blog-post.html