Ghost signs: An eerie reminder of the Valley’s past

Downtown Youngstown is the best place to see ghost signs

Ghost signs are littered throughout Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ghost signs — faint outlines and lettering on the sides of old buildings — were once a part of downtown Youngstown’s landscaping. Now they’re just remnants of the city’s storied past.

“Places like downtown Youngstown, they’re literally all over the place, even if you can’t see them or read them anymore,” said Bill Lawson, with the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

The downtown area is the best place to see ghost signs. There’s Furnitureland of Youngstown and Gallagher’s Wholesale Liquor Store. There’s half of a ghost sign on the Youngstown Business Incubator building and the City Savings Bank sign atop the Wick Building is barely visible.

There’s another big one on W. Boardman Street, once home to Bloch Brothers Wholesale. An entire wall on Fifth Avenue is covered with signs for Morrow and Wentz Sale Confectioners, Hire’s Root Beer, and a wheelchair for a long-gone medical supply store.

Underneath is the 100-year-old Trinkle Sign Company. Owner Bob Page said it’s difficult to preserve ghost signs.

“Who’s going to pay to preserve them? They advertise places that don’t exist anymore.”

In their heyday, these signs played an important role in the city. Bud the Taylor had a big one, as did the Mural Room Restaurant. Golden Age beverage signs were also popular.

You can still see Golden Age on 12th Street in Campbell, where Greek and Italian olive oils were once sold.

Also in Campbell on Robinson Road, there’s a couple dancing around a radio — a sign for what was likely an old furniture store. On Wilson Avenue, a ghost sign serves as a reminder that steelworkers were once urged to chew Mail Pouch.

There are remnants of a construction business on Main Street in Warren.

And at the end of the Girard viaduct, you can still see what’s left over of a sign for Wagman Furniture.

Lawson said some towns refurbish their ghost signs. But advertisements look and are created very differently in 2017.

“Now everything is computerized, digitized, die cut, custom printed,” he said.

Lawson said it’s “definitely a lost art.”

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