Demolition Downtown Ghost Signs

Blink of an Eye

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday morning I walked past the building at the southwest corner of 14th and Washington that once housed Ehrlich’s Cleaners. The two-story commercial building is undergoing demolition, and by yesterday morning was reduced to little more than a cast iron storefront and some first floor walls. A one-story building that stood to the west was already demolished. The buildings are being razed for the 22-story SkyHouse residential building.

Something on the remains of the western wall caught my eye. There was a ghost sign! Actually, the sign was too pristine to be a proper ghost. The building next door must have gone up when the sign was still new, and its wall then protected the sign for the next eighty years.

The sign advertised beer, with some words evident — beer, [dr]aught, bottled. Maybe the beer advertised was from the Lemp or Hyde Park breweries.

After work, I walked past again. However, by 5:15 p.m. there was no sign to walk past, no cast iron front to admire. The western wall and most of the storefront had fallen in the course of the day. I did not take any photograph earlier.

For me, the only extant traces of the sign were the song lyrics in my head, from Neutral Milk Hotel:

What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me

I also carried the hope that someone else took a photograph while the sign was exposed.