You're not seeing things; Albany's 'ghost signs' coming back to life

Posted at: 06/21/2013 5:31 PM
Updated at: 06/21/2013 5:38 PM
By: Abigail Bleck

ALBANY--History is repeating itself in downtown Albany.  Faded lettering on the sides and backs of buildings, that once defined the stores it adorned and the items they sold, is being made new again.

"It makes people think.  As they go down the street, they consider what was going on here at that time," says Chip Fasciana, an Albany based artist commissioned by the Downtown Albany BID to work on "All Signs Point to Downtown."

The BID, and several artists the organizers hired, aims to preserve what we know call ghost signs on four historic buidlings; three on Broadway and one on Madison.  In some instances, the artists are completely redoing the old ads while others require only touch ups. 

"(In some instances) We only restored pieces of them--to really keep the various decades when they were painted," explains Georgette Steffens, the BID's Executive Director.

Highlighting the city's retail past, however, is just one part.  Organizers believe the no longer subtle reminder that downtown Albany was once a commercial hub will help to attract new businesses, for the future.

"The growth of residential is really changing our retail offerings that we have downtown," adds Steffens.

And while the asbestos products that you'll find on the side of the old R.B. Wing building aren't likely to be in demand any time soon, the hope is the new businesses at 384 Broadway, plus others around it, will thrive.  Not for the first time, but again.

"What they are today are stamps on a passport.  It's a record of where we've been as a city," says John Waite, an architect whose building has a restored ghost sign.

By September, the BID hopes to provide a downloadable walking tour of the city's ghost signs.