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Fading Ad: Boston Store, Chicago


This is the first of what I hope will be a continuing series. My friend Frank Jump is a tireless photographer and chronicler of what he calls "fading ads" - old commercial advertisements painted directly onto brick walls. His website and blog are endlessly fascinating collections of fading ad photos which I strongly encourage you to wallow in. Frank has inspired me for many years, during which time I've dabbled in accumulating my own collection of fading ad images.

Despite Chicago's relentless effort to obliterate most of its unglamorous past - "unglamorous" including many nondescript yet functional brick buildings - there are still a handful of sharp old fading ads to be found in the Loop if you look carefully enough. That ad in the photo above, peeking out from a cluster of other buildings, is for the old Boston Store at the corner of State and Madison (now a Sears). The sign is painted on what appears to be the top of an elevator shaft, and can just be seen from State Street, right in front of the old Marshall Field's flagship store (now Macy's). The surrounding buildings are certainly an odd lot - the classic Reliance Building at the left, the hideous Block 37 mall in the foreground and, just behind the ad, First National Plaza/Chase Tower. I like how those buildings frame this fading yet still visible ad.

More to come, soon.

January 1, 2011 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink


That's a cool idea. I dig old ads. Thanks for the links!

Posted by: Jason Jordan at Jan 1, 2011 4:26:56 PM

Kansas City has a number of fading commercial signs on the sides of old brick buildings. One that I know of advertises buggy whips and saddles. Really. Disregarded and disdained at their time, they are valuable remnants of a long-gone age now.

Posted by: Paul at Jan 3, 2011 3:49:18 AM

You should definitely photograph that one before it's gone - these ads sadly often disappear soon after you see them, either from demolition or painting-over. I've lost out on dozens of old ads over the years that I failed to photograph quickly enough. Frank Jump would probably even post your photo at his site.

Until two years ago there was an old building (now demolished) next to my office that had a fading ad for animal hides and tallow - useful byproducts of the city's former meatpacking industry. I did photograph that one but haven't digitized it yet. I'll have to find it in my files and put it online soon.

Posted by: Pete at Jan 5, 2011 9:03:37 AM