Advertising is part of our world. It has been around for hundreds of years, and it comes in a variety of formats ranging from bumper stickers to billboards. It also includes newspaper ads, direct mail postcards, outdoor billboards and wall art. Many of the wall ads I see while riding in Detroit promote everything from fresh BBQ ribs to the city’s best pawn shop. While some may highlight the lowest priced liquor, another may feature various female hair products. Most can found on the walls of many of Detroit’s commercial buildings painted in bright, colorful eye-catching tones.
There is another group of wall ads I see on my rides that I like to call faders. They are ads that have been painted on the sides of the city’s older, 2-story brick buildings decades ago. Sadly, they are now slowly fading, much like a friendly ghost in a children’s story.
Many of the best faders I’ve spotted appear to have been painted on the buildings shortly after they were built, often close to a hundred years ago. They feature free-flowing curved lines, interesting old-fashioned letter styles, and from what I could make out, subtle pastel colors. They remind me of an ornate ad that can be found in The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and they are in sharp contrast to the bold colors and heavy block type letters that seem to be the norm today.
Many of the faders were hidden by adjoining structures that butted up against the buildings they were painted on. Since then, the adjacent buildings have been torn down, exposing the vintage ads. Others have come into view because wall coverings (such as stucco, billboard frames, and wood coverings applied years ago) hid them from sight. As the coverings have deteriorated over time, the graceful old ads have been exposed.
Time has taken its toll on most of the faders. Many have lost 90% of their color and decorative graphics, making them nearly impossible to read. Those that have survived years of rain, sleet and blinding sunshine are gently fading away, like colorful October leaves that slowly drop and fade into the ground below. I guess everything has a life cycle, including faders and their historical significance to Detroit’s early commerce. It’s unfortunate, but they too will soon be lost forever.
Here are links to other entries on the Fading Wall Signs of Detroit.