- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Officials in Clarksville are studying the feasibility of preserving and restoring 19th century advertising signs scattered around its historic downtown.

The ads are typically located on bare, brick exterior walls of buildings. The so-called “ghost signs” are fading and disappearing as they are gaining more attention for their historical value.

The Leaf-Chronicle (https://leafne.ws/1uwAG01) reports the study is a project of the downtown and riverfront revitalization group, Two Rivers Company.

Clarksville-Montgomery County Arts & Heritage Council Director Ellen Kanervo says people are starting to see the value in the old signs and want to preserve them, though they disagree on how.

“You see them all over the U.S. - St. Louis has them, for example, and Clarksville has its fair share. Many of them have been pressure-washed to the point that their messages are hard to distinguish. In previous decades, they’ve been viewed as an indicator of inner-city blight. In the 1950s and ‘60s people saw them just as old signs with no real value. But now we’re beginning to see them as a piece of local history, reflecting life from a century ago,” Kanervo said.

The council has partnered with Two Rivers Company for the study phase of the project. Kanervo said funding is available through Two Rivers to make improvements to downtown.

“Some of this funding might be spent on making ghost signs more attractive through preservation or restoration work - and that is where a certain amount of disagreement lies,” Kanervo said.

“Purists think these ghost signs should be handled in a way that respects their history without painting over them. The precedent has been set in some towns that have used paint with modern chemical components that interact with the original paint that’s still visible, and it ultimately does more damage to the appearance of the sign,” she said.

“And then, the other school of thought would be to try to restore the signs in a way that attempts to make them look new.”

Kanervo said at this point she favors making case-by-case decisions.

“For example, we have the turn-of-the-century Uneeda Biscuit ad on the old Poston Building downtown, and with it, I personally would not recommend touching it with modern paint,” she said. “I think it could ruin it.”

She said discussions on the city’s ghost signs are continuing.

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Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, https://www.theleafchronicle.com


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