There is something romantic about old signs. Ghost signs, fading away over time.

Signs for businesses — often no longer in existence — that we walk or drive by each day. They were fabricated in the era when signs were hand-lettered, painted on the sides of buildings, and sometimes burnished with gold leaf. They were posted prior to the days of characterless, generic awning signs, or box signs with fluorescent lights illuminating cut vinyl from the rear.

(And clearly also before the days of spell check, and signage regulations!)

These signs have a vernacular aesthetic that has evolved over time to reflect the environmental, cultural, and historical context in which they exist — much like vernacular architecture. Often they are just text with an occasional graphic element; all caps with sans-serif type seems to be the most ubiquitous treatment.

What follows is a sample of signs I see in my daily travels. Some have already been taken down since the photos were snapped, or will soon disappear as the buildings they grace are “rehabbed”. Once in a while, you may see a new sign made to look like a ghost sign… but they are far from standard.

So tell me, where are some of your favorite fading beauties?