Two years ago, the demolition of 412 Broadway in Schenectady obliterated an icon, an early Coca-Cola ghost sign. The local paper, the Gazette, lamented its loss. While the city still boasts several hand-painted brickfaces from the day (roughly 1900 to 1950), and has even “preserved” one or two by overpainting the originals, inevitably, the privately-held buildings that were once scaled by walldogs, those unheralded lead-poisoned painters responsible for our early-century urban landscape, are being torn down and turned into parking lots.

There’s not much preservationists can do. Except look carefully and document.

While the famous Coke sign on Broadway is gone, just up the road, a block in on on Edison Ave., a squint and some imagination reveals another. It’s not obvious. Like so many of these signs, it was overpainted once or twice, and is only now fading back into view. But it’s there if you look. Presented here in its current state and with a modern logo overlaid to provide visual assistance.

Click image for larger view.

UPDATE: Taking a closer look, I was able to decipher the letters below the Coca-Cola logo. They read “DELICIOUS and REFRESHING,” which means this ghost sign dates to 1920 or earlier. This overlay used the earlier, less slanted version of the Coca-Cola logo, in use during that earlier period. While typography varied with the skill of the sign painter, this earlier logo does seem to line up better with the surviving bits below it.

SECOND UPDATE: The Grems-Doolittle Library Collections at the Schenectady Historical Society maintains a blog and posts photos and articles, including one titled “‘A Street With a Past:’ Images of Broadway.” Scanning through, I spotted an image looking south at Campbell Ave., in the Bellevue neighborhood. If you look carefully just to the right of center, there is a small sign advertising “Pillsbury’s Best.” Best! That’s the word you can read on the building above! This isn’t just a rare old Coca-Cola ghost sign, it’s both a rare Coke and a rare Pillsbury sign in one.

Click image for larger view.

The Pillsbury sign at one time looked exactly like this. I don’t know which advertisement was painted first, but it looks like both were painted out in red at a later date. As with many of these old signs, the lead white used for the primary lettering ‘tattooed’ itself into the brick. Now, as the red washes and chips away, both signs are coming back to life.

Photo credit: Jen Ratliff.

Here’s the wall with both the Coca-Cola and the Pillsbury’s Best overlays.

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