Sunday, February 26, 2006

Brick Wall Advertisements

It was crisp and cold outside today, but also bright and sunny. The temperatures have been below freezing since last week's heavy snowfall, so a Sunday afternoon stroll through Forest Hill Cemetery was not an option because the grass is still snow-covered. Instead, I decided to take a stroll around the West Mifflin and West Dayton Street area, armed with my digital camera.

Finding a free parking spot in Downtown Madison can be a challenge, even on Sunday. There were events at the Kohl Center and the Overture Center for the Arts, so parking on the west side of the square was not possible (unless you're an ace at parallel parking in tight spots, which I'm not). I finally parked on the 300 block of East Main Street, which gave me an excuse to cut through the Capitol, something I haven't done in a long time.

I took photos of all the odd-numbered houses on the 400 block of West Mifflin Street, as well as some houses on both sides of the 400 block of West Dayton Street. When I get them in order, we can have a show and tell about who lived where back when.

When I walk around with my camera, I sometimes see things I haven't noticed before. Today it was this fading brick wall advertisement on the side of a building on the 100 block of State Street. I took some photographs of it because it brought back lots of fond memories. The building used to be the YWCA. I remember going to the cafeteria with my grandparents. I loved cafeterias when I was a kid. The seemingly endless array of choices available as I pushed my tray along, trying to decide what I wanted for dinner, was truly exciting. Sometimes we ate on the ground floor, but there were also tables on a balcony overlooking the main seating and serving area.

I also remember that by the time we were in high school the cafeteria had closed, but the space was used for dances. As I recall, they were open to students from throughout the city, not just Central High School students. If some of you have more detailed recollections of these dances, please share them in a comment or send me an email so I can post them on this blog.

Mark Speltz has compiled a collection of photos of brick wall advertisements, including the one I saw today, and posted them on the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation website. Here's some of the text from the site:

Throughout Madison, historic brick wall advertisements survive the harsh elements year after year to get their messages across. A form of advertising rarely used after the 1960s, some brick wall ads are still vibrant and full of life.

Others, barely legible, appear to be ghost signs—only visible in the right light, slowly fading or flaking into the past. Silently, they evoke a nostalgic sense of products no longer available or businesses that have long since folded or moved. The signs have become part of the buildings and neighborhoods and can remind us of our community’s history.

If you'd like to see the entire photo gallery of brick wall advertisements, click HERE.

1 comment:

D Strand said...

Your tales of the YWCA made me feel like I was there, too, which, of course, I never was, but I went by that place so many times. It was one of the few buildings in that area that I had never been in. O&V's Boys Shop was next door and I went to the Rennebohm's next to it. I spent a lot of time at the YMCA on the otherside of the Capitol! I never knew they had dances there. The dances probably would have been a lot better if guys knew they were allowed inside for them!!