Friday, 12 August 2016

Take the Ghost Signs Tour

This Sunday is your second last chance to take the Ghost Signs tour.

What exactly is a "Ghost Sign" You ask? No, no, it isn't anything paranormal.

This is a Ghost Sign.

Sign Located at 123 Princess Street (South.) Source: Ghostsigns.ca Gallery
Winnipeg is full of Ghost Signs. Some of them, like the one above, are still fairly legible. Others, not so much.

Sign Location: 87 Princess Street (South.) Source: Ghostsigns.ca Gallery
Matt Cohen is a member of the Advertising Association of Winnipeg. Cohen got interested in the city's fading signs in 2014, as part of a project he did with the Ad Association. After the initial spark, Cohen began delving into the history of Ghost Signs extensively. He took it upon himself to begin cataloguing the Exchange District's Ghost signs. He found out there are approximately 150 Ghost Signs in the Exchange District.

Conservation of Ghost Signs made headlines earlier this summer when Red River College covered the sign on the Union Bank Tower, now home to the College's Patterson GlobalFoods Institute.

The Royal Bank of Canada Sign on the Union Bank Tower. Now covered.

The Union Bank Tower is an especially important building. It is the oldest survive "Skyscraper" in Canada. Although at only 10 storeys it is dwarfed by modern day skyscrapers, at the time of its construction in 1903, 10 storeys was a big deal. The building is a Chicago-style build, and officially opened in 1904. In 1925, The Royal Bank of Canada bought the building from the Union Bank and put their sign up on the tower. The building sat vacant from the time RBC left for a new location in 1992, to the time Red River College purchased re opened it in 2013. The building now houses the culinary and hospitality programs, as well as dorm units for students.

The College says covering the sign was always part of their plan for the building when they bought it. They received a special permit from the city to allow them to cover the sign. The new sign was placed over the old one instead of painted on so that the old sign can be preserved. It's still there, just hidden from view.

Red River College begins covering the sign. The sign is now completely covered.
Photo taken by Brent Bellamy
Although it is unfortunate to see a piece of heritage covered up, there are still ~149 Ghost Signs in the Exchange District available for your appreciation.

And what better way to appreciate them then with a guided tour given by our city's own Ghost Sign Expert?

The Advertising Association of Winnipeg have been running guided walking tours in the summer months with Matt Cohen as the tour guide to educate Winnipeggers about these signs. For those who spend a lot of time in The Exchange District, the signs can easily become part of the background. For those who don't spend a lot of time in the Exchange, the signs likely aren't on their radar.

But every sign has a story, and you can discover them. Tours are 90 minutes in length, and begin at 3 pm. The cost is $20 per person. You have two more opportunities to take the tour: this Sunday August 14, and Sunday August 28.

The businesses behind these signs played crucial roles in shaping not only the Exchange District, but Winnipeg itself.

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