Monday, January 23, 2012

Forgotten Streetcar "Then & Now"

This old streetcar had been long forgotten by the time I took my first photograph of it in 1991. I had long been fascinated by the wonderful textures created by weather wearing on an old building or, in this case, an abandoned streetcar. At the time, I was trying to photograph anything old, dilapidated, rusting, or peeling. I would drive endlessly around Baltimore looking for that perfect abandoned building or place. I found this old streetcar on Falls Road in the winter after it had been revealed by the leafless trees. I had driven by that way almost daily for years and never noticed it sitting back and behind the rusting hulk of the old Lombard Street bridge. Although the scan is pretty bad, the photo has always been one of my favorites and has hung in my living room for 20 years. When I started this blog my partner mentioned that I should do a "then and now" about this streetcar. My first thought was "no" because what was left of it that I could see from driving by, looked to be very little. I changed my mind one day and finally got out to take another picture, 20 years after the first. I was amazed! I noticed right away that the small trees on the right side of the picture had grown large enough to actually tilt the streetcar off to it's side a bit. The roof had caved in from many years of storms and the rust spots had grown bigger. Things had also been piled up around it, to further obscure it from the road. I have no idea what type of streetcar this is, but it looks similar to these old Peter Witt cars. If anyone knows more about it, please let me know!

Streetcar 1991
Streetcar 2011
March 8 2012, UPDATE:
I asked a contact on Flickr who is very knowledgeable about old Baltimore Transit to take a look at this post to see if he knew anything about this streetcar. Here's what he had to say:

Dear Kris,
This car is actually a steel trailer streetcar from the 1920s. It had no motors or controls. It was pulled behind a regular motorized streetcar. The transit company ran trains of streetcars of up to 3 cars similar to the light rail today. The trailers were quite heavy and were difficult to pull since the streetcars that operated here were not heavy duty enough for them. As a result they were pulled from service in 1932. The car in your photo sat on Reisterstown Rd. for many years and was the home of "Jacks Vegetable Stand". I remember seeing it out there. It now rests in a sad state of deterioration on Falls Rd. at the streetcar museum.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Baltimore is Haunted

 Baltimore has many ghosts. You may have walked or driven by them a million times and not noticed them. They are mostly faded, worn out and sometimes so old you can't make out what they are trying to tell you. They are ghost signs...painted wall advertisements of products or businesses that are, in most cases, no longer in existence. Over the years painted wall signs lost their edge because of cheaper ways to advertise, such as billboards and plastic signs. It took a good combination of technical skill, artistic talent and physical strength to create painted wall signs. The companies that painted these signs sometimes painted their company name at the side or the bottom of the advertisement but individual artist names have been lost to time. According to LaShelle Bynum, there where 5 main companies in Baltimore that where popular in the early to mid 1900s. They were Morton, Park, Globe, Prichett and Chevery. The painters that worked for these companies were called "wall dogs".
Below is a selection of some of my favorite ghost signs in Baltimore that I have picked out of the hundreds of photographs I have taken of these "ghosts".

Houck's Shoe House, Chase St. and Greenmount Ave.
New Academy Hotel, West Franklin St.

Thirsty? Just Whistle, South Eden St.

5 cent Sensation Tabacco, B.L. Harp Groceries, North Curley St.

Silverman & Sons Co., West Baltimore St.
Adam's Pepsin Gum, L.G. Eberhardt Druggist, West Lexington St.
Diamonds Watches Radios, State St.
Syrup of Figs, E.T. Merryman Groceries, Pennsylvania Ave.
A. Chaudron & Sons Glass, Lovegrove St.
C.D. Kenny Co. Teas Coffees and Sugars, South Arlington Ave.
Bloch Bros Trade Mark, Fort Ave.

This one one, under the metal siding, is left a mystery. You can still decipher some letters and words that where once painted on the upper right side of the siding, though. East Fayette St.
Chocolate Co., South Calvert St.
Knoblock's Store, Hollins St.
Cabinet and Mill Works, North Paca St.
Gross & Stoops Carriage Works, West Saratoga St.
A. Hoen Lithographers, East Biddle St.
Belding's Silk, West Baltimore St.
Quaker Oats, Drink Coca-Cola, Belair Rd.

Visit my Flickr page for more Baltimore ghost signs.