Sign Appears in
Downtown St. Petersburg
Architectural Tattoo as Historic Relicby
Rufus St. Claire
TE Photos, August 2012
The Brothers Ermatinger point
to their grandfather's name.|
discovery of a “new” ghost sign is to a signage appreciator what the discovery
of a vintage car hidden in a barn is to a collector. Numbed by the onslaught of
signage one is subjected to every day, it’s a wonder this one was noticed at all,
let alone, being featured “above the fold” of the local newspaper (albeit the
Painted on the side wall of what is currently the Central
Coffee Shoppe, this sign dates to the late 20s or early thirties. It was an era
when a woman might receive a box of “Wisteria Candies” from a natty suitor in
a Panama hat.
Just cattycorner from St. Petersburg’s 1929 Kress building
(in great shape, by the way), the sign had been hidden behind a neighboring building
– that has just been demolished.
Tom, John and Lois Ermatinger found out
about the sign when their phones started “ringing off the hook” (a fittingly antiquated
phrase). Observant friends and clients (Lois is a realtor) recognized the brother’s
surname on the sign's photo in the paper.
Could they be related? They
could. They are.
John and Lois Ermatinger
Although the brothers
(native St. Petersburghers) were well aware that their grandfather had been in
the clothing business at a nearby downtown address, they were unaware he had once
been at this address. It was like discovering a new photo in the family
Our personal visit to the sign was delayed for various reasons
and it wasn’t until dusk when we finally got there. Serendipitously, we found
the brothers (and John’s wife Lois) in the act of recording the appearance digitally.
If it wasn’t for the brothers pointing to the sign, they may have gone unrecognized
as just enthusiastic ghost sign aficionados.
the new structure will rise and once again the sign will be hidden from view.
Like a meteor shower, it was a brief appearance. The sign’s “day in the sun” will
indeed be measured in diurnal units. Here and gone. But in the age of the Internet,
it’s appearance has at least been noted and preserved. (Maybe there are legions
of people worldwide researching Wisteria confectionaries.)
| A similar appearance
of a sign occurred in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the late 1990s when a fire destroyed
a building there. A sign for Owl Cigars that filled the entire wall of a neighboring
building was, due to use of leaded paint, as bright as the day it was painted.
Today it adds quaintness to Hot Springs even as people question its authenticity
due to the vibrant color. Although the sign is a pristine example of its ilk,
sadly, it missed being included in the book “Ghost Signs of Arkansas.”|
there really are book on Ghost Signs.
The salvage operation and razing
of the building next door (last incarnation as a Jazz club, so we were told) has
closed the Central Coffee Shoppe temporarily. Before long, things will be back
to normal and the breakfast conversation might occasional drift to “the day the
Our thanks to Tom, John and Lois for sharing their
story. It was our first experience in meeting native-born St. Petersburgers (if
that’s the official designation) and from their candor and friendliness – we feel
St. Petersburg should do all that it can to produce more natives.
bricks in the rear alley reveal another untold historic story. |
|Book Hotel Here