Butte News

Jan 21, 2013 10:26 PM by Katy Harris - MTN News

Butte historical officials trying to preserve ghost signs

BUTTE - Butte possesses around 100 ghost signs, and many of them are weathering away.

"There's very few collections like what we have here. We need to take a more active effort to take care of them going into the future," says Historical Preservation Officer Jim Jarvis.

The heyday of these signs, painted directly on buildings in the days before blinking billboards, ran from 1900 to 1920, but some date from as late as the 1950s. They are found from the flats to Walkerville, but about 30 are uptown.

The signs have been a discussion topic for a few decades because they're fading away.

Jarvis said the signs could be left to their natural state, and gradually disappear.

"We don't want to lose them totally due to weathering, but by the same token we don't want to give a false impression by making them look shiny, new," he said.

Or, for $10,000 to $15,000 the ghost signs could be repainted.

"There are professionals that specialize in that field of very gently kind of cleaning and repainting the signs," says Jarvis.

A third option is to have them touched up with a protective coating and still have that weathered look for $25,000 to $30,000. Jarvis said it would be much like fine-art restoration.

Several signs are painted on privately owned buildings, and the historic preservation office will have to work with property owners to preserve the signs.

Jarvis will make plans once he knows what kind of funding the city will get.

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