Latest 'ghost sign' brings history to life

Posted: Sep. 5, 2019 5:06 pm

HANNIBAL — Hannibal artist Bob Allen applied details to his third "ghost sign" Wednesday on the exterior wall at 308 N. Main St., channeling the appearance of painted advertisements from years ago and commemorating Hannibal's bicentennial.

The depiction of a ladies shoe features the slogan "All Styles The Finest Ladies Shoes Made." Allen crafted the sign from a framed advertisement inside the building owned by Carol Cox. He said Cox paid for the supplies and granted him permission to create the ghost sign — joining a bear and barrel logo from the former Hannibal Lime Co. at 323 N. Main St. and an advertisement for the Diamond Jo Line Steamers at 120 N. Third St.

Before the bicentennial committee officially formed, members Allen and Jim Waddell discussed painting ghost signs as a way to celebrate Hannibal's 200th birthday. Allen thanked each of the building owners for allowing him to create glimpses into a bygone era.

"It means a lot that they're giving up something, it's not just me," Allen said. "Because they be advertising for themselves."

So far, Allen has spent about two weeks off and on, applying various details and layers of paint to create the advertisement. The background's different colors mimic the time-worn appearance of multiple layers of paint showing through. Years ago, painters mixed muted, dry pigments with varnish to create their paints — Allen said the lack of bright colors helped minimize fading and likely cut down on costs.

Allen added a unique local touch to the sign — "For Sale at 304 N. Main St." — and he expressed his joy to create artwork that "looks like it belongs" in the historic downtown area.

"It'll be up there for years, it won't be just a one-day thing," Allen said. "I'm hoping it will be up here for at least 50 years."






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Harold R. Gordon, 96, of Hannibal, passed away at 2:26 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, at Willow Care Center in Hannibal. Funeral services are pending at the James O'Donnell Funeral Home in Hannibal.