Ghost signs in Petoskey come back to life

Sep 21, 2017

If you walk through downtown Petoskey, you might notice some old advertising murals on the sides of a few buildings. 

One of them is on the Coburn building on Mitchell Street. The mural is a weathered patchwork of ads for companies that used to occupy the building, like H.A. Easton Hardware and Cook Electric Company.

The mural had almost entirely faded away, until a local artist decided to restore it.

 

Äbby Kent works on repainting a mural on the Coburn building in downtown Petoskey.
Credit Matt Mikus

Äbby Kent specializes in site specific murals. She says the city of Petoskey wanted to keep the historic look of the signs. 

"They wanted to maintain an aged and older look, since the last sign had been painted around 1939," she says.

 

The Coburn building was built in 1893, and housed a number of different stores and businesses.

Äbby says the paint had chipped and peeled, but it left behind a kind of stain or outline.

"It’s a ghost sign," she says. "There may had been only one little chip of color left in a grout line or mortar line." 

Initially, Äbby launched an online crowdfunding campaign to pay for the restoration but she wasn't able to raise enough money. That's when the Redder family approached her about funding the project.

"Their father had passed away, and he loved Petoskey," she says. "They wanted to honor him in a way that gave back to the city."

Äbby Kent says she hopes this sign gets more people involved and interested in other old murals, including one that's for the Normal Business College, also located downtown.

 

"If anybody would like to be a part of that restoration, it’s definitely on the table," she says.