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Where are Ghost Signs in South Australia?

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. adelaideunearthed.blogspot.com.au/
Published October 20th 2017
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Ghost Signs on an Abandoned Hotel Near the Flinders Ranges


A ghost sign is usually an old hand-painted advertising sign that has been on a building for decades. I'm going to use a more relaxed interpretation for this article - it can include any signs from many years ago, including fading ads, and old painted brick ads.

Almost wherever you go in South Australia you can find ghost signs, but some locations are more likely to have them. Country areas are the best places to look for old signs, but you will find plenty of painted ads on brick walls around Port Adelaide. Other suburbs with old heritage buildings also often have antique advertising signs, but you can still be lucky and find vintage signs lingering in forgotten places almost anywhere.

What I like best about ghost signs is the clues that they give to our hidden history, leading us to uncover some of Adelaide's best-kept secrets. Sometimes it takes just a barely visible word or two on a painted brick ad to discover things of interest from the past. Let's take a quick look at some places where we found ghost signs, and invite you to share your locations with us.

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Gerard & Goodmans Faded Sign in Adelaide


Ghost Signs in Adelaide City
One of the best-known ghost signs in Adelaide was the huge painted sign advertising Gerard and Goodman off Rundle Street. That iconic building has now been demolished, but you can find other antique signs in Adelaide CBD.

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Painted Signs for Conqueror Tobacco in Light Square Adelaide


Tobacco use was once very common, and you can still see a huge painted sign for Conqueror Tobacco Works on the side of an 1880's building in Light Square. A century later the building became Cobbs Restaurant, where topless waitresses served high ranking Courts Department executives and other corporate high fliers.

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Once City Mission Hall in Light Square Adelaide


A few steps away, look for a brick ad on the facade of the former City Mission Hall. A 1878 lecture here preached How to manage a baby, but by the 1990's the hall was Regines nightclub - an upmarket place for gay boys and girls to play in a way that would have shocked the original owners.

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Faded Ads on Compton Street Adelaide


I have never discovered much about the metropolitan Saw Works and its faded sign on Compton Street, but it was also the location of Bert Edward's cafe - part of a more notorious dark history of Adelaide.

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Walk Round Corners - Port Adelaide


Painted Brick Ads at Port Adelaide
One curious vintage sign in Port Adelaide admonishes us to "Walk around corners", although I have always wondered why it's located there. Was it once a black spot for pedestrian accidents?

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Elders Wool Store Port Adelaide


Other painted signs in the Port are grander, epitomising the importance and wealth of companies such as the faded sign seen on the massive Elders wool store Port Adelaide.

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South Australian Country Arts Port Adelaide


The more modern South Australian Country Arts building sign may not be of venerable age, but is quite distinctive in its own way. Take a short stroll around Port Adelaide and you can easily uncover many more of these vintage artworks.

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Decorative Painted Ads on Mitcham Hotel


Ghost Signs in Other Suburbs
One of my favourite old painted signs adorns the former 1850 Mitcham Hotel, later a temperance hotel. It's had some love and a lick of paint in recent years, and appears quite authentic.

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Peeling Paint on Dance Polynesia Sign


A ghost sign advertising a Polynesian dance academy on Torrens Road has lost much of its flaking paint over the years. I wonder whether they still offer lessons.

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Mitsubishi High Speed Test Track Enamel Sign


You wouldn't expect to find much heritage in the former Chrysler and Mitsubishi factory at Tonsley. A fading enamel sign on a fence is a blast from the past, warning us to keep away from the Mitsubishi high-speed test track.

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Yacka General Store


Country Ghost Signs in South Australia
Old signs abound in many country towns, but near the Flinders Ranges you will find many painted brick ads. Abandoned shops and businesses often show fading pictures of long-forgotten products like Rosella sauce, Amscol ice cream, Bushell's tea and Woodies lemonade.

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Disused Toilet in a Forgotten Town


While a brick toilet in a forgotten town has partly fallen down, the "Men" sign still clings to the side of the building.

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Wrought Iron Sign on Limestone Coast


A factory in a ghost town on the Limestone Coast of South Australia still has its trademark sign in wrought iron on its gates.

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Blue Lake Oatmeal Mill


In Mount Gambier the painted ghost sign on the century-old Blue Lake Oatmeal Mill has almost faded beyond recognition. The building grimly hangs on for survival.

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Derelict Water Tank at Abandoned Railway Station


Fading Ads Near Derelict Railways
Abandoned railway stations and train infrastructure offer rich pickings for enthusiastic sign hunters. Most old steam engine water tanks have painted ads for soap or tobacco still visible from a distance.

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Disused Railway Crossing in Flinders Ranges


Old signs for level crossing sometimes stand sentry long after the railway line itself has disappeared from abandoned railway stations.

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Abandoned Store 1878


Even More Ghost Signs in South Australia
During last year's History Festival the History Trust started an online project to showcase ghost signs which you can see here.

Do you know of other old brick ads and faded painted signs in SA? We'd love for you to share them with us in the comments.

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Hills Feature Fences at Tonsley


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Great ghost sign hunting Dave. Love your photos
by May Cross (score: 2|820) 22 days ago
do not knowany in Adelaide but in my home port of Port Adelaide there are too many to shake at. we even had one living in two of the houses we occupied.
by janic (score: 0|8) 27 days ago

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