black sheep

Today’s post are two ghost signs that I have come across that stopped me in my tracks. While walking along Congress Ave. in Austin, I spotted the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Co. building. This building, built in 1886 and the city’s first telephone building, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The letters at the top just kill me. The ones that remain are clinging on for dear life and the impression of the letters that once were there are tragically beautiful. Here’s a close up:

While in Albuquerque, I saw this side of the building and may or may not have had to climb a fence to get the rest of these pictures:

Here’s some history on this building:

Southwestern Brewery was formed in 1888. The five-story brewery or barrel house was one of several buildings, including a stable, built on the site in 1899. Its mainstay beer was named Glorieta, which sold for a nickel in a tall mug at local saloons with names like the White Elephant, Free & Easy and Bucket of Blood. Southwestern Brewery also made ice, which was standard procedure for breweries in those days to keep the beer cold. The brewing stopped in 1917, when New Mexico became one of the first states to enact prohibition. The company became Western Ice and Bottling Co., in the process switching to making distilled water. When prohibition ended in December 1933, the company didn’t restart brewing. Miami Beach, Fla.-based Southeastern Public Service Co. bought the operation in 1948 and continued making ice and providing cold storage of goods for decades. In the summer of 1981, the company employed 19 people and was selling 20-23 tons of ice a day. The operation continued under different ownership before finally closing in 1997, when the Maloof family bought the property. In February 1998, a one-story warehouse next to the former brewery burned, threatening nearby buildings and tying up traffic because of high winds. The former brewery itself was just slightly damaged.
In the aftermath of the fire, there was some alarm raised over the potential fate of the five-story building, including the possibility of an owner tearing it down. Although listed on several registries of historic places, the building was said at the time to have no special protection from being demolished.

These letters somehow look like long lost cousins of the telephone company and I’m going to go ahead and guess that the ampersand is the black sheep of the family.


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