Thursday, January 31, 2013

signs of the inner west

Recently I went for a scavenge around the back bits of Yarraville, Spotswood and Newport. As well as glittering mountains of broken glass and massive oil depots, I found a working man's castle - more on that soon - and a fenced-off derelict street full of old factories containing piles of abandoned railway equipment and machines (that is, until the friendly but slack security guy realised I'd ambled in through the open gatehouse door). And some signs, natch. Seems my phone was in a bad mood that day so most of the pics didn't come out too well, but here are a few:

This is one I snapped some months ago in Spotswood, prior to its dissection. Here's the half-a-sign now.

The front of the Vic Railways store in Newport

VR store too. I so wish I had a zoom...that wooden board had some good writing that you can't see here.
And here's the 'castle' in Spotswood/Newport. Think it must have been a railway training centre or something. Now it's home to a textile company.

Window of the 'castle'. What's that logo?
And when you look in the window...strange contraptions from another era

Next door to the castle. Seems to be have been covered up until recently, judging by the Google Street View pic below:

Article about the Lewis & Skinner project in Victoria University's Connections mag

Here's an article about the Lewis & Skinner project (and yours truly) in an internal magazine. It's probably the best and most detailed media look at the project to date.

Note: if you click on it, you get the larger image, which is about 5mb in size:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A summery ghost sign story from Flemington, Melbourne

Shortly before Christmas, I spied the tantalising edge of a ghost sign on Flemington Road, Flemington, barely viewable high on a wall. As I dodged the traffic trying to take a photo, the owner of the building next door (a mechanic's business) turned up. His name was Matt. Here he is, with the wall to the right:

I started to talk to him. Matt, it turns out, is a lovely bloke with a strong interest in old motoring ephemera. He'd painted the old-looking signs outside his business in the 1970s, which apparently now act as settings for wedding photos and the like:

Still, the wall sign was real - an ad for Morris cars and,underneath, another for the Standard Motor Company. I told him about the Lewis and Skinner documents (see: and all the attendant old Mobil service station documents. Matt then showed me inside his garage, and some of the things he'd collected:

We made an arrangement for us to catch up after Christmas. I would then drop in to him a couple of the spare Mobil posters I'd collected from the Lewis and Skinner pile of documents, in exchange for a donation to the Aspergers technology club project I run (

That catch-up happened a couple of days ago. After dropping in the posters, Matt got out a long ladder and held it so I could make the precarious climb up his building and get a better view of the ghost sign:

So up I went, nervously, camera phone in hand. The sign is a great one - note the radiator with Morris written on the badge:

It was a serendipitous life and people-affirming encounter. Great when dead things can lead to something nice like this in the present:)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Suburban ghost signs from the four corners of Melbourne town

It's been a little while since I last posted here - I blame the Xmas/New Year frenzy. Tonight though, I finally managed to clear a backlog of signs, photographed on an aged, cracked and increasingly grumpy iPhone 2. They're not grand; more signs of local life in the 'burbs of Melbourne, little reminders of previous lives lived in the area.

Firstly, the West (Newport and Williamstown), starting with an outstanding old grocery on the Old Melbourne Road:


And here are the others from the area, starting with three from a group of (now gentrified) shops in Kingsville with a village-like feel amongst the hairdressers, cafes and converted shopfront apartments:


Early example of a fake ghost sign...side of a pub in ye olde Williamstown (re?)painted in 1986

And a few from Flemington:

This one has a story attached that I'll post about in a future post...

And now to the south - Elsternwick, Caulfield, Balaclava, Gardenvale and McKinnon. Elsternwick/South Caulfield first:

More orphaned milk bar than ghost sign, but kind of belongs here...

Deliberately preserved in Glenhuntly Road redevelopment. Has remains of Vacuum Oil Co letters on left.

On to Balaclava:

Venerable old pharmacy wall. Followed by an ad on a blotter for Brinsmead's, and a Kodak sign that sits above this one on the same wall.

The ghost signs have been like that for quite a while too. This photo (on the State Library of Victoria site) is from 1976:

Now for Gardenvale:

and finally, McKinnon:

On to the northern suburbs - Abbotsford, Collingwood, a few more from Fitzroy/Carlton. Abbotsford:

Uncovered in a back street. Had to stand on a skip bin to take the pic. I think it says Witch Soap (lots of need for soap in Abbotsford once upon a time? See on...)

Closeup of last sign.

And on the back of the building...see next pic.

Collingwood (two taken in hurry from inside moving car):


North Carlton:

Or maybe the last two were Abbotsford? Can't remember...

Inside a hairdresser's on Lygon St north. Started taking a pic of this beautifully preserved sign from outside and they invited me in.

And finally, one each from Preston, Reservoir, the CBD and somewhere in the east (forget where..snapped in transit):

Cement and potatoes? They had diversified business models in Reservoir...