Before the days of neon signs and digital billboards, businesses used good old fashioned paint on brick walls for advertising. Cheap, efficient and changeable, these fading painted treasures still exist in parts of Peoria.
I started my Sign Language tour at the foot of Hamilton Boulevard and Water driving south until it ends on State Street near WTVP studios. I then followed Wasington to where it curves into Adams Street. Then I followed Adams back downtown ending at Main Street.
It’s amazing the amount of signage I discovered in just that short of distance, maybe one mile in length. There were a few I passed on just because they were too faded to read.
Interesting how many local manufacturers flourished in the pre-megastore concept. That can't all be blamed on Wal-Mart. 100 years ago Woolworth's and Kresge's dime store had the idea of one manufacturer for all of their stores. As those stores spread across the country, less local manufacturers existed. Woolworth's I believe are all gone, Kresge's put the "K" in K-Mart. So maybe Wal-Mart may not last forever. One can hope.
Let's start our journey in a mindset when streets were simply named after trees, presidents, states or just plain numbers. Off we go...
The Illinois Antique Center was a long standing classic riverfront mainstay that unfortunately closed two years ago. Owned by Dan and Kim Phillips they bought the building in the '90's during the heyday of antique malls. The building has much of the original interior when it was a warehouse nearly 100 years ago; brick walls, sturdy steel beams and high ceilings. It looks to have been a Cohen's Furniture warehouse possibly in the 70's or 80's. The antique center was originally located two blocks up in the Murray Building.
The Murray building earned it's current day name when Murray's discount store resided there in the 70's. Similar to a K's Merchandise, it was the place to get clock radios, eight track players, porcelain knick-knacks and discount booze. When it closed the Illinois Antique Center moved to the second floor. After they departed, Water Street Dance company took over. The bottom floor is now a cool used record store, Ribbon Records. Murray's had a different name in the '60's which I can't recall, Peoria Liquidators? If any recalls it please post.
The Franklin Hackshaw Plymouth building is next door to the Murray building located under the Bob Michael Bridge.
Also on Water Street, near Kelleher's and Rhodell's Brewery, is cool vintage sign that I couldn't quite make out.
Turning up to Washington Street near the post office is the old Sealtest dairy. This was at one time rumored to be converted to a night club a few years ago but nothing materialized. Hopefully with the warehouse district re-hab maybe something will happen.
Heading north on Washington is the former Used But Nice which sold used home and office furniture. Also notice the sign for yet another Cohen's Furniture warehouse.
We took a little diversion to Oak Street in between Washington and Adams. Uneeda Biscuit started in 1899 which had the first ad campaign for pre-packaged food. It later turned into Nabisco.
The next building is the Julien Hotel on 724 SW Adams, a classic flophouse for SRO's or single room occupancy.
Jobst Wholesale Grocer supplied mom and pop Peoria stores until the 1930's.
A faded sign from years ago hyping buggies and carriages.
Heading further south on Washington and Pecan we visit the classic International Harvester Building. Built in 1914 the five story structure is on the National Historic Structures list. Next to it is the one story add-on built in 1925.
After International Harvester left, Illinois News Service took over the buildings. Illinois News Service was the main distributor of all books and periodicals in the Peoria area (including POP magazine). The Seidler family owned that business as well as the Book Emporium chain and Hallmark stores.
Peoria Cordage is just the next corner across the street. It is also the National Historic list. The company started in 1888 for the area's insatiable demand for twine.
I couldn't find any history on the Peoria Warehousing Facilities building on Greenlawn and Adams. The bottom floor houses River City Auctions. I believe it was built originally for railroad offices.
Driving further on Washington we blend into Adams Street and head back to downtown. I spot K's Carpet Country near Western. This was a major discount carpet dealer in the ‘70's and ‘80's.
The Coca Cola bottling facility at 2421 SW Adams now Performance Pattern and Machine.
Vintage signage for Advanced Shade at 1213 SW Adams.
The Madison Theater on the Main Street side with limestone engraving.