Like whispers from the past, or phantom apparitions, a handful of almost unreadable ghost signs can still be found on a scattering of brick buildings in Lowertown Saint Paul.

A ghost sign, or “brickad,” is a hand-painted advertisement. Once bold hucksters, they announced store names, services and products. Some of them were painted over a hundred years ago. Now they are faded, peeled, and bleached from constant exposure to sun and rain, heat and cold. Faint, almost invisible, they have a ghostly ethereal quality that speaks of a different time, before television and the internet. 

These muted signs tell the city’s story. They remind us of our heritage and those who came before us, the ones who forged the way into the present.

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Marianne McNamara is a retired jack of all trades turned writer living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Find her at

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