Last August, I drove by a building on 412 Broadway in Schenectady – only to see hazard tape surrounding it. Construction crews coming in and out of the facility. I really hope it isn’t what I think it could be… but then again, I won’t know if I don’t ask. Hey, there’s a hardhat construction worker. Let’s ask.
[hdnfactbox title=”Coca-Cola Ghost Sign”]
- This ghost sign was hand-painted on the building at 412 Broadway in Schenectady. This building was once a clothing store, and later tenants included a typewriter repair shop and a tool rental facility.
- The street also had a building with two Uneeda Biscuit hand-painted signs on it; that building was demolished in 2012.
- Ghost signs were old brickface painted ads that have, in most cases, outlasted their original advertising products.[/hdnfactbox]
“The building’s coming down,” the construction worker said to me.
Oh crap. Not again.
Now I’ve fallen for the “construction worker doesn’t know what he’s talking about” before, when I was told that the old Uneeda Biscuit sign along State Street was due for a removal, only to later find out that the owner of the building – the new Mexican Radio restaurant – was going to preserve the structure rather than erase it.
But no such dice. The construction workers told me that the building was being demolished; the tool rental place was closed; the residential tenants inside were evicted; and the only thing left to do was to remove all the asbestos before knocking this bad boy to the ground.
Well, you say that’s the only thing left to do.
Me… I’ve seen these buildings come down in the past. The Latham Water Tower. Trinity Church. St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ve chronicled their demolition and erasure.
This time, however… it’s personal.
See, this Coca-Cola building, with its 100-year-old hand-painted ghost sign, was an excellent subject for my burgeoning photography experiments. And with that in mind, I’m kinda saddened that the structure is coming down. Yeah, I wish that the building could remain standing, or that the façade could be relocated.
But I wasn’t asked to be part of those decisions. I’m not the building owner. And I’m not in a position to buy the building. And would the building matter if it DIDN’T have a Coca-Cola advert on it, if it was just a nondescript building along a nondescript section of Schenectady?
My mind flashes back to the first time I encountered this building.
It’s 2010, and I’ve started experimenting with my splitfilm technique – cramming two rolls of 35mm film into a 120-format plastic Holga camera and shooting. My target? An old ghost sign in Schenectady.
You might recognize it.
Yep. That one. This was my first truly successful “splitfilm” photo, and it would later claim an Honorable Mention ribbon at the New York State Fair. I’ve gone back to photo this building several times, using different films and different photography techniques.
So after I heard that the building was to be demolished, I tried to take a few more pictures of it – at least to continue doing so until the building was finally on its last moments.
AUGUST 26, 2015: Kodak HIE infrared film, shot in Minolta x370s camera.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2015: Afternoon shot with Nimslo 4-lens camera, Kodak expired 100 film.
//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsSEPTEMBER 2, 2015: Morning shot with Nikon EM camera, 50mm f/1.8 pancake lens, Revolog “Volvox” film that produces little green bubbles on the print.
And then… at the end of September… the building was gone forever, like the last warm days of summer. The demolition was complete. All that remained were a heap of century-old painted bricks and the memories of an old advertisement. Yeah, try to get Coca-Cola for five cents these days. What’s that the equivalent of, a couple of teaspoons worth in 2015 dollars?
Still, I got my photos… I wish I had taken more. Heck, the shots with Volvox “green bubble” film was still in my camera, undeveloped; waiting for a few more last-minute photos to be captured on that roll.
But even if I wanted to take one more image… one more ultrawide, one more infrared, one more HDR photo… there was no more “one more” for this subject.
Still, after all the years of capturing this century-old advertisement, I still had the photos that I was able to finally capture.
And in the end… I suppose that’s all that matters, doesn’t it?