Why was this ghost sign in Chelsea covered up?

Ephemeral reader Steven O. recently sent me a photo of ghostly signage above a storefront at 180 Ninth Avenue.

Fika, the Swedish coffee chain, had occupied the spot and then moved—leaving behind the faded lettering of what appears to be a 19th century store advertising oils, glass, varnish, and other supplies possibly sold by a ship chandler.

The lettering reminded me of the faded outline of the old sign for Utah House, a hotel from the 1850s at Eighth Avenue and 25th Street—which came back into view briefly in 2013 during a building renovation.

Intrigued that the Ninth Avenue sign could also be from the 1850s, I visited the storefront, which is in a red-brick tenement building . . . only to see the lettering covered by black boards.

A little research looking into this address during the 19th century didn’t turn up any store that sounded like they would be selling these items. A poultry dealer, a fruit stand, and possibly a merchant selling corn salve all occupied the site.

But whatever business this was, what a shame that a remnant of New York history is once again out of view.

The Facebook group Ghost Signs has more on this and other old signage in New York and other locations.

[Photo credit: Simone Weissman]

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14 Responses to “Why was this ghost sign in Chelsea covered up?”

  1. Bob Says:

    Matthew J. Kuhnert
    March 11, 2015 at 10:59 AM
    “Several editions of Trow’s New York Directory for the 1870s and 1880s list Levi L. Livingston’s paint business at 180 Ninth Avenue. According to his obituary in the New York Times (February 28, 1882, page 7), he helped to organize the Association of Master Painters and was well regarded as a decorative painter. In his later years, Livingston had lucrative contracts to provide painting services for companies that operated steamships and elevated railroads in the city.”

    Posted at http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2015/03/under-doros.html?showComment=1426085975794&m=1#c8148874355006811223

  2. Ty Says:

    Livingston & Jones
    House, Sign and Decorative Painters
    No. 180 Ninth-Avenue
    Cor. Twenty-first Street, New York

    Dealers in Paints, Oils, Glass, Varnish, etc. Public and Private Buildings Painted, Papered and Decorated with Artistic Taste and Dispatch.

    John Jones residing at 403 w 21
    Levi L Livingston

    Gouldings Business Directory of New York 1873-1877

  3. Ty Says:

    Beat me to it.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you both for your research! If only we could peel back more of these 19th century signs.

  5. Zoe Says:

    Love this post.

    The old gold lettered handpainted signage was so subtle & beautiful. I wish more people would bring it back.

  6. Simone Weissman Says:

    Thanks for the credit.

  7. Mark Says:

    If you are interested in NY Ghost Signs check out Ghostsignsofnewyork on Instagram. There are over 200 ghost signs pictured there.

  8. Rick white Says:


    Answers for you!

  9. Ty Says:

    Daytonian says this was once a less-than-reputable bar and poolroom. If I opened a bar there I’d just keep the name Isaac L Livingston’s Paints and Varnishes and leave the sign uncovered,

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