Minneapolis Ghost Sign Map

This blog will be home to a once-a-day post of Minneapolis ghost signs. While others have already captured many of the ghost and vintage signs throughout the city, I have not found a website that focuses solely on Minneapolis and comprehensively documents its collection of old hand-painted advertisements. If you know of a hidden ghost sign gem, I’d love to hear about it. My hope, like others, is to capture these painted signs before they are lost to new development, or further faded by the sun.


One thought on “Minneapolis Ghost Sign Map

  1. Hi,

    Your coverage of the history of the Grain Belt Beer Sign is the best I have read. Now that I am about to complete a sale of the Sign and property to Schell Brewing it might be timely for you to watch the evolution of restoration and relighting, and accordingly add new text to keep things up to date. Also, I would like to see a correction made to your existing posting. The person you see in the video is not Bill Eastman but rather myself, Winthrop Eastman. At the time of the re-lighting, Mayor Fraser (being a politician) didn’t get the facts right and referred to me as Bill. Perhaps that’s the origin of the error.

    I would also like an addition made. Where you write about the consolidation of the various local breweries it should be noted that it was William W. Eastman who did this and thus formed the Minneapolis Brewing Company (MBC). MBC has some unique history of its own including the fact that MBC also bought and built many taverns in and around the Twin Cities where MBC’s beers were sold exclusively. In the blue collar mill areas of town, Eastman came up with the idea of Happy Hours where food was free and the beer was cheap. A number of these taverns went one step further to satisfy the needs of patron workers — brothels occupied a second floor above the tavern. In searching around Minneapolis for these taverns a number of years ago I found one and noted a beautiful stained glass window above the front door. The stained glass depicted the famous Grain Belt logo. It was my understanding from family lore, that such windows graced the doorways of all such taverns.

    In the early days of Minneapolis and St. Anthony, Nicollet Island was ideally situated to take advantage of the tremendous water power of the Mississippi River due to St. Anthony Falls just to the south. William W. Eastman saw that potential and purchased almost all of Nicollet Island. He built a beautiful mansion-style family home there and proceeded to develop mills for lumber and flour, real estate including the now restored flats on Grove Street, and many homes for workers in the mills and at his other businesses. As the dynamic of industrial change occured, Eastman’s heirs divested themselves of much of their holdings on the Island with the exception of the small piece where the Grain Belt Beer Sign stands today. It was held on to because of its value for billboard advertising and then, eventually a place to relocate the famous Beer Sign. For many years four large billboards stood back-to-back immediately to the south of the Beer Sign. In addition, a large, back-lighted billboard was mounted on the east-facing side of the Beer Sign. These signs all produced a good revenue stream for the Eastmans until Hennepin County used the statute of emminent domain to take the land under the billboards in order to build the new suspension bridge.

    The billboard on the east-facing side of the Beer Sign is tilted at an angle. Many people see that and think the sign is falling down. But in reality, it was designed at that angle on purpose for the effect. Many efforts have been made over the years by the Eastman’s to gain permission for a variation in current signage ordinances to put that billboard back in service for the express purpose of using the derived revenue to maintain the Beer Sign and get it relighted. At one time the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) which in a sense “rules” everthing on the Islland, acquiesced and granted permission for such use. But people and politics are in a constant state of change and the current HPC is not in favor of that use. Furthermore, with the advent of the many new up-scale high-rise condominiums and apartments that look down upon the Sign, opposition to such a billboard (and even to the Beer Sign itself) is voiced by a small number of the residents because it interferes with the aesthetics of their view.

    And so it goes. We are hopeful that Schell Brewing and the Preservation Alliance will be able to raise sufficient monies for the restoration and maintenance on a long-term basis. We are also hopeful to that objective that the east-facing billboard will be allowed once again. Revenue from that sign would materially benefit the cost of operating the Beer Sign. In closing, it should be noted that restoration will/must include lighting using LEDs. Though there is a higher front-end capital cost of using LED lighting, the operating cost will be reduced by as much as 80%. Without LEDs it is doubtful that relighting and restoration could even be considered.

    Please let me know if you receive this and are willing to make the corrections and additions. Again, thanks for the great coverage.

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