WELLINGTON — For more than 100 years, a sign advertising an early cornerstone business in Wellington had been hidden. Today, through the magic of modern technology, people in other countries have been watching the restoration of the sign on YouTube.
The "ghost sign" — 15 feet high, 50 feet long and 36 feet above the ground — on the now vacant building at 120 S. Washington advertised the Jacob Engle Dry Goods Store, opened in 1892 by Jacob Engle, a German immigrant. In about 1915, the Masonic Lodge building was constructed next to the building, so close that it obscured the sign from view. A 2018 earthquake led to the old Freemason building being demolished and the dry goods store sign was seen again. It was faded but still visible.
"There was no air between the buildings," said Colette Kocour, wife of David Carr, a great-grandson of Engle. "The sign wasn’t exposed to the elements."
When Laura Lombardi, of Wellington, bought the building, Kocour and Carr talked to her about restoring the sign. They talked with Carr’s father, Francis Carr, Engle’s grandson, about the idea, but he died in 2019, before he could see the project take off.
Garrison Hullinger, of Portland, Ore., is the principal designer restoring the sign.
"We wanted to preserve the nostalgic integrity of the sign by duplicating the original colors as closely as possible," Hullinger said in a statement. "These signs were painted with house paint and since there are no color photos available, we researched 1800s paint samples and compared them to the remaining wall pigments to get a color match."
A Lawrence company, PROSOCO, is putting a special acrylic coating over the paint "so it will last another hundred years," Lombardi said. Restoration of the sign will take about two weeks.
The restoration process can be followed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2hmPuOCQFLTizKSyczNgeQ.