Chris Brown of b Architecture Studio is the architect that is working on the rehabilitation of the storefronts on the Vertullo Building. As a part of his research for the project, he and his team had to undertake a significant investigation of 19th century signage in order to ascertain what would be appropriate for the building. In the process they learned a great deal about the history of fonts, as well as the architectural history of storefronts. Chris kindly shared some of the information that he has gathered in this blog post. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we have.
Precedent-Evolution of 19th Century Commercial Signage
Not all early 19th century buildings had richly ornamental storefronts, still it was common for a commercial first floor to be much more ornamental than the above floors. Buildings were often of similar heights and frequently wouldn’t have very much ornamentation above the first floor. For buildings lacking any architectural charm, it was left up to the signage to attract someone to one building over another. Typically building signage would conform to regular, reasonable spaces often above the display windows. As building ornamentation increased, signs were routinely squeezed in what small spaces remained on the building facade. At the same time signs were no longer just being placed on the ground level; by the 1880s signs began to be fastened to the building in a variety of ways such as spanning from projecting pilasters or mounted to cantilevered brackets. Signage would often overlap windows or other building details contributing to the detriment of the building’s appearance. Eventually people began to speak out against excessive signage. The City Beautiful movement was one such group that spoke out against the negative affects that inappropriate signage has on a city.