Visiting New York is like drinking water out of a fire hydrant. So much is happening every minute of the day that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One of the things that visitors (and sometimes even locals) frequently miss are the city’s ubiquitous ghost signs. These are old advertisements that were painted directly onto walls of buildings, some of them over 100 years ago. Though they were painted with lead paint that made them last for decades, their existence is ephemeral. They live and die with the walls they’re painted on. If a new building is built up against them, they’re buried out of sight. If that same building is torn down decades later, they’re exposed for the brief time it takes to build something else. One can only imagine how many of these signs are hidden between the walls of buildings. As time goes by, some will be revealed to us, and some destroyed and lost forever.
These are just a few from the Midtown section of Manhattan, an area most famous for its throngs of tourists and crass commercialisation. We cover much of this area on our Midtown Sites & Bites food tour, on which we show you the all the iconic sites of Midtown, but also the incredible food and culture that everyone else misses along the way. It’s an experience similar to finding your first ghost sign: once you know where to look, you’re surprised at how much you’ve missed.