Vintage wall signs have been restored in this St. Louis neighborhood.
By Wm. Stage
Two vintage wall signs have been vividly restored in a central St. Louis neighborhood known as Dogtown. The collaborative effort paired the Dogtown Historical Society with legendary signpainter Lonnie Tettaton, the city’s only working walldog.
The first sign, a large ad for Alpen Brau Beer, adorned the south wall of D.T. Coyne’s Saloon a century ago. Located at the Tamm and Clayton intersection, in the heart of Dogtown, the sign probably was painted in 1904, just prior to the World’s Fair. The event (also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition) coincided with the 1904 Summer Olympics. It rated as the biggest extravaganza this country had ever seen and was held in spacious, nearby Forest Park.
Situated in a narrow gangway, the sign has been fairly well-protected from sunlight and elements for most of the 20th Century, but, originally, it broadcast the Alpen Brau brand name to pedestrians several blocks away.
“At the time this sign was painted, there were no buildings between it and West Park, two blocks down, where the trolley cars stopped,” said Bob Corbett, treasurer and founding member of the Dogtown Historical Society (DHS). “The entrance to the Fair was three blocks north of the saloon, so people getting off the trolleys and walking to the Fair could see the sign from a distance.”
The lager-style Alpen Brau was produced by the Columbia Brewing Co., which operated in St. Louis from 1892 to 1948, when it sold out to Falstaff Brewing. The Alpen Brau brand, introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair, marketed its slogan, “nothing finer in a bottle.”
Corbett said he first proposed restoring the advertisement in May 2002, following a second DHS meeting. “I said I would like everybody to walk with me up the street for 10 minutes. I showed them the sign and said, ‘This is what I want to do as a project.’ They said, ‘Great! How do we do it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’”
Nearly four and a half years later, the wall sign finally received its makeover.
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