Despite all of the new development in neighborhoods across Jersey City, there are still signs of the city’s history on buildings in nearly every ward. Known as ghost signs, these vintage relics advertising businesses, products, and services from years ago can largely be found on the sides of historic buildings, and serve as a reminder to residents of Jersey City’s past. Recently, we brought you a look at the history behind some of these signs, and by popular demand, here are the stories of some of Jersey City’s other prominent ghost signs.
While most ghost signs throughout Jersey City are painted on the sides of buildings, one of the most unique and recognizable signs in the city can be found on the side of a large paint can. Located on the can atop 415 Montgomery Street, in a location regularly visible to hundreds of thousands of drivers on Route 78, is an advertisement for Siperstein’s Paint and Decorating Centers, which includes the slogan “Great Price Great Advice Since 1904.” Although the building is currently home to the Emergency Medical Services division of Jersey City Medical Center, it contained a location of Siperstein’s, which was once one of the largest family-owned paint store chains in the region. Today, the company is based in the Fords section of Woodbridge Township. However, according to the company, it was founded by Nathan and Lottie Siperstein in Jersey City 113 years ago, and their son, Herb, later became the president of Siperstein’s.
Currently, people come to 903 Bergen Avenue in Journal Square to enjoy the food at Mister Gusto Restaurant, a business serving pizza and Spanish cuisine. However, it is almost impossible to miss the sign reading ‘Fur Storage’ above the sign advertising the current occupant. The vintage sign is a reminder of two companies that were once located inside. A 1932 issue of The Jewish Standard features an advertisement for a company called Kriegel Furriers offering “cold fur storage” at the address, with a storage rate of 1% of the value of each item with a minimum charge of $2. The business was run by Robert Kriegel, according to Fur Age, and there was another location across from the Journal Square PATH Station. A 1937 edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory shows that the space was occupied a few years later by Miller & Barowitz, which appears to be a misspelling of Miller & Berkowitz Furs, which remains in operation in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
At the corner of Franklin Street and Palisade Avenue in The Heights neighborhood of Jersey City, there is a four-story building attached to a small one-story building, both of which have been vacant for the last decade since Shooting Star Beauty Salon. However, despite the condition that the structures are in, a ghost sign reading ‘ROXY’ remains on the facade along Franklin Street. The name comes from The Roxy, an Italian restaurant, banquet hall, and private social club that once occupied the space. A 1996 newsletter from the Riverview Neighborhood Association described concerns by residents over the status of the business that were “based on long running problems over the years, where loud and disorderly behavior spills out onto the street and continues in the early morning hours.”
This ghost sign will likely not remain for much longer, however. As Jersey Digs exclusively reported in June, New Jersey Community Capital and the Riverview Arts District are planning a new development called the Artist HUB and Residences, which will include a venue for local artists and 15 condominiums, four of which will be designated as affordable housing.
Although the storefront at 269 Grove Street, at the corner of Montgomery Street, in Downtown Jersey City has contained the Salem Halal Meat Market for at least a decade, a sign hanging outside the building reminds passers-by of the business that was once inside. The sign, which simply says ‘DRUGS’, remains from when Pienkowski’s Pharmacy occupied the space beginning in the middle of the 20th century, according to an ad in St. Peter’s Preparatory School’s 1950 yearbook. The business was owned by Jersey City resident Benjamin J. Pienkowski.
S.B. Penick & Company
— Gary Sprengel (@GarySprengel) July 28, 2017
An industrial building continues to stand at 10th and Brunswick Streets in the Hamilton Park neighborhood. The structure is covered with several ghost signs, one of which reads ‘S.B. Penick & Company’. This is a reference to the organization that was founded in Marion, North Carolina by Sydnor Barksdale Penick in 1914, according to WNC Magazine, which describes how the company operated a “crude drug business” that grew 85 percent of its plants in North Carolina. This building was one of two labs in Jersey City that was run by the company, the other being in a West Side Avenue building that is currently vacant. Another facility later opened in Lyndhurst. According to a 1950 edition of the Bulletin of the National Research Council, research activities included “classification and standardization of botanical drugs,” “synthesis of organic chemicals for pharmaceutical or technical uses,” and maintaining a pilot farm.
At the corner of Bergen Avenue and Montgomery Street in Jersey City, a ghost sign can be seen at the western edge of a historic four-story mixed-use building. Although most of the sign is barely legible, and is partially covered with a campaign sign for former President Barack Obama and former Mayor Jeremiah Healy, references to ‘Goodman’s and ‘Bergen Ave’ are just barely visible.
The sign appears to be referring to the Goodman Warehouse Corp. or Goodman’s Furniture, both of which operated at nearby 830 Bergen Avenue, which now contains the Hudson County Bergen Square Center, for several decades in the 20th century. According to Moody’s Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities, the warehouse business was founded in 1910 as Goodman’s Motor Express Van & Storage Co., while The Jersey Journal reported that Goodman’s Furniture was founded in 1897 by Samuel Goodman, and remained a family business until it closed in 1985. There were also locations in Bayonne and North Bergen.