UW Tacoma work erases historic icon – Peter Callaghan – The News Tribune

© Vincenzo Aiosa

The Student Prince loved his beer.

And beer lovers in Tacoma loved the Student Prince.

I say loved – past tense – because the Student Prince is dead. The last large image of the iconic advertising symbol of local brew Alt Heidelberg was washed away from the side of the University of Washington Tacoma’s Joy Building during renovation.

“We’re deeply saddened and dismayed and heartsick over this,” said UWT spokesman Mike Wark. He said the UWT strives to preserve the historic painted signs it inherited but was told by a subcontractor that the condition of this one was too fragile to withstand brick cleaning and tuck pointing.

Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/05/27/1202505/uw-tacoma-work-erases-historic.html#ixzz0pAzk2tKK

I wrote the piece today about the destruction of the alt Heidelberg ghostsign in Tacoma. I’m now wrestling with people who say it isn’t that big a deal because it can just be repainted. I’m trying to explain why that just isn’t the same (and would be a bad idea to try). Can you give me some help? What is the beauty of ghost signs that demands that they be original, that they be apparitions that we discover? As bad as this mistake is, I think it would be made worse by some attempt to repaint the Student Prince.

Thanks. Enjoy your page.
Peter Callaghan
The News Tribune
Tacoma, WA

Previously posted:
  • Alt Heidelberg – Columbia Brewing Co – Tacoma, WAFading Ad Blog

5 responses to “UW Tacoma work erases historic icon – Peter Callaghan – The News Tribune

  1. Your Husband is a photographer too? 🙂

  2. Dear Peter- I tend to abhor repaints. It is the decay of a sign I find beautiful. It is a living process in a way.
    Signs and vines weather and grow.
    Brick, pigment, plant and lime-
    Tenuously intertwined through time.
    As paint degrades and image fades,
    Soft tones evolve
    From salmon pinks and jades-
    Into sand and grime.

    -Frank H. Jump


    But just like all living processes, all things must die. Although preservation attempts are good for historical and tourist reasons, they can’t always be realized since buildings are at risk if they become porous. Gratified that I got to meet the Student Prince while touring the US last summer. It was during your heat wave.

  3. I have to agree. Preservation doesn’t mean to put an entire building at risk to save a sign. It’s sad to lose something precious like this but it was documented and by its memorializing it still exists in some form.

    That’s why it is so important to photograph that which are important artifacts of a time now lost to us. They cannot be assured existence forever.

    And we should always keep our eyes open. There might be a previously overlooked Student Prince out there. Stranger things have happened.

  4. As much as the disappearance of ghost signs always saddens me, they were never intended to be permanent, so their being painted over is just part of the ebb and flow of the built environment.

  5. Yes VL- I’ve become less affected by the loss. Almost the same shell-shocked numbness I felt at the height of the AIDS epidemic – one loss after another. With the ever-changing landscape of NYC (and the rest of the urban world) you win some, you lose some. A wall where a beautiful palimpsest resided gets stuccoed over – and across the street, a building comes down to reveal another hidden treasure.