Artist breathes new life into sign

As she went to work each morning, one Marietta woman was able to watch as history came alive again.

What she witnessed during about seven days since June was Marietta artist Thaddeus Brejwo repainting the ghost sign for Tornes Bros. Shoes on the side of the building at 113 Maple St. in the historic Harmar District. The building houses FOUND Antiques and is owned by Chuck Swaney.

Ghost signs are scattered across downtown Marietta and Harmar. They are the faded, weathered, painted signs that once adorned the sides of buildings to advertise businesses or products. Example include signs on the back of The Peoples Bank Theatre, Otto Bros. Department Store and the former Leader Restaurant at 222 Front St.

Swaney conducted an unveiling of the completed sign Wednesday evening for several invited guests. All the guests applauded with the finished product was revealed.

“We watched the whole thing go down,” Joyce Iaderosa, 54, of Marietta, is a legal secretary at Burton Law Office, just across the vacant lot from the sign. “It was exciting to see they were doing it.”

The building was built in 1896, and Tornes Bros. Shoes opened its doors in 1897.

“I hope other people will get on board and start restoring these signs,” Swaney said. “It’s an important part of Marietta history.

Brejwo said the whole project took about seven days spread over a period of time because of all the rain, heat and humidity the area has experienced in recent weeks.

“I don’t think it had ever been repainted before,” Brejwo said. “When I painted it, I had to antique it a bit. … This is going to last a while.”

He said he first thought about painting a ghost sign after seeing one on Weber’s Market, 301 Scammel St. He talked with the store owner, Tony Weber, who still is considering the idea. In the meantime, Brejwo saw a newspaper story about Swaney’s sign and approached him about the Tornes Bros. project.

“We’re known as a town that’s so much into its history, (we need) every effort we can make and take to keep most of that alive,” said Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a small gesture with a big purpose.”

Brejwo said the original paint was buried deep in the mortar between the bricks. That paint was not weathered, allowing him to determine the correct color. When he finished, he used 100 percent acrylic paint and sealed it with sealer to protect the surface.

While the paint just has dried on the Tornes Bros. sign, Brejwo said he still has his eye on the project at Weber’s Market and signage including an 8-foot wine bottle at the Levee House Cafe.

“So many of these things are disappearing,” Iaderosa said. “When they restore it and Marietta being so historic, the restore some of that (history to the city).”