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Grant Helps Restore Old Ads In Aberdeen

Old advertisements on buildings in Aberdeen are getting a new look. A local designer is receiving a grant to revitalize the murals, bringing a little more history and art to the city. 


Spencer Sommers is one of 20 people from around the country selected for the Emerging Cities Champion Grant. He’ll receive five thousand dollars to restore an old advertisement mural in Aberdeen. He’s selected an ad for WH Wilson Undertaker. 


“His business started in 1909, but he was an undertaker and he had a chapel downtown and now the building is a mattress store. So it’s those kinds of stories that you find out when you're researching.”


Sommers says he isn’t an artist. The idea began while he was part of a program called Leadership Aberdeen. He’s coordinating with the city council, zoning board, historical society and painters to recreate the original ads. Sommers says a lot of research goes into the projects. 


“We had to go through old photos , anything we could find and try to figure out what this thing looked like--or at least as close as possible. And then as far as color’s considered-most of these photos are in black and white. And on some of the walls you can see what color the ad was originally. But that’s again where the artist comes in and they try to help up pick colors that aren’t going to be too flashy that would look good on the side of these buildings.” 


There are hidden ads like this all over the country, but Sommers says most people don't notice them because they’re often faded. Six murals have been restored in Aberdeen so far and there are plans for ten more. Sommers says the project helps improve the community. . 


“It does two things. One-it kind of preserves Aberdeen’s history. It brings back these old signs that most people don’t notice anymore and it kind of makes you think about what was downtown before. And then two-It also starts to add a little bit of color and art downtown because while they are advertisements technically, they’re pretty cool to look at.” 


Sommers is attending a training course in Toronto this month, then has a year to use the grant and complete the mural. There are future plans to resurrect other advertisements from the dead.