Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Ringling Theatre

Ringling Theater by William 74
Ringling Theater, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
I suppose that I should have some sort of interesting, year ending post for you, but instead I have this, a shot I took on a sunny October afternoon. First, some history.

Opened in 1915, the Al. Ringling Theatre is located in the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Built by Albert Ringling (of the circus family - Baraboo was the winter headquarters of the circus for many years), this fantastic house was designed by noted theater architects Rapp & Rapp. Originally a vaudeville and silent film palace, the Ringling is still operating today, as a movie house (Lincoln was opening when I shot this). The Ringling is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the United States.

Anyway, I'd never heard of the place till I saw it. I was grinding along the highway, returning to my Chicago area home from a brief visit to Minneapolis. I'd gotten a late start on the drive up, ending up spending much of it on the road after dark, putting paid to my plans of doing some shooting along the way. So, I made sure I had the time to make at least one stop on the return trip-and was greeted with a spectacular day. I looked at my map and decided on the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Why Baraboo? I liked the name - I remember seeing a picture in a book about trains, showing the station with a big sign on the side that said "BARABOO". It stuck in my mind as one of those classic upper Midwestern names, like Sleepy Eye or Oconomowoc, and I had a good feeling that Baraboo would have a great downtown.

I wasn't disappointed - Baraboo's downtown is quite charming, and I passed a nice hour looking around at stuff on this lazy fall afternoon. But really, to find a grand old vaudeville house, complete with neon sign, right downtown? I wouldn't have thought it, but there it was.

So there you have it, a short story to round out the year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

It's Back!

Cad by William 74
Cad, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Rumors of the old rusty Cadillac's demise were premature. It seems that the owner hooked it up to a tractor and pulled it around to the back of the barn, to facilitate the harvest season. It's now parked back out front, in almost the same spot as before.

Incidentally, it seems that in the meantime the owner has painted some greyish-blue primer onto some of the rustier spots, particularly on the hood and roof. So....is the restoration finally starting?

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Dragstrip by William 74
Dragstrip, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
I took this at Byron Dragway in northwestern Illinois, during an historic drag racing event. One of the challenges of shooting old cars is finding an appropriate backdrop - it's a bit jarring to see an vintage car parked in front of a new grocery store or something. It can be particularly hard at racetracks, which are usually full of advertising signs and modern cars.

This is as true at drag strips as it is at road courses. Particularly at the starting line, where there's usually modern safety equipment and an emergency vehicle, right where your subject's doing a smoking burnout.

Anyway, the organizers of the races I was at hit the mark with their start line truck, which was this well patinated old sixties Ford, complete with a Holman & Moody logo on the door.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Pillsbury by William 74
Pillsbury, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The famous Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis. Viewed from across the famous Stone Arch Bridge.

This was the best shot I managed to get of the iconic neon sign.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lake Calhoun

Lake Calhoun by William 74
Lake Calhoun, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The Minneapolis Skyline, seen from the shore of Lake Calhoun.

Also, if I was a decent musician, I'd record an album called "Minneapolis Skyline".

Monday, December 2, 2013


AAR by William 74
AAR, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Plymouth's Barracuda was the company's answer to Ford's wildly successful Mustang, a smallish coupe or convertible with a variety of engine and interior options to let the buyer customize their car. Pretty much any combination was available, from a basic six-pot economy model to a wild eight cylinder muscle machine.

Like the Mustang, the Barracuda spawned a number of high performance options, particularly later in it's life. One of the rarest is the AAR, a Trans-Am special devised to capitalize on the series. Developed in part by Dan Gurney's All-American Racing Team, the AAR was a fast car but the team didn't manage to win any races in it's inaugural season.

This one's a genuine ex-AAR car, run originally by Swede Savage, and still competes in historic racing today.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

North Star Blankets

North Star Blankets by William 74
North Star Blankets, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The former North Star Woolen Mill, near St. Anthony Falls. Built in 1864, by the mid 1920's the North Star mill was the nation's largest producer of wool blankets. Part of an effort to make Minneapolis a center for textile manufacture, the North Star mill remained in use until the 1940's when production was moved to Ohio. The building sat empty until 1998, when it was re-developed into lofts.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Electroliner by William 74
Electroliner, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
We looked at the Electroliner earlier this year, after the IRM had it on a rare day on display outdoors. I really like a lot of the details on this train-everything fits into the late 30's/early 40's design aesthetic, from the interior to the iconic Electroliner script on the outside.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Uptown Station

Uptown Station by William 74
Uptown Station, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The historic Uptown Station in Chicago. Now known as Wilson on the Red Line, Uptown used to be a main stop on both the Northwestern Elevated as well as the North Shore Line interurban. In fact, the current building (the third station at Wilson Avenue) was built as a joint venture between the two lines, and featured multiple entrances for the two railroads. This sign is at the original entrance, and for many years was hidden behind advertising for a store that eventually filled the space.

Currently, Uptown Station is kind of run down-the fast food restaurant that was in this space has closed, as did the doughnut shop at the side entrance, and the interior isn't in the best shape anymore. But it does retain much of it's original architecture and fixtures, and is certainly worthy of preservation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Depot

The Depot by William 74
The Depot, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The former Milwaukee Road passenger and freight depot in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now repurposed as The Depot, with a hotel, restaurant, and an indoor skating rink in the former train shed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pillsbury A-Mill

Pillsbury A Mill by William 74
Pillsbury A Mill, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The former Pillsbury A-Mill, along St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Built in 1881, the A-Mill was at one time the largest flour mill in the world and also ran two of the largest direct drive water wheels, at 1200 horsepower each. Built with load bearing stone walls with internal wood bracing, the A-Mill is six stories, with each floor originally having a specific use. Due to the vibrations of the milling machines, in 1905 the building was partially rebuilt and fortified, and the walls still bow out noticeably at the top. Unlike a lot of other older flour mills, the A-Mill never had a fire, and still retains it's original wood framing (and an excellent neon sign atop the silos).

Production finally ceased at the A-Mill in 2003, and the building has been empty ever since. Plans are currently afoot to turn the complex into lofts and studio spaces, while retaining the historic exterior of the mill.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

North Star Blankets

North Star Blankets by William 74
North Star Blankets, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The North Star Blankets ghost neon sign in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are a number of interesting signs and buildings right along the Mississippi in Minneapolis, as befits a river town I guess.

This one was given the through the viewfinder treatment with an old Kodak Duaflex.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

View From The Balcony

View From The Balcony by William 74
View From The Balcony, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The view of Millennium Park from the balcony of the Cliff Dwellers' Club, atop the Borg Warner Building on Michigan Avenue.

Taken during Open House Chicago on a glorious sunny fall day.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Foshay Tower

The Foshay Tower by William 74
The Foshay Tower, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Completed in 1929, the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis is an excellent Art Deco skyscraper. Long the tallest building in the city, the Foshay has a few interesting details. Most obvious are the large letters at the top of the building calling out the name, which are also illuminated at night (and visible from quite a ways out of the city). The outer walls also slope in as they rise,
making each floor a little smaller than the one below it, a function of the architect's desire to make the Foshay Tower resemble the Washington Monument. The interior was very luxurious, featuring intricately carved African mahogany, marble, Terrazzo, a silver and gold plated ceiling, and hand-wrought iron fittings.

Finally, the building has it's own march, composed by John Philip Sousa. The dedication ceremony for the Foshay was almost impossibly lavish, with building owner Wilbur Foshay inviting 25,000 people, guests recieving gold pocket watches, and music conducted by Sousa, who composed the "Foshay Tower-Washington Memorial March" for the occasion. The march was only played once during Foshay's lifetime, though-his empire soon crumbled, and the check written to Sousa for his work famously bounced. Sousa refused to allow the song to be played until the debt was paid, which didn't happen until 1988, to Sousa's estate.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oil, Coal Gas, Furnaces

Ghost by William 74
Ghost, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Ghost sign in Batavia, Illinois. It's one of the few ghosts left in this town, although I haven't been able to figure out what the name of the original shop was.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Centennial by William 74
Centennial, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Union Pacific's EMD DDA40X Centennial locomotive, parked at the Illinois Railway Museum. I wish I'd have been able to see it running-the only other Centennial I've seen is the IRM's own example, which is currently non-operational.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fading Glory

Fading Glory by William 74
Fading Glory, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
So, I've bored a number of you with photos of this old rusting Cadillac sedan, parked picturesquely in front of a barn in rural Illinois. It sat there for at least five years, probably longer, occasionally moving around a bit as the owner moved his boat in and out of the barn. I've literally shot thousands of photos of this car, stopping whenever I happened to drive past, sometimes testing out some new gadget or technique I picked up. Seriously, though, four digits.

Anyway, long story slightly longer, I found out earlier this evening that the old Caddy's gone, leaving behind a rectangle of bare dirt in the lawn. I can only hope that the owner finally got around to restoring it, but most likely he sold it on.

What's to become of Fading Glory? I've no idea, but I leave you with this, the last photo I took of her, back in May.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Little Joe

Little Joe by William 74
Little Joe, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Originally built for Soviet Railways, the GE EF-4 became an icon of American railroading, following it's use on the Milwaukee Road's electrified western lines. Of the twenty built, twelve were used by the Milwaukee, five went to Brazil's Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro (who used Joes until 1999), and three were used for freight use by the South Shore. Several survive, and this one, the South Shore's 803, is still in operable condition at the Illinois Railway Museum.

I took this on a rare outing for the 803, and processed it to give it that "Oldachrome-found-in-a-shoebox" look.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Vintage Iron

Vintage Iron by William 74
Vintage Iron, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A set of vintage golf clubs. I just like the logo.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


X-18 by William 74
X-18, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The Illinois Raiway Museum's General Electric 8500 GTEL, a gas-turbine powered electric locomotive. Designed for long haul use, the first turbines were delivered in 1951. X-18 is a third-generation version of the GTEL, delivered in the late 50's, and remained ins service until 1969. One of two survivors, #18 usually sits on the line and is kind of hard to shoot, but this weekend it was moved to this nice curved bit of track for display.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Truck by William 74
Truck, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
We've visited these old relics a few times, but here's another view.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Dusk by William 74
Dusk, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Shot while on a bike ride, on a path through a corn field. Only in the Midwest, I guess.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Coke by William 74
Coke, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Another vintage Coca Cola sign, this one hanging in front of a laundromat in Genoa City, Wisconsin. This sort of sign would have originally been in front of a store or restaurant, the name of which would go where the laundromat's name is now. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this sign was recycled from an old diner or drugstore.

Monday, August 19, 2013


Juliet by William 74
Juliet, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A genuine Alaska vanity plate that says "ALFA" on it, on an Alfa Romeo racing car. I believe that the plate is original to the car, which kind of blows me away. Aside from the fact that I like continuous history on old cars, I find it interesting that anyone had an Alfa GT in Alaska. It had to have been just about the only one in the state!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Aug. Hipp Market

Aug. Hipp Market by William 74
Aug. Hipp Market, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
A very old ghost sign on the east side of Aurora, Illinois. I've attempted to photograph it several times over the last couple of years, but between the trees in the yard next door, the fence, the No Trespassing signs, and the vines that grow on the building, it's kind of hard to get a good shot. I got this in the early spring, on a quiet Sunday.

I imagine that it's short for "Augustus", although I've not found a whole lot of info about this former market.

Monday, August 12, 2013


A/FX by William 74
A/FX, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Factory Experimental was an offshoot of the Showroom Stock class. These were usually cars with prototype engines and other equipment combinations that weren't available from the factory. A/FX cars were even wilder, featuring altered wheelbases that pushed the center of gravity around for better traction. Wild cars.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Dodge by William 74
Dodge, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Vintage Dodge neon sign, outside of a local dealership. This type of sign would usually have hung on the side of a building, probably at a downtown storefront dealership.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Little Mouse

Little Mouse by William 74
Little Mouse, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Launched in 1937, Fiat's original 500, the "Topolino" (Italian for "Little Mouse") was just about the smallest car you could build and still call a car. Powered by a sub-600cc four pot motor, the Topo put Italy on wheels, and remained in production in one form or another until the 50's. This is the classic earlier "Type A" style, which despite it's diminutive size was still an elegantly styled car. Well, until you chopped the body off and put it on an altered wheelbase drag chassis with a big V-8 sticking out the top.

That's one thing they don't talk about in the Fiat history books-the Topolino's racing history here in the States. Along with old American Bantam roadsters and English Ford Anglias, the Topo was a popular Altered and Gas class drag racer, due entirely to it's tiny size, which combined a low weight with a small frontal area to make a nice racing platform. Though plenty of genuine cars were chopped up, many of the Toplino Altereds were made with fiberglass replica bodies, like this mid sixties example.

Fun fact-you can still buy 'glass Topolino bodies today.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Studebaker Theatre

The Studebaker Theatre by William 74
The Studebaker Theatre, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Signage for the former Studebaker Theatre in Chicago. Now the Fine Arts Building.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013


Tower by William 74
Tower, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The Art Deco/Streamline Moderne clock tower at the St. Charles Municipal Building. This is a pretty cool building, and I'm glad that the city has both kept it original and in good condition.

Also, it was an excellent cloud day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nothing could be finer....

Nothing could be finer.... by William 74
Nothing could be finer...., a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
...than an Electroliner!

The Electroliner was the North Shore's premier train. Running a swift two hour schedule between Milwaukee and Chicago, the 'Liner was introduced in 1941 in an attempt to bolster the road's ridership. It worked, and proved a popular train until it's retirement in 1963. The two Electroliner train sets were eventually sold to the Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Lines, where they were re-christened Liberty Liners, and continued to serve until 1976.

This is train set 801-802, and has been repainted beautifully in it's original livery by the Illinois Railway Museum. Sadly, it is currently non-operable, although plans are afoot to get the 'Liner running again in the near future. It usually lives indoors, but does make the occasional appearance outside at the Museum's restored L platform.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Made in Racine

Case tractor by William 74
Case tractor, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Not sure when I shot this, but I do remember where-it was at a tractor dealer in rural Somonauk, Illinois. They had several vintage tractors out front, all kind of beat up and rusty, but still proud. This is a vintage Case, from the fifties or so, and still ran like a top.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Philadelphia Church

We've visited the Philadelphia Church in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood before. Just thought I'd share another view of this classic old sign.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Big Z

Zephyr by William 74
Zephyr, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
The Illinois Railway Museum doesn't often run it's historic, rare, and damned handsome Nebraska Zephyr train set. So I always try and get out to the museum when it's out, just to shoot more photos of it.

This one was shot in front of the Museum's station, with a bonus of some classic L trains from Chicago over there on the left.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Buzz by William 74
Buzz, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
I don't think I quite got the bee in focus here. Not surprising. It's hard to shoot a camera while flailing madly.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Kresge's by William 74
Kresge's, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Ghost sign in a back alley in Streator, Illinois, that I shot late last year. Kresge's (properly S.S. Kresge's) was the forerunner to KMart, and stopped trading under that name sometime in the 70's. I find it kind of amazing that these things still pop up from time to time.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hotpoint Appliances

Hotpoint Appliances by William 74
Hotpoint Appliances, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Once again, it pays to wander around back alleys. This vintage Hotpoint Appliances neon sign (with a bonus hanger for a hardware store) was spotted in an alley in the tiny town of Polo, Illinois. I've visited this town a couple of times, yet this is the first time I've seen this hidden gem. I don't believe this was a hanging sign, but was a wall hanger from the beginning. I also don't know if this is anywhere near the original location of Port's Hardware, or if such a business even existed in Polo. It certainly isn't there now.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shootin' The Bull

Shootin' The Bull by William 74
Shootin' The Bull, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.
Well known Bull Durham tobacco ghost sign in Des Moines, Iowa. I don't know what this building used to be back in the day, but it's down by the Mississippi, so I imagine it was a warehouse of some sort at one time. Still faded, and repainted at least once, but still hanging in there.

Title sound familiar? I recycled it.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Low by William 74
Low, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Didn't we do this last week? Anyway, here's another beautiful chopped custom, this one a '49 or so Mercury Eight. The first postwar Mercs to both have all-new styling as well as being significantly different from current Fords, the '49 Eight was immediately popular with the custom car crowd, both for it's style and it's V-8 engines. Some of the most famous customs were Mercury Eights, including Sam Barris' original '49, as well as the legendary car of Bob Hirohata. The Eight just looked good however you reworked it, from mild to wild.

This one features a lot of the classic touches-a chopped top, a new grille and bumpers, flipper hubcaps, rounded hood corners, and the removal of the original badges and logos. I also love the color-it's very subtle, like a lot of the earliest customs were, and is suitably elegant.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Moose by William 74
Moose, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

A vintage Moose Lodge, with an equally vintage neon hanger. It's well faded but the glass is still nice and bright.

This building had a nice Vitrolite front too-I'm thought I'd shot it but I guess not.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Vintage by William 74
Vintage, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

As you longtime readers (all three of you) can tell, I like old stuff. Vintage signs, classic cars, old buildings, long gone restaurants, you get the drift. This includes old books. I found these vintage Hardy Boys books at a used bookstore near here, and since most shops don't especially like it when you take pictures in them, I had to sort of sneak off a few shots with my phone and futz with them later.

Anyway, I have always liked vintage book covers, with their strong graphics and charmingly lo-fi artwork. My favorite Hardy Boys books when I was a kid were the hardcover reprints, with the original artwork.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Chop by William 74
Chop, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Chopped, channeled, nosed, decked, Bellflowers, two tone, chrome, teef.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Walnut Hill Liquors

Walnut Hill Liquors by William 74
Walnut Hill Liquors, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Spotted this gem in Freeport, Illinois, as I was traveling along the Grant on my way to Iowa. Well seasoned, but a nice example of fifties/sixties neon goodness. Plus the glass still seems to be in good nick-I should go back that way and see if they still light it up!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Willys by William 74
Willys, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

...and a Ford Mainline. That Willys is a classic old school gasser style hot rod, too. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen an actual stock Willys. They're all hot rods!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Elizabeth Banking Center

Elizabeth Banking Center by William 74
Elizabeth Banking Center, a photo by William 74 on Flickr.

Elizabeth, Illinois is a small town located in Jo Daviess County, amongst the area's rolling hills and valleys. Despite it's small population (less than 1000 at the last count), Elizabeth's downtown features plenty of shops and businesses, and includes this excellent neon sign at the bank.