Painting advertisements on the side of buildings was one of the ways companies got the attention of potential customers in years past. Today, those fading advertisements are sometimes called “ghost signs.”
The more I noticed them in my travels, the more I became curious about the companies and products they once represented.
The Zile’s Ice Cream sign in Taneytown (Carroll County) is the one that started it all for me. Technically, it is not a ghost sign today, as it has been restored.
Zile’s Ice Cream was founded by Howard M. Zile in 1880 in Winfield, and his son Arthur brought the company to the county seat of Westminster in 1905. The operation was moved to Westminster’s Main Street in 1924. Eventually, Zile’s merged with Newman Ice Cream, which ultimately merged with Borden.
The sign in Taneytown was painted around 1927 by Roy Strine on the side of Burke’s Barber Shop on East Baltimore Street. A building had been built next to the barber shop in the 1930s or ’40s. The advertisement had been hidden for years and was first rediscovered in the early 1990s when a building next door was torn down.
The sign proclaims “Motter & Leister Serves Zile’s Ice Cream, Manufactured by Arthur M. Zile, Westminster, Md.” John Leister and W. Rein Motter were the owners of the Central Hotel in Taneytown, at the corner of Baltimore and York streets, and served the ice cream in the hotel restaurant.
The sign was brought back to life when Lewis Schiltt and his crew restored it in fall 2001. Schlitt also painted the mural in Locust Lane Park that depicts the City of Westminster plotted out in map format.
A social was held on May 19, 2002 to rededicate the sign, and Mabel Strine Reese, the daughter of original painter Roy Strine, was in attendance.
Today the sign is easily visible. It faces a parking lot on a building next to the City Office at 17 East Baltimore Street.
Sources: Carroll County Times November 3 1989; May 5, 1990; May 20, 2002; Baltimore Sun January 17, 2000
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