Ephemera Road Trip Roundup

Posted inCulturally-Related Design

Back home after a whirlwind road trip across the U.S., Print contributing editor Penny Wolfson picks out a few favorites from the journey.

On our very first day, we stopped in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, whose preserved downtown “diamond” includes this ironwork sign from the Brockerhoff Hotel, built in 1864-65, with its clean letters bordered by an elaborate grapevine. From the same period, in a completely different style, the Garman Theater, Restaurant and Inn, and be sure to check out the tour of some of the historic buildings in Bellefonte.

Ellensburg, Washington, at the eastern foot of the Cascades, was one of our more charming spots: a completely intact Mobil station dating from 1936—no longer functional, alas—and its companion diner, the Red Horse, which still serves up burgers and fries and chili and is decorated with old movie posters and automobile paraphernalia, like the Esso “Elephant Kerosene” sign above.

There’s not much online about the history of Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park, Washington (Sol Duc is an Native American term meaning “sparkling water.”) Who’d have guessed that this place, with its summer camp accommodations and its strong sulphurous smell, once housed a luxury hotel with 164 rooms, golf links, tennis courts and a spa? It did, as some of the (paltry) documents in a small display case, recount, but just for four years, between 1912 and 1916, when a fire burned the hotel to the ground. The Parks Service bought it in the 1960s and it is a beautiful spot—its hot springs still draw many people
every year. (See also my article in Print about the fad during that era for healthful springs.

In Coos Bay, Oregon, we saw several interesting building signs, all for hotels within a couple of block of one another: the graceful script of the Chandler, the vertical neon Tioga and the Art Deco Hub.

The Imagery Winery, in Glen Ellen, California, in the Sonoma Valley, commissions well-known artists to design labels for the vineyard’s bottles. The only requirement is that each artist include the Parthenon, the winery’s signature, somewhere in their creation. See the site for more examples.

We stopped in Laramie, Wyoming, for lunch on our way back; its historic buildings and identifying signs like the one for the Johnson Hotel and Jensen’s looked particularly fine with a bright blue perfectly clouded sky for background.

We took a quick walk on the campus at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, where I was delighted by the chalk drawings and messages on the sidewalks, like these for Greek Life parties. My recently graduated daughter tells me this is common on campuses; it wasn’t when I was in college, but it’s lovely, and it sure cuts down on paper waste.