Auburn Ave. ghosts

A tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta, Ga., the evening of March 14, 2008. It damaged and destroyed buildings and urban landscapes as it swept through the city. Historic Oakland Cemetery and the former Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill (undergoing rehabilitation as lofts) were among the damaged properties. Several buildings in Atlanta’s twentieth century African American neighborhood, Sweet Auburn, also were damaged.

Herndon & Atlantic Life Building, 229-243 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, Fulton County, GA. HABS GA-1170-A. Library of Congress:  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ga0208.color.572056c/

Herndon & Atlantic Life Building, 229-243 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta, Fulton County, GA. HABS GA-1170. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Among the damaged buildings were the Atlanta Daily World building and a former commercial building owned by entrepreneur Alonzo Herndon. The Herndon building was located in the 200 block of Auburn Avenue. When it was demolished after the tornado, a ghost sign for Gold Dust washing powder was exposed on a former exterior wall.

229 AUBURN AVENUE (Atlanta Life Building) NORTH ELEVATION. HABS No. GA-1170. Photo by James Lockhart.

229 AUBURN AVENUE (Atlanta Life Building) NORTH ELEVATION. HABS No. GA-1170. Photo by James Lockhart. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Gold Dust sign was painted on the wall that previously was the eastern exterior facade of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. building (pictured above). When the Herndon Building was constructed the space between the two buildings containing stairs to upstairs offices was enclosed by a hyphen and the sign was concealed.

Former Atlanta Life Co. building. June 2014.

Former Atlanta Life Co. building. June 2014. The stairs, former hyphen area are partially concealed by weeds.

Former Atlanta Life Insurance Co. building, north and east facades, June 2014.

Former Atlanta Life Insurance Co. building, north and east facades, June 2014.

HABS No. GA-1170, Herndon & Atlantic Life Building, 229-243 Auburn Avenue, Sheet 1. Arrow indicates location of Gold Dust sign.

HABS No. GA-1170, Herndon & Atlantic Life Building, 229-243 Auburn Avenue, Sheet 1. Arrow indicates location of Gold Dust mural.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014. Gold Dust mural.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014. Gold Dust mural.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014. Gold Dust sign detail.

Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building, east facade, June 2014. Gold Dust sign detail.

Formerly enclosed stairs, Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building east facade. June 2014. Note the plaster that once concealed the mural.

Formerly enclosed stairs, Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Building east facade. June 2014. Note the plaster that once concealed the mural.

Gold Dust washing powder mural. June 2014.

Gold Dust washing powder mural detail. June 2014.

The Gold Dust twins, “Goldie” and “Dustie,” were the cornerstone of a late 19th-early 20th century advertising campaign for Gold Dust washing powder that drew heavily on negative African American racial stereotypes. The gender-ambiguous “twins” were depicted wearing skirts as they engaged in various acts of housework. The images appeared on product packaging, in print advertising, and full-color murals painted on buildings throughout the South.

The Hagley Museum has a good overview of the Gold Dust marketing efforts and their place in social and business history. A similar Gold Dust mural was documented in the 2012 book, Fading Ads of Birmingham (The History Press).

Gold Dust washing powder mural, Birmingham, Alabama. Credit: Fading Ads of Birmingham, p. 148. Digitized by Google.

Gold Dust washing powder mural, Birmingham, Alabama. Credit: Fading Ads of Birmingham, p. 148. Digitized by Google.

The Atlanta Preservation Center is aware of the mural. Plans to preserve it are under consideration. The National Park Service documented the 200 block of Auburn Avenue in 1979. The results — measured drawings and large format photographs — are archived in the Library of Congress.

© 2014 D.S. Rotenstein

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  1. Pingback: 229 Auburn Avenue | abandonedatl

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