The old Padrow Pharmacy window at the former Wilshire Market has sparked plenty of conversation in recent weeks. We were visiting the building this week when one driver pulled to the curb to ask when the new pharmacy would be opening. Ahem, well, it’s been a few years…
AH readers and neighbors who have been following will know the pharmacy window was accidentally revealed a couple years back when the former market owners were doing some remodeling and exposed it under the siding. It was definitely a novelty, and they framed it out and let it be seen again as a kind of a community service, and out of respect for the past.
The window itself is a time traveler, and has known better days. It’s actually two panes of glass, joined in the center by a steel joint. The paint is badly faded and in some cases unreadable.
A detail of the window showing the chalky, fading, peeling paint. The original paint was applied to the exterior of the window and hasn’t worn well over time.
The window was tagged by a vandal in October.
Along the bottom of the glass, the ad seems to suggest hand-packed ice cream may have been sold by the pint, or possibly the quart. With a little imagination, you can fill in the blanks and guess that Padrow’s also sold cosmetics along with the cigars (by the box), sundries, and box candy. No question they sold Coca-Cola, that much is front-and-center in red paint. In fact, according to second-generation sign expert Brad Ellsworth, Coca Cola probably paid for the painted window advertisement.
Part of the reason the window is in such tough shape is that it’s painted on the exterior, exposed to all the elements. Over the years, the paint has flaked off and dried, lost its pigment, and is little more than a chalky substance on the exposed surface of the glass. It won’t last long.
Fast forward to the new owner, Jeff Smalley, who for the last six months has been transforming the former 1923 commercial building into the new Fire and Stone restaurant and bakery. Jeff is a local guy, operates out of a respect for history and for the neighborhood, and wants to do something to tip his hat to the past. He’s made sure other cool windows, discovered long buried inside the market’s walls, will have visible and prominent locations inside the restaurant. And he’s been wondering what to do with the Padrow window. We’ve been talking about it, and we’ve brought in some local sign expertise to consider the options.
And then, on an evening a couple weeks back, someone spray painted graffiti on the window. Because the new tag was painted directly over the crumbling old paint, that almost ended the discussion about trying to restore the window. Focused on all the other details of getting the business up and running, Jeff was ready to just pull it out and forget about trying to do something nice.
But that’s where we came in, and after the AH post about the tagging, we heard from several readers who offered to make a donation to help bring the window back from the brink.
Enter Brad Ellsworth of North Pacific Sign and Design. Brad and his brother Curt took the company over from their dad who started his sign business about the time the Padrows opened the pharmacy (early 1950s…the pharmacy was actually a stand-alone business that had its own address even though it was in the same building as Wilshire Market). Brad and Curt grew up in the neighborhood, sent their kids through Alameda and Beaumont, and have a relative who worked at the Wilshire Market in the 1970s. Brad even has a hunch who painted the original window way back when. Let’s just say they’re invested in trying to figure this out.
Brad Ellsworth (left) and Jeff Smalley examine the Padrow Window.
So after having a good look at the window and considering the possibilities, here’s the plan:
Jeff wants to keep the Padrow reference even though the window is not long for this world. So Brad is working from the original design and will create as faithful a replica as possible on the same glass, painted on the inside this time to keep it safe from the weather. Jeff’s going to talk to Coca-Cola and see if they might be willing to help with the cost. And AH readers are invited to make a donation pledge if they’d like to help (just drop me a note and I’ll get in touch with you). Brad estimates the job is probably in the $1,800-$2,000 range. Once most of the funds are in hand, we’ll ask Brad to start work. He’ll actually do the work on site, starting with cleaning and preparing the existing glass and then painting it all back. Should be interesting to watch.
So, here’s the challenge, readers. Want to help bring back the Padrow Window? I’m taking pledges right now (and have made my own of $100). If you are interested, drop me a note or leave a comment here and I’ll be in touch.