This was a totally unexpected find: I was casually searching the Library of Congress website for old images of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, where several ancestors lived. This photo popped up in my results:
The building closest to the camera was once my great-great-grandfather’s cigar store and family home. The picture is part of a group of shots from the neighborhood, taken in 1982 for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). There’s an accompanying PDF document with history and architecture notes.
When I opened the giant high-resolution TIFF of the image, I saw this:
Do you see it, too? It’s a “ghost sign”—the outline of some of the letters from the store’s “H.A. Seeger Cigar Manufacturer” sign. Here’s a closer look at part of it:
My mom once drove us kids by the building, and we saw where the letters had been. I’ve often wished we took a photo during that stop—the building’s been renovated and that ghost sign is gone. So this is an extra-special find.
This copy of a photo from my family collection shows what the sign looked like back in the day:
In an earlier picture I’ve posted before, the sign’s lettering was different and there was no street lamp or window on the first floor. If I can figure out when those updates happened, it’ll help me date this photo.
Time to learn more about this building. Are you researching an ancestor’s house? Our guide to constructing a house history is a $4 download in Family Tree Shop.
Here’s how found the photo: On the Library of Congress site, I searched for the term Cincinnati German and limited my results to “Photo, Print, Drawing,” like so:
The group of pictures was second in my search results. Not everything in the LOC catalog is digitized online, but luckily, these are. I knew to click on it because the streets in the description are the ones around the building.
We list more websites with databases of old photos here. Many state and local archives digitize photos for online memory projects, too.
You can learn more about finding, identifying and preserving old photos from our Photo Detective Collection, with study materials from photo historian Maureen A. Taylor and digital photography expert Nancy Hendrickson.