Historic advertisement restored in downtown Appleton


APPLETON - A surprise discovery is breathing new life into Appleton's history.

"It's cool, and funky and artsy, and kind of fits into our urban plans," said Will Weider.

When Weider bought the former Conkey's Bookstore building on College Avenue to renovate into his new home, he never thought the walls would contain a hidden treasure.

"You could see there was a black spot and my wife said, 'I think there's something there' and I disagreed with her, and I was wrong as usual," said Weider.

Curious to see what exactly was back there, they started peeling back the layers.

"We kept pulling back plaster and pulling back plaster, and this thing kept getting bigger and bigger, and finally realized what we had - this giant sign," said Weider.

Beneath all of the plaster was a huge advertisement for Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco that was more than a century old.

"Around the 1890s to 1920s, there would have been these large painted brick adds all over downtown Appleton," said Nick Hoffman, chief curator for the History Museum at the Castle.

The sign was covered up when this building was built in 1892.

Today, if people took a walk in downtown Appleton and looked hard enough, they just might find about six similar signs still scattered around the city.

"You can just sort of make it out, and that's pretty typical of downtown," said Hoffman.

He says chances are, there are many more signs that are still around. They're just covered up.

"If there was an open wall, there would be a good chance a sign appeared on the side of it," said Hoffman.

As for the Weiders, there's still one wall in their future home that's intact, but they say that one will remain untouched.

"The joke in the family is do not take the plaster off this wall," Weider laughed. "We do not have room for another artifact, so nope, this is going to be it for us."

It took about a week to clean and put a protective coat on the sign in the former Conkey's Bookstore building.

The Weiders are planning to incorporate it into their home designs.

The renovations should be done sometime this summer.