Union County Cast Iron Guidepost Sign

New Jersey’s once ubiquitous cast iron guidepost signs, made between the 1920s and 1950s, were an endangered species when I was a kid, but they still could be seen here and there.  Now, only a handful are left in the state  (e.g., a few are still maintained by the towns of Cranbury and Penns Grove). You can also still find a number of the original posts randomly left in place all over the state if you keep your eyes open.

For years, I’ve been on the lookout for one of these guideposts signs, and in 2017, I found one from Union County (see photos below).  It points to New Providence, which happens to be where I lived when my daughter was born, so there is some extra sentimental value here.

The sign measures 18″ x 24″, and weighs a very hefty 57 pounds!

The photo set above documents the stages of preparation and painting from the sign’s original condition (a “lead paint chip dispenser” as Ed Tapanes put it) to the shiny, restored product. To avoid any possible blunting of the edges of the letters, I elected not to blast the sign. I started with a wire brush to remove the loosest paint and rust, then applied Soy Gel stripper and removed as much paint as I could with a scraper and awl. Once it was reasonably clean, I sprayed a few white coats, then used a sponge brush to apply the black to the raised characters, arrows and borders.

The refinished sign looks great; I have no regrets about removing the patina here.


Click to see full size image.

When I got this sign, I immediately wondered, where exactly was it posted? Deducing from old Union County maps, I believe it was probably at the intersection of Glendside Ave and Glenside Road in Berkeley Heights, with was New Providence Township at the time (see top image, red circle).  Southwest-heading drivers approaching the fork  would either keep right to climb the hill to New Providence borough, or keep left (i.e. stay on the main road) to head toward Scotch Plains and Plainfield. 

When I-78 was completed through Berkeley Heights in the 1980s, the Glenside Ave/Road intersection was moved and rebuilt as a T-intersection (see bottom image, purple lines), so the sign, which was probably already gone by then, would no longer be applicable anyway.