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 still maintained across the state. You can also still find a number of the original posts holding newer signs or simply left in place in random locations across the state if you keep your eyes open.

Most of these signs had rounded corners, as seen on the left. However, Union and Salem counties favored signs with sharper corners and longer arrows, as seen on the right. 

For years, I’d been on the lookout for one of these guideposts signs. In 2017, I finally found one – a sharp-cornered sign from Union County. It points to New Providence, which happens to be where I lived when my daughter was born, adding some extra sentimental value to an already cool sign.

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 loose 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.

Click to see full size image.

Onto the obvious question – Where exactly was this sign posted?

Deducing from old Union County maps, I believe it was probably at the intersection of Glendside Ave and Glenside Road in Berkeley Heights, which was New Providence Township at the time.  Southwest-heading drivers approaching the fork (see top image, red circle) 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 (see bottom image), the Glenside Ave/Road intersection was moved and rebuilt as a T-intersection (purple lines). If the sign was still even there, it would no longer have been usable at the new 90-degree turn.