Union County Cast Iron Guidepost Sign

For years, I’ve kept my eyes open for a cast iron NJ guidepost sign from the 1920s-50s.  One such sign from Union County showed up in 2017, and I was able to make a deal to get it.  New Providence happens to be where I lived when my daughter was born, so this sign has some extra value to me.

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

The photo set above documents the stages of preparation and painting from the sign’s “lead paint chip dispenser” stage (sic, Ed Tapanes) 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.

Click to see full size image.

Deducing from old Union County maps, I believe this sign was probably posted at the intersection of Glendside Ave and Glenside Road in present-day Berkeley Heights (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. 

In the 1980s, with the construction of I-78, the 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.

Sign replacement, 1958

New Jersey’s once ubiquitous  cast iron guidepost signs were an endangered species when I was a kid, but they still could be found here and there without too much difficulty.  Now, only a handful are left in the state  (e.g., Cranbury in Middlesex County still maintains a few of them). You can, however, still spot some of the original posts left in place, if you are inclined like I am to notice them.