1920s Cast Iron Guide Sign – Union County

After years of searching, in 2017 I finally found a cast iron NJ guide sign that had dodged the scrap heap. An eBay seller listed it with a fairly high price. I waited patiently over a couple months for him to realize that my offer was decent and we eventually made a deal.

Deducing from old Union County maps, this sign was probably located in New Providence Township (present-day Berkeley Heights), where Glenside Avenue and Glenside Road used to come to a fork before the construction of I-78. Drivers approaching the fork from Summit would bear right to climb the hill to New Providence borough, or bear left toward Scotch Plains and Plainfield. The fork was adjacent to the entrance to the Deserted Village in the Watchung Reservation.

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

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Guide signs like this were still around in decent numbers when I was a kid, but only a handful are left in the state today (e.g., Cranbury in Middlesex County still maintains a few of them). You can still spot quite a few of the original posts hanging around, if you look hard enough.

The photo carousel above documents the stages of preparation and painting from the sign’s “lead paint chip dispenser” stage (sic, Ed Tapanes) to the finished 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. Now it looks brand new, almost a century later!