13 November 2007

[info_design] The Signs of Carthage, Missouri

1112. Starting the ball rolling in our new catgory of Street Blade Gallery is long time friend of TZKT, Stan, expat Milwaukiean and still proprietor of the quirky and readable Dinglemunch.

Latterly, after wedding the lovely Nicole, he relocated to Carthage, Missouri, which is along old historic Route 66 near the intersection of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Carthage is a town of about 13,000, and is notable because it is the county seat of Jasper County, Missouri – whose largest town is, infact, the nearby, larger, and somewhat more well-known Joplin (this is like our own Coos County, where the largest city – Coos Bay – is in fact also not the county seat, but nearby and smaller Coquille is).

Carthage has its county courhouse sited in a centrally-located Courthouse Square block, outward from which the town presumably grew. As preservation-minded towns are wont to do, a historic district has been organized around this area of the central city, with some distinctive street blades:

This is the corner of South Main Street and East 2nd Street in Carthage. Note here the addition of ornamentation which leaves us with an impression of an 'Old-fashioned' feel. Notable also is the leaving off of the street type – there is no abbreviation for "street" here. The "Civil War Museum" sign is a telling reference to the area's history, for it was here in 1861 that the first actual battle of the American Civil War occurred.

Lets get a little closer here. Here's a sign for South Main:

And here's a sign for West 3rd:

Another point worth mentioning is the logo for the Courthouse Square historic district, which is a really smart little production. Drawing on what we'd presume to be a reference to local architecture it accomplishes a feeling of history with a window frame and serifed type. It doesn't have to conquer the world, it just has to represent locally, and by that, it works well.

Notable also is the subtle-but-destinct rectangular outline that can be seen around the logo and the street name letterforms. We'd guess that these signs are made of cast metal, featuring a mold for the outer parts of the sign with the middle part made of composable sorts – not unlike the way printers composed type in the days before the Linotype. Line the sorts up in a frame, snap the frame in, assemble the mold, and pur your molten material in; remove, cool and paint as appropriate.

As charming as the signs in downtown Carthage is, is as prosaic as the signs in the rest of the town seem to be. Here, according to Stan, is a sign a the corner of Morgan Heights Road and Country Club Road in Carthage:

There is some sardonic humor, I think, in something being called "Heights" in an area that, to this West Coaster's perhaps uninformed view, is known for its flatness.

And here's one for the intersection of S. Chapel Rd and County Hwy HH, which a Google Maps investigation shows as just beyond the southwestern outskirts (and do note the rainbow):

Nothing special or fancy; it doesn't look like someone took any more than basic care with getting the letterforms more-or-less straight on the Morgan Heights sign (as well as leaving out the street-type (Road in that case). This is just your basic working-class street sign doin' its job.

Got a couple more interesting photos courtesy of Stan, but I'll post those in a future entry.

Got interesting street blades? Heck, got ordinary ones? We're building a gallery of street signs ("blades") from all over the country. I'd like to show them off! Send your pictures hence for full credit and link love.

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stan said...

In actuality, many of the streets and roads around here are not designated as St., Rd. or what have you. If you want to mail a letter to a house on Morgan Heights, you'd just address it to 1234 Morgan Heights. (Google Maps actually gets it wrong here - if you try to look up and address on Morgan Heights, which is distinct and separated from W. Morgan Heights Rd. by none other than Country Club Rd., it will try to point you to an address on W. Morgan Heights Rd.

I have to say, I'm honored by your extensive, researched write-up of my new town of residence.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Interesting bit of information there, Stan. I guess that, despite my position on local streets such as Broadway, Reedway and Wardway I too am used to each street having a "type" and save for those examples, a street sign without a "type" on seems incomplete.

Of course, with ZIP+4, they say all you should have to write down is the ZIP code and your mailing will get there. I've never tested this however.

Carthage sure seems like a cute little town, and I like bringing a little of the interesting things I find out about them to what I write. I found the fact that Carthage being the county seat despite Joplin's being the largest town interesting, for instance. I like facts like that.