You may have noticed a huge update on the building on the northeast corner of Second and Locust St. For many years, the Occident Four advertisement on the west side of the building has been fading.
The Fairbury Improvement Group, led by alderman Terry Zimmerman, has been meeting with the goal to improve the quality of life for current citizens and make Fairbury an attractive place for visitors. The group came up with a list of changes and improvements, and repainting the old advertising signs on the sides of buildings was one of the suggestions.
The largest building sign in Fairbury is the advertisement for Occident Flour, and it stands approximately 60 feet wide and 18 feet high. It reads “Occident Flour, Makes Better Bread, Walton Bros. Co. Distributors.” Dale Maley, local historian, has researched this sign and found that it was originally painted between 1920 and 1934.
He found a photo with 1920’s cars before the sign was painted, and Walton Bros quit using that legal name in 1934. The building was built in 1896, using bricks from previous buildings that had been torn down. Over the years, the building has been a drug store, tobacco shop, Post Office, and a laundry mat.
A few weeks ago, Maley started the big task of repainting this sign. He found four layers of paint (yellow, white, black, and green). Several challenges presented themselves.
The sign was missing the “I” in Occident with a very unique font so he searched the internet and found a photo of a similar restored sign for Occident in Minnesota. Maley scaled their “I” to match our size on the computer and then made a wood pattern. The sign was also missing letters at the end of the word “Distributors.” Maley found that the Arial Bold font was very similar so he used computer programs to print paper letters to trace as patterns.
Getting access to repaint the top letters at 18’ in height also presented some challenges. After painting the window at 20+ feet with scaffolding resting on a broken sidewalk, Maley decided a different approach was needed to paint the lettering at 18 feet. There were phone and cable wires six feet away from the building which prevented the use of a manlift. A scissor would not work due to the broken sidewalk. (The City has plans to replace the sidewalk in the fall.) Maley resorted to using a 24’ extension ladder to complete the painting at the highest points.