Bob Berlute came to Denver last week to see the billboard that his father had painted decades ago on the side of 2801 Welton Street, a ghost sign that was uncovered in the process of developer Star Mesa Property's restoration work on the building. The sign, too, has been restored, and will be a landmark when Goed Zuur, a brewery devoted to wild and sour beers, opens on the ground floor. (The second floor is designated for offices.)
Peter Berlute got his start in sign-painting when he was a kid in New Jersey during the Depression, helping a "wall dog" paint signs on buildings. One day that artisan showed up with two broken arms — a hazard of painting on ladders — and his apprentice had to take over, Bob says. But that budding career was cut short by World War II, and Peter came out to Lowry for officer's training school. He married a woman from Missouri and they stayed here after the war, when Peter started painting signs for the Coca-Cola distributing company based here.
And after a few years, he'd stopped painting the signs himself and hired a sign-painting company to put up all of Coca-Cola's advertisements. Peter Berlute wound up working for Coca-Cola for forty years, ultimately becoming the head of marketing for the division.
Bob reports that his father passed away last fall, shortly before this beauty he'd painted on the wall of 2801 Welton Street, when it housed a Chinese-American cafe, was discovered. He would have loved seeing it, his son says. But now you can, thanks to the preservation work by Star Mesa.
And it's not the only vintage sign around metro Denver. Here are more ads created by Wilbur Creel's sign company, captured in photos taken by Peter Berlute in the '50s.
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