This ghost sign encapsulates the mid-twentieth century in America:
Driving down Main Street Newport, Vermont you’ll see this well-preserved sign for “Montgomery Ward”. The building now houses Newport Natural Market, part of a revitalised downtown. Revitalised because—as with so much of the USA in the late-twentieth century—the once-vibrant downtown declined in the face of malls and massive, out-of-town stores.
Montgomery Ward used to be a huge mail-order company. In 1926 they opened their first store. The one in Newport opened in the 1930s, the first department store in the area.
In the 1950s and 60s, people were moving to the suburbs and the stores moved with them, into increasingly large malls. Sears, JC Penney and others quickly moved in, but Montgomery Ward avoided them, preferring instead to keep their stores in city centres. Bad move. By the mid 1970s stores started to close. And this was one of them, shutting its doors in 1976.
You can read more about it here, which is also where I found this photo of the Montgomery Ward store in its heyday:
This ghost sign is a relic of an America that came and went: that came about in the aftermath of the Great Depression and which passed when the wealth it generated for the middle classes caused them to leave cities and move to the growing suburbs.