Excellence on Main Award

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Ghost Signs, Awnings, and Facades

Awardee: Ritzville Downtown Development Association

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2023

City: Ritzville

The Outstanding Special Project Award is an annual award that recognizes great projects or activities that affect a downtown or neighborhood commercial district’s revitalization efforts. The Ritzville Downtown Development Association—which cut its place-saving teeth several years ago by restoring and operating the historic Ritz Theatre—has been named the 2023 Outstanding Special Project Award recipient for their work restoring facades, awnings, and ghost signs across downtown Ritzville. Altogether, the project encompassed the restoration of four building facades, installation of eight new cloth awnings, and repainting of 17 old advertising murals, otherwise known as “ghost signs.” Each ghost sign required research and brick restoration and is as historically accurate as possible.

Financing for the facades, awnings, and ghost signs was pooled from a mix of grants, private donations, in-kind contributions, building owner investment, and city tourism awards. The project was championed by Ritzville Downtown Development Association board members and local business owners John Rankin of Flying Arts Ranch and Linda Kubik of King Mercantile. Already the restoration efforts are bearing fruit for the community: while Ritzville continues to experience economic hardship, every building that has undergone these major renovations or upgrades is now occupied. The renovation of just one of these historic buildings led to a new business opening up downtown and led to that building’s owner buying two other buildings with plans to revitalize them. Upper-floor residential units have also been updated and occupied, with plans for more in the works.

With these building improvements, the Ritzville Downtown Development Association has actively and intentionally fostered a culture of pride and possibility. The community has recognized the improvements, and attitudes are shifting from discouragement to hope for the future of Ritzville, with downtown as its crown jewel.