Prewar Lviv in Photographs: Hand-Painted Signs

I’ve searched through old photographs of Lviv for ones with hand-painted signs, in particular for signs that are still visible today. I’ve only found one—an old photograph of a milkhouse, which I posted about earlier. But in any case, I found plenty of great photographs that show how storefronts and advertisements looked in prewar Lviv.

In addition to painting signs directly on the facades of buildings—on the front panels, on spaces above doors, on special architectural elements designed specifically for ads, on the walls of the second level—it was also very common to hang wooden boards on the buildings, on any available surface, including on balconies, on the inner side of open shutters, above the main door or entranceway, and so on.

In fact, at times it looked rather cluttered, which I found surprising as I thought it was a modern phenomenon to have such a high concentration of ads and signs chaotically placed on buildings. Though at least the old signs were generally nicer, hand-painted signs, and not the big neon plastic signs that we see in Ukraine today.

Furthermore, signs were also painted directly onto metal roller shutters (thus visible only during closing hours).
And finally, large signs were painted on the sides of buildings (as was very common in the West); for example, on walls that were exposed either because there was no adjoining building or because an adjoining building was shorter.In the photographs we see that most of the signage was in Polish, less often we see Yiddish, German, or Ukrainian/Cyrillic.Here are more examples of the various kinds of advertisements that were found around Lviv.

Photos taken from the following websites:,,,; and from the Facebook page Ретро Львов.

1 thought on “The Forgotten Boot Scrapers of Lviv

  1. I think all Ukrainians, from homeland and diaspora, should visit Greece. Many of us grow up thinking that our names, language, religious rites and architecture, and other folkloric traditions are our own, but visiting Greece will show that we imported and adopted them lock, stock, and barrel. Flattening the church domes to a pear shape, and polyphony, are the only uniquely Ukrainian contributions that I can think of.
    Nice website!

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