Kilroy was here

Graffiti’s been around forever. Even an 1809 church on Nantucket becomes an irresistible canvas for those with pocketknife, pencil, chalk or paint in hand.


Kilroy’s lesser known brother.

Bird lives!

After a day’s work on Nantucket’s North Church, we had some time to kill before the 7:20 ferry back to the mainland. So Michael–whose crew has done significant repair work on the island’s South Church–gave me an impromptu tour the other evening.

Up the bell tower we went…



Free Tibet (with the purchase of a Tibet of equal or greater value)

Nary a timber or board was left untouched on our way bell-ward. Graffiti was everywhere! The oldest of it seemed to be the domain of those who labored on or for the church. Newer graffiti was more generally a calling card.


Some had that 19th century script which really stood out.


And certain places attracted more tags than others:


I signed the Pesky Pole once. Don’t tell John Henry…


Seeing this roar from the 20’s made us go hmmmmmm…


Not nice? Not Ice Cube? Ice Ice baby?

From the simple…


G.P.’s last name isn’t “Exposed Lathe”, I’m guessin.


…easy as 1.2.3. Who knew MJ was that old?

…to the studied:


This was my favorite. The board appears to have been lightly planed prior to carving.

Graffiti came from away:


and some from just down the road…


Steve Grogan was here!

Some read like an am radio jingle:


“Who do you call when your windshield’s busted?”

Jesus saves–Pele scores on the rebound!

Famous people haunted the bell tower!




And if you’re Homer’s boss, the A/C seemed just fine, fyi.


Hey–we know this guy!


Names and dates shared spaces with the utilitarian:



and no blank slate was spared the tag:

A closer look revealed a poignant moment etched in time:


Every one of these writings tells a story though many of the authors have long since heard their last bell.

In the church proper, the graffiti gave way to exquisite plaster-work and painting. Here below, the stories are no more or less compelling than those of the bell tower above.


blue acorn

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13 thoughts on “Kilroy was here

  1. Marie Pelletier says:

    graffiti fun; church beautiful

    • Rick says:

      It really is, Marie. We peeked in to the main hall after our close-quarters bell tower look, and the contrast was a little breathtaking. Penn and company really outdid themselves on the interior finish. It was nice to see how she approached the plaster repair from above the ceiling as well. The gang also did great work on the roof framing. I’ll put up some pics about that at some point.

  2. sally says:

    Here’s some equally awesome graffiti at Sir Thomas Tresham’s unfinished hunting lodge, Lyveden New Bield in Northamptonshire, UK. The interior walls were covered in names and dates and I found myself wondering, as you were, about the stories behind the etchings.

    Tresham also built a ridiculous Triangular Lodge which he did finish and is full of poorly hidden Catholic allegory (

  3. Linda Master says:

    This is SO very interesting! Seeing that graffiti was moving—and funny! Not Ice had me on the ground 🙂 LOVE the old stuff, thanks for posting this—

    • Rick says:

      Thanks Linda. I just like the thought of the fellows working on the church leaving behind their calling cards! There must have been a lot of work done in the 20’s and 40’s as there’s so much graffiti from then.

  4. Arthur Harding!? (is that what it says in the shot with the ladder?) That’s Christopher (Macadamia) Harding’s father, although he is better known as “the Admiral”. (“Christopher, you enrage me!”)

  5. John Wolf says:

    Isn’t Gilroy the brother who ran the hardware store? I tore down a barn back in 1996, when I tore off the last piece of interior siding from where the stanchions had been I found where the carpenters had signed the inside of the interior planking, along with the antique sounding address, some illegible poetry and a date in 1896. You’re right, something like that is special.

    • Rick says:

      That is very cool, John. It has a time capsule/message in a bottle thing going on. Do you have a picture of the inside of the plank? Perhaps we can all collectively decipher the poetry!

  6. jackbaumgartner says:

    Thank you, Rick, I greatly enjoy your posts. One April a few years back, we were gathering sandstone in SE Kansas for drystacked retaining walls from an old homesite. One big one we flipped, aside from having about 100 baby ringneck snakes under it had the date April 21, 1921 carved on the underside. Guess what day it happened to be that we turned it? Needless to say it became the first stair through our wall.

    • Rick says:

      That’s a great story Jack! Gotta love when connections like that seem to come out of nowhere. And thanks so much for the kind words. It means a lot coming from you. Check out Jack’s blog, folks: He has an amazing eye for art in the commonplace, and he does some beautiful work:

      • jackbaumgartner says:

        Rick, I am humbled by your endorsement. Thank you. “Art in the commonplace” – you have hit upon a portion of my heart there.

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