Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Strand Books Neon

I will grant that my neon-centric worldview has made me abnormally attuned to all things neon.  But on a recent visit to the Strand bookstore here in New York, neon seemed to be everywhere. 

The trend for fake neon in graphic design (as noted in this post from last year) continues, as can be seen in cover art for all sorts of books.  Some of these neon covers, like that of Sheldon and Stefan Nadelman's superb book called Terminal Bar, are at least tangentially related to the subject matter within.  Others, not so much.  

Over on the new releases table, we find Hermione Hoby's novel Neon in Daylight, named in reference to Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems ("Neon in daylight is a great pleasure . . . ").  O'Hara, incidentally, lived just two blocks down from the Strand, in an old building that was destroyed a few years back to make way for a junior sized luxury residential palazzo.

Better still, neon between the covers.  Some old New York signs (neon and other) get their due in Julia Wertz's lovely new book Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City


Up in the photography section, meanwhile, neon makes some resplendent cameos in "Modern Color," a monograph of works by photographer Fred Herzog.  

And then there's I See A City: Todd Webb's New York, an exceptional photographic freeze-frame of the city as it appeared in the 1940s and 50s.  If not the first compendium of NYC street photographs from this era, this is certainly one of the most engaging and drool-inducing I've seen in a long time.

Finally, over by the cash registers, one last little testimonial for neon's place in the iconography of the city:  a nice glamour shot of the Chelsea Hotel sign in a rack of postcards featuring classic images that define the city, from the Staten Island Ferry to the Brooklyn Bridge to the famed WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU coffee cup.  In the New York Neon book, I wrote that the Chelsea Hotel sign's neon tubes are "as much interwoven with the fabric of the city's identity as any landmark of brick and mortar." The sign itself has gone unlit for years now, leaving us to wait and see whether this particular icon will prove more or less ephemeral than its likeness in books and picture postcards.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lights Out 2017: Signs We Lost This Year

Once again, this year's headline is a bit of a misnomer - some of these seem to have already been gone for a year or more.  Be that as it may - here they are, another year's round-up.  Read'em and weep.

East 94th Street (Yorkville) Garage, 231 E94th Street, Manhattan / Installed c.1937

This sign featured splendid, totally unique art deco detailing. Gone now, replaced rather inexplicably by a new neon sign with none of the charm of its predecessor.    

Joe Abbraciamento Restaurant, 62-96 Woodhaven Blvd., Queens / Installed c. 1949, alterations c. 1998

This longtime Queens eatery actually closed back in 2014.  Its building, a former movie theater, was subsequently bulldozed to make way for a new apartment building, but the site remained vacant for years afterward.

Metropolitan Life Insurance Co, 200 Park Avenue, Manhattan / Installed 1992-93

Heir to the spot once held by the famed Pan Am sign, the giant Met Life logo came down this past summer to make way for the company's updated logo, now rendered in LEDs.

Leonard’s Bootery, 89-35 164th Street, Jamaica, Queens / Installed c. 1950

Leonard's decamped from this address around 2015. The storefront has since been completely stripped and re-faced.  

Carnegie Deli, 854 7th Avenue, Manhattan / Installed c. 1960

In business since 1937, the Carnegie Deli was one of the city's most iconic commercial institutions until its owners bowed out at the end of 2016 so that its lovely old building could be knocked down for new development.  The Carnegie's sign was later seen being carted off through the streets of Lower Manhattan.  

West 57th St Garage, 622 W57th Street, Manhattan / Installed 1949

A side street favorite, this sign bore the maker's tag of the long-vanished E.G. Clarke Sign Co., the same company that gave us the great Dublin House sign on West 79th Street.  The entire building was demolished in 2015-16 to make way for new high rise development. 

Famous Cozy Corner Soup'n'Burger, 730 Broadway, Manhattan 

Cozy Corner is still with us but its lovely exposed tube neon fascia sign has been LED'd.  

Manor Community Church, 348-350 W26th St., Manhattan / Installed c. 1945

LED'd in 2017 after several years unlit.

Campanile Restaurant (formerly the Weathervane Inn), 30 E29th St., Manhattan / Installed 1952

Darkened when the Campanile was forced to close a few years ago as this entire block of handsome old facades was being emptied in preparation for demolition, which began in late 2017. 

19 Rector Street (roof sign), 19 Rector Street, Manhattan / Installed circa-pre-1960

Hidden in plain sight, this massive roof sign beamed out across New York Harbor for decades.  In the 1980s it scored a minor cameo in the film Working Girl.  It quietly disappeared in late 2017.  


North Village Wine & Liquor, 254 W14th Street, Manhattan / Installed c. 1950

Slated to vanish along with a cluster of old buildings at the southeast corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue that are scheduled to be cleared for large scale new construction. 

Horn & Hardart Retail Shop, Dekalb Ave. at Bond St., Brooklyn / Installed circa-pre-1960

Best known for their chain of Automats, Horn & Hardart also operated a number of retail shops in New York City for many years. This remnant was unearthed with the removal of later signage in preparation for the demolition of the old Downtown Brooklyn building on which it hangs. 

Loft Candies, 88 Nassau Street, Manhattan / Installed c. 1960

An especially sad story, as this sign was in the midst of being restored after years laying hidden under newer signage.  Alas, the deal for this storefront to be reactivated as a Lower Manhattan outpost of the Two Boots Pizza chain has been stalled for more than a year, so this sign merits listing on the 2018 endangered list. Here's hoping for better news to come.  

 Lights Out 2016
 Lights Out 2015
 Lights Out 2014

 Lights Out 2013
 Lights Out 2012
 Lights Out 2011

Monday, October 23, 2017

Neon News & Links

 Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: Vintage Signs of America! For years, I've posted links to the extraordinary work of sign and roadside architecture documentarian Debra Jane Seltzer.  I'm happy to report that Debra Jane now has published a book featuring some of her work - check it out

 "Vintage Signs of America" by Debra Jane Seltzer. 

 14th Street's seemingly indestructible DISCOUNT LIQUORS sign may be near the end, as an entire corner looks to be poised for bigtime redevelopment - via Jeremiah's Vanishing NY and the Ephemeral NY blog

14th Street's DISCOUNT LIQUORS sign in better days. (T.Rinaldi)

 "Neon is Back" - The Times on New York's neon revival.

 In Philadelphia - a great exhibit of old neon signs from the Len Davidson collection has been extended at least through October - check it out at Drexel University. 

 Not neon but still of note: on Manhattan's Lower East Side, JVNY reports that the empty husk of the late Cup and Saucer lunch counter has been stripped of its great old signs

The late lovely Cup & Saucer Luncheonette, formerly at 89 Canal Street in Manhattan. (T. Rinaldi)

 In Dalles, Oregon, the National Neon Sign Museum is set to open next year. 

 If you haven't yet - head over to the old Tekserve space on 23rd street and check out a great gallery of vintage NYC posters, remnants of vanished venues and businesses across the city. (The gallery can be visited by appointment only).

 Some vintage Vegas neon via the Shorpy blog. 

 After years laying in limbo, the west side's old Keller Hotel is finally staged for restoration, together with its fantastic old sign.

Poised for restoration: the Keller Hotel, at the foot of Barrow Street in Greenwich Village. (T. Rinaldi)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

East Side, West Side: New Neon Walking Tours and Other Neon News

 New Neon Walking Tours scheduled! In association with PosterHouseNYC

    > West Village Tour, Oct 3, 2017. Click here for Tickets!
    > East Village Tour, Oct 10, 2017. Click here for Tickets!

Katz's Delicatessen on Houston Street, a stop on the East Village Tour. (T. Rinaldi)

    > Also - check out the super awesome PosterHouse exhibit in the ex-Tekserve space on West 23rd Street, featuring posters from vanished NY businesses.

 From the shameless self promotion department: if you're on Instagram, so am I:  Check out @nyneonbook on Insta.  

NYNeonBook on Instagram.

 A whole bunch of stuff from Debra Jane Seltzer - here's a few to get you started:

     > Southwest Neon 
     > Mostly Tuscon 
     > Tuscon to New Mexico 
     > Southern New Mexica to El Paso 
     > Texas 
     > Towards Fort Worth 
     > Abilene & Around 

 Via Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, the loss of Second Avenue's San Loco.  

 Savor the neon in the backdrop of these 1979 NYC street scenes by Dutch sailor Peter van Wijk (via Ephemeral NY)  - then enjoy these non-neon-but-still-cool vanished storefronts from the same collection. 

 Not neon, but from the typography department - check out these pretty pictures from the NY Times Magazine Typography Exhibition

 An homage to the Corner Bistro, from Ephemeral NY.  

Corner Bistro. (T. Rinaldi)

 In Roanoke, VA: "As Neon Fades, Roanoke Explores New Options for Iconic Star."  

 In Fall River, MA, the Al Mac's Diner sign has come down....  but there's a GoFundMe to save it.

 Not neon, but - from the disappearing old stores of NYC department, say goodbye to the Park Delicatessen in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (via JVNY)  

 Via SHORPY: Some scenes of vanished neon glory in Omaha and in the backdrop of a creepily-timely photo of a 1930s Nazi march in NYC.

 In Washington, DC, crisis averted: the near-demise of the classic Uptown Theatre neon.    

 Neon in the backdrop of these great 1960s-70s photos by Carole Teller, part of an archive recently digitized and made available online by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (via the JVNY blog).

 From the Le Sigh department .... In Syracuse, the supremely cool Hancock Airport sign has gone LED.  

 New York sign shop Let There Be Neon is helping out with a campaign to save Havana's historic neon (via Signs of the Times Magazine).

 Feast your eyes on the glorious vanished neon (and other) storefronts of Brooklyn in a collection of photos called "Great Store F(r)onts," from UrbanArchiveNY and the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Great Store F(r)onts, via UrbanArchiveNY.

 In Long Beach, CA, a plan to protect and save the fabulously historic "Fly DC Jets" sign.  

 In the Bronx, the old Potter's Men's Shop has gone and now so has its reliquary neon.

RIP: Potter's Men's Shop vanished a few years ago.  Now their ghost sign has too. (T. Rinaldi)

 Via Thrillist.... step inside the shop of LiteBrite Neon of Gowanus (video) 

 Learn or re-learn: "This is How Neon Signs Are Made" ~ a tutorial with Esteban Salazar of UrbanGlass in Brooklyn (also video).

 In Philadelphia: author and neon practitioner Len Davidson's dream of a neon museum is coming closer to reality

 Neon on the cover of the Atlantic.

The Atlantic at Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, NY