Archive for the ‘Random signage’ Category

What a 19th century manhole cover has to say

July 21, 2014

New York sidewalks and streets are a treasure of old manhole covers. Some are utilitarian, others decorative, but most are emblazoned with the name of the ironworks where they were made.

Dempseymanholecover5th

But this one, on the sidewalk on 11th Street east of Fifth Avenue, is more like a cast-iron advertisement for the M. J. Dempsey Foundry, located on West 55th Street.

Dempsey made furnace grates, coal hole covers, boiler castings, and dumping grates. It’s a small reminder of the great infrastructure advances (steam heat, coal delivery, furnaces) that helped make the city an manufacturing and industrial powerhouse.

The ices vendor setting up on East 110th Street

July 14, 2014

The ices offered by this street vendor are probably not artisanal or organic. But I bet they hit the spot on a hot summer day.

Icemanoneast110thst

Photographer John Albok captured the cones and syrups of one man’s cart in East Harlem in 1938, a neighborhood of Italians at the time with a small but growing influx of Hispanics.

The link from the Museum of the City of New York describes them as piraguas—the Puerto Rican treat sold by many vendors today.

[Photo: MCNY Collections Portal]

A fading sign of Williamsburg’s industrial past

July 7, 2014

On Kent Avenue is this well-preserved reminder that Williamsburg was once known for its industry and factories.

And the bonus faded ad: a GE logo!

GEfadedadwilliamsburg2

Cleaners Sales & Equipment Corp was in Williamsburg at least into the 1990s. There’s an address for it in Orangeburg, New York now.

Frank Jump has a little more company background.

Gorgeous neon signs illuminating the West Village

June 27, 2014

On this warm June evening, some old-school neon eye candy is called for. Neon is at its most enchanting at twilight, isn’t it?

Each of these signs have lit up the sky on the other side of Seventh Avenue South for decades—even if the establishments they advertise are a trendy parody of the bar and restaurants they they once were.

Beatriceinnsign

The Beatrice Inn opened in 1924 on West 12th Street. But it’s trended up these days and is no longer the comfortable if unspectacular neighborhood Italian place it had been. “Old Village ambience” wrote Cue magazine in 1975.

Fedorabarsign

Almost a century old, the Fedora, on West Fourth Street, was also recently revamped from a longtime local gay bar to a cocktails and cutting-edge menu kind of place.

Arthurstavernsign

Arthur’s has been a venue for live music since 1937. The vertical Arthur’s sign is wonderful but doesn’t light up anymore, unfortunately.

Johnspizzeriasign

Infamously known as the no-slices place, John’s has been serving meals (originally on Sullivan Street) since 1929—the year of the stock market crash.

This place is one of the few reminders that Bleecker Street was once a thriving Little Italy neighborhood, not an imitation of one.

 

The mystery quote on the Daily News building

June 27, 2014

DailynewsfacadeThe (former) headquarters for the New York Daily News, on East 42nd Street, is a 1930 skyscraper masterpiece.

The enormous lobby, with its illuminated revolving globe and compass points set into the floor, is an impressive monument to wonder and the bigness of the universe, as well as a nod to the newspaper’s global perspective.

Then there’s the huge facade framing the 39-story building’s main entrance.

Dailynewsbuilding1931This bas relief features the newspaper name, an urban cityscape, and a crowd of people, with this inscription: “he made so many of them.”

What does it mean?

It’s part of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “God must love the common people; he made so many of them.”

Sounds like an homage to the regular New Yorkers who made the Daily News, which got its start in 1919 as the city’s first tabloid, one of the nation’s biggest newspapers throughout the 20th century.

Dailynewsfacadequote

At the time of the building’s opening, the News had an impressive circulation of 1.3 million. Now it’s roughly half that.

A row of trees in Union Square mark a genocide

June 16, 2014

ArmeniantreesNew York is a city of memorials. Some you can’t miss: Grand Army Plaza, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Riverside Park, and the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Others are so low-key, you might walk past them thousands of times without realizing they exist. That describes this row of trees on the northern border of Union Square Park.

Lovely, yes. But unless you notice this small plaque at the eastern end, you’d never know that they were planted almost 30 years ago to commemorate the Armenian Genocide early last century.

Armenianplaque

New York’s “Little Armenia” community was centered not too far away in the upper 20s at Lexington Avenue.

But there doesn’t appear to be any connection between the former Armenian neighborhood and the memorial, which remains understated and little-known on one of the busiest stretches of Manhattan.

The “pleasure seekers” of Broadway at night

June 5, 2014

Looking at this postcard, you can almost feel the heat from the colorful lights of theater marquees and restaurants, and hear the whirling of the cable cars as they rush down Broadway.

Times Square night

“This view, in the centre of the theatre district, shows the usual crowd of pleasure seekers, who nightly throng the famous ‘Great White Way,’” the back of the card reads.

A faded apartment ad on a Murray Hill building

May 19, 2014

The white-brick residence at 155 East 38th Street doesn’t appear to be any different than the hundreds of others like it in Manhattan.

Murrayhillaptad

Except for one thing: the north side of the building sports a super old-school ad for apartment vacancies—air-conditioned, from 1 to 4.5 rooms!

The old OR exchange stood for ORchard, indicating a Lower East Side realty office ORegon.

Decades of ads asking New Yorkers not to litter

May 12, 2014

Littergarbagecan“Keep New York clean” the tagline on city garbage cans tells us.

It’s just the latest in a long history of ad campaigns to get residents to stop littering.

The early appeals focused on the health consequences of garbage, as this ad sponsored by the Fifth Avenue Association (a commercial group organized to keep factories off Fifth Avenue) makes clear.

Litterad1925

Cleanliness for cleanliness’ sake seems to be the message in this 1936 campaign, sponsored by the Department of Sanitation.

Did the Sanitation heads really enlist kids to be “junior inspectors” and spread the word about proper trash disposal?

Litterjuniorinspectorsclub1936

Littering on the subway and inside stations was called out too. I’m not sure when this ad came out, but it was produced by the IRT, which went out of business in 1940.

Littersubway

A giant waste basket in the middle Times Square shaming New Yorkers for their poor littering habits seems like a pretty effective tactic. This photo was taken in 1955.

Littertimessquare1955

Did the campaign work? Probably not—as anyone who remembers a trash-filled, littered New York in the 1970s can attest.

At least we’ve come a long way from throwing food and other waste in the street, expecting feral pigs to come along and clean it up for us, as New Yorkers actually did well into the 19th century!

 [Photos: NYC Municipal Archives; top photo: Shutterstock]

 

140 years of changes at Broadway and Houston

May 3, 2014

More than a century before anyone had ever heard of Soho or Noho, Broadway just north of Houston Street was a bustling business district and slightly low-rent entertainment area with the massive Broadway Central Hotel across the street and one block up.

Broadwayhouston1875

Just look at the shops and venues: a publisher, a banner painter, and a company dealing in straw goods—plus the New York Museum of Anatomy, Science & Art at number 618 and the Olympic Theater at number 624.

The Olympic opened in 1856 and was soon renamed Laura Keene’s New Theatre, after the actress of the era (who starred in “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington the night President Lincoln was shot).

Broadwayhouston1975

The theater with its lovely lampposts went through more name changes before closing in 1880; the building burned down in 1881, explains the caption to this photo, from New York Then and Now.

One hundred years later, the East Side of Broadway was kind of sketchy, a sparsely populated area with fabric and supply stores.

But look at the new cast-iron buildings from the late 19th century, like the beautiful Mercantile Building. One structure from 1875 remains: it’s at the end before the Mobil Station.

Broadwayhouston2014

Now, the Mobil Station has been replaced by the giant Adidas Store at the corner. Best Buy is renovating another cast-iron beauty, and Urban Outfitters occupies the ground floor of the Mercantile Building.

And this slip of Noho has been a prime shopping area since the 1980s.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,605 other followers