Urban explorers get giddy when they come across ghost signs: faded ads and store signage for businesses that have long since departed their original location.
The Lower East Side is full of these phantoms, thanks to changes in the neighborhood that have displaced longtime retailers and services—like the expansion of Chinatown and the hipsterization of downtown Manhattan.
Turn the corner at Allen and Grand Streets, and you’ll see one ghost sign: a two-story vintage ad on the side of a tenement, with a wonderful arrow pointing toward a nonexistent entrance. What happened to Martin Albert Decorators? They moved to East 19th Street, then to 39th Street.
At the start of the Great Depression, close to 3,550 Chinese Laundries operated in New York City, reported one source. This laundry at 123 Allen Street was one of them.
Nice that the bar which took over this lower-level space kept the weathered old Chinese Laundry sign.
There must be hundreds of massage businesses in the area right now. Lurking beneath this back and foot rub sign is the word “sportswear,” a remnant of the Lower East Side’s past as a center for clothing, fabric, and linen shops.
This ghost sign at 302-306 Grand Street lies hidden under a newer awning. H & G Cohen sold towels and shams, the sign tells us . . . but no digitized trace of the business could be found.