Archive for the ‘Random signage’ Category

The mystery name behind the Starbucks sign

July 6, 2015

BroadstreetsThe Starbucks Coffee at 334 Fifth Avenue, at 33rd Street, bit the dust earlier this year, reportedly a victim of the city’s insane commercial rents.

Now that the familiar green logo has been removed from the facade, the ghostly imprint of an older sign has come back into view.

Broadstreet’s, the faded outline reads on both sides of the corner storefront. But what was Broadstreet’s? It’s a mystery that needs solving.

Broadstreetscloseup

A men’s clothing store chain called Broadstreet’s apparently existed in New York on Fifth Avenue from the 1940s to the 1960s, but this typeface doesn’t look like it goes back that far.

In any case, welcome back to Fifth Avenue, Broadstreet’s, albeit temporarily until a new retailer covers you up again.

Here’s another New York retail relic from the 1960s finally revealed when another Starbucks on Lexington Avenue closed up shop earlier this year.

The old-school store signs of Washington Heights

May 18, 2015

Fans of store signage dating back generations should take a stroll along upper Broadway between 168th and 181st Streets.

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Here remain some vintage signs—like this classic Cafe/Bar sign for Reynold’s, an Irish workingman’s bar that opened 50 years ago and closed its doors for good in March.

DNAinfo has a terrific story about the backstory of Reynold’s and the bar’s closing.

Washhtsstoresignbicyles

The colorful sign for Victor’s Bicycle makes the place look like a party store. If only it wasn’t partly obscured by scaffolding.

Washhtsstoresignsliquor

Discount Wines and Liquors says it all: cheap booze in a gritty New York shop with display windows that haven’t been cleaned off in years.

Check out more vintage store signs, this time in Brooklyn.

Behind the Starbucks sign on Lexington Avenue

May 2, 2015

When the Starbucks at 655 Lexington Avenue shut its doors for a renovation recently, the windows were papered up and the store sign came down . . . revealing this wonderful relic of another Manhattan.

Therecordcentresign

Remember record stores? The Record Centre seems to have been a mini-chain with four Manhattan locations, including two in the West Village.

Thanks to Ephemeral Reader James R. for spotting the sign and taking the photo.

A close-up look down Cortlandt Street in 1908

April 27, 2015

“Cortlandt Street, New York, showing the Singer Building,” reads the caption of this postcard.

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What a time capsule we’re looking at from what appears to be West Street. Not only is there no more Singer Building (brand new in 1908, demolished in 1968), but the small-scale walkups on the right were obliterated to make way for the World Trade Center in the early 1970s.

Cortlandt Street at this time had not yet earned its wonderful nickname, “Radio Row.”

Cortlandtstreet1908bandw

That’s the platform for the Ninth Avenue El, which ran up Greenwich Street. Compare the postcard to the actual photo it comes from.

Shorpy has the enlarged image here, so you can gaze at old New York in incredible detail.

The shadowy corners of a city street in 1930

April 20, 2015

“Corner Shadows,” by printmaker Martin Lewis, depicts a Depression-era city of lamp light, back streets, and regular New Yorkers absorbed in their own thoughts, even in a crowd.

Martinlewiscornershadows

It’s not clear what corner of the city we’re on, but the drugstore across the way hints that it’s ordinary and nondescript, a working class neighborhood perhaps.

Look close, and you can see ads for Ex-Lax, soda, and seltzer, plus a counter occupied by a few lonely souls.

Much of Lewis’ extraordinary drypoint prints give us a similar New York noir . . . sometimes with a bit of playfulness.

Is this really the shortest street in Manhattan?

April 6, 2015

EdgarstreetsignManhattan has no shortage of dead-end alleys and one-block streets.

But at 63 feet long, Edgar Street, way down beside Battery Park City off of Greenwich Street, just might hold the title of the borough’s shortest thoroughfare.

It’s named after a shipping magnate whose mansion fronted Greenwich Street around the turn of the 19th century, when lower Greenwich was the Millionaire’s Row of the era.

Edgarstreet

Edgar Street’s title come from an insightful post from the folks at Curbed, who relied on data from Property Shark. The Street Book, which explains the origins of all of Manhattan’s street names, also cites Edgar Street as the shortest.

weehawkenstreetsignThing is, other sources have it that Mill Lane should get shortest-street honors.

“[T]iny Mill Lane in the financial district appears to be the shortest of them all, coming in a few feet shorter than Edgar Street,” stated Michele and James Nevius, authors of Inside the Apple, in a New York Times Q and A.

EdgarstreetoldOver in the West Village, an ancient sign nailed to a wall on slender Weehawken Street names this one-block lane between West 10th and Christopher Streets as Manhattan’s smallest (above left).

Gay Street, Moore Street, Jones Street, and St. John’s Lane are also contenders for the title.

So which is really the shortest street?

Since Mill Lane doesn’t appear to allow traffic through it anymore, I’m going with Edgar (right, in an undated NYPL photo . . . is that the Ninth Avenue El overhead?).

Easter menus from New York’s restaurant past

March 30, 2015

EasterdinnermenufrontwindsorEaster dinner was a feast at the luxurious Hotel Windsor in 1893, once on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street.

Judging by the cover of the menu (left), the day’s religious significance was front and center.

Starting with “Easter eggs,” this Gilded Age menu details more than seven hefty courses, ending with a delicious strawberries and cream option.

Mutton kidneys and frizzled beef, on the other hand, sound less than appetizing.

Easterdinnerwindsor1893

Fast-forward to 1955. We’re at the Park Lane Hotel (located on Park Avenue and 48th Street until 1971), and Easter Dinner is now Easter Sunday Brunch, its religious significance not referenced.

The menu is a lot smaller and features brunch favorites New Yorkers indulge in today, such as Eggs Benedict and pancakes (okay, wheat cakes) and sausage.

Easterbrunchhotelparklane1955

Looks like only hot buns, filet of sole, and sausage appear on both menus, which are part of the New York Public Library’s fantastic Buttolph Collection of American menus.

If the Park Lane Hotel still hosts an Easter Brunch, I bet it’s no longer $4.50 a person!

What remains of the East River’s long-gone slips

March 16, 2015

 Slipold2015Old maps of Lower Manhattan (like the one below, from 1842) list them: the many slips created along the East River to facilitate ship transportation in a city dependent on maritime trade.

 From Gouverneur Street to Whitehall Street, 12 slips offered “access to the shoreline by small craft such as ferries and farmers’ market boats,” states oldstreets.com. “There were markets at most of the slips at one time or another.”

Slipsmap1842

Today, some exist in name only. Eleven were gone by the middle of the 19th century, early victims of the city’s valuable real estate. The last one disappeared by 1900.

Slipmarket2015“It was the need for additional land that caused the passing of New York’s historic slips,” states a 1924 New York Times article.

“Those alleyways of water were two blocks long and as many wide, flanked about by rocking wharves at which tied up the small boats belonging to mother vessels further out, or the mother vessels themselves if not too large.”

“And with the passing of these slips passed also the romance of the clippers, our country’s first sailing vessels.”

What wonderful names they had! Some were derived from prominent Dutch-born landowners, like Coenradt and Antjie Ten Eyck (Coentje—later Coenties—Slip).

Slipsnyt1924

Others were named for the businesses nearby, like Coffee House Slip, once at the end of Wall Street where several coffee houses had popped up in the late 18th century (above, in a New York Times sketch).

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There was also Fly Market Slip, a corruption of the Dutch vly, meaning valley, according to oldstreets.com.

The rest were Gouverneur, Rutgers, Pike, Market, Catherine, James, Peck, Burling, and finally, Old Slip.

Neglected subway signage from another New York

February 23, 2015

OldsubwaysignagechamberscloseupIt’s been decades since the MTA introduced the spiffy white-on-black subway station signs on platforms that clearly spell out the name of each station.

But they didn’t get rid of all the scruffy signage from decades past. Some 1970s-era examples can be found in some of the grungier corners of subterranean New York City.

Exhibit A: these long-neglected old-school signs at the Chambers Street 1, 2, and 3 train station.

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I guess someone made a half-hearted attempt to cover up the old “Chmb’rs” sign, then gave up after coating half of it in the blue paint used for the rest of the wall.

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At Astor Place, it looks like someone souvenir-hunting tore off the newer Astor Place or Cooper Union signs, revealing this unglamorous one-word sign below.

A Times Square neon sign through the years

January 19, 2015

Bondtimessquare1950sFans of old-school New York neon know the Bond Clothes billboard and sign, the enormous and spectacular signage that lit up Broadway and 45th Street in different forms from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Captured in countless photos (at left, on New Year’s Eve 1950), the sign that stood from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s—with a clock in the O of the Bond name—has become an emblem of Times Square’s postwar glory years.

“This sign was 50 feet tall and 200 feet wide, spanned two streets, and featured a 50,000 gallon waterfall,” states this page from the Sign and Billboard Blog.

Bondsignnighttime

“Surrounding this waterfall were two classical-style figures of a man and woman who were nude during the day, but clothed in neon togas and dresses at night.” (Electric lights turned on at night gave the impression the figures were wearing clothes.)

Bondtimessquare1979By the late 1950s, Bond began leasing the billboard space to other brands, like Pepsi, which turned the two human statues into giant soda bottles.

As Times Square slid into decay (above, in 1979), part of the Bond sign continued to live on—even after the store went out of business in 1977.

Bondclashposter

The venue became the Bond’s International Casino, a nod to the International Casino, a 1930s-era nightclub that existed on the site.

Bond’s was a short-lived disco and rock venue that featured dancing and live acts, most famously the Clash.

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The Clash played 17 shows in 15 nights there in 1981 (opening acts: Grandmaster Flash and the Dead Kennedys, among others).

This made the news because concert promoters oversold tickets, which led to the fire department getting involved, as Channel 7 reported live from the scene the night of one of the planned shows.

Today the site is the location of the restaurant Bond 45, which continues the neon sign tradition. (Second photo: Wikipedia; third photo: Bow Tie Partners)


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