With the tree limbs that obscure it for most of the year almost bare, this old painted ad comes into view at Second Avenue and 109th Street.
But what is the advertisement for—something about Stanton Street, which is more than 100 blocks south?
“Lunch Soda Lounge” reads this ghostly old signage on 35th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
I imagine the place had a long, skinny luncheonette counter and metal swiveling seats.
Beef? Beer? I’m not sure what the vertical word is under this coffee shop ad on East 23rd Street, nor do I have any idea when it dates to.
“Coffee Shop” itself is a lost term. It’s too anonymous, not descriptive and unique enough for today’s specialty coffee culture.
These once-respectable hotels have long been shut down or converted into apartment houses or SROs.
Lucky for us, the advertisements for them on the sides of city buildings still linger. Like this one for the Paris Hotel, which opened in 1931 on West End Avenue and 97th Street.
Today it’s a high-end rental. The pool is still there, but I wonder if they still have the rooftop solarium.
Towering over East 39th Street is this ad for the Dryden East Hotel, formerly the Hotel Dryden, built in the late 1920s. It too is now a luxury residence.
You can barely make out the name on this ad, for the Vigilant Hotel on Eighth Avenue off 28th Street. Once a legitimate place to bunk for the night, it’s now one of the last fleabag flophouses in the city.
Before it gets the inevitable boutique hotel makeover, read the fascinating details on what it’s like to stay at the Vigilant, from this first-person account.
Faded ads that are preserved in full are treasures. But most of the old signage found around the city consists of just one or two legible words—maybe a name or a type of service.
Whose business was it? What did they sell or manufacture? Without more words as clues, we may never know.
On the side of a prewar building now known as the Amsterdam Court Hotel at 50th Street and Broadway is this faded ad for apartments. How many rooms? How much per month? I wish we knew.
This faded sign, as seen from Sixth Avenue in the 20s, appears to read “R. S. Stern.” If this is correct, I wonder what Mr. Stern’s company sold.
We’re losing them—the white (and sometimes color) ads painted on the sides of buildings left over from an older, non-digital New York.
I can make out the “Sable Bros” part of this one, on 36th Street. But to figure out what the white letters fronting the blue background, I had to consult the wonderful 14 to 42 website, which photographed the ad when it was in better shape back in 2004.
This next one, in the 20s off Seventh Avenue, is too far gone to even try to research, except for what seems to be the word “paper” at top.
If anyone can figure it out, please send it in!
In the 1930s, the Bendix company licensed a line of home washing machines.
Which means this enormous faded ad on an East 109th Street and First Avenue tenement could be about 80 years old.
It’s in pretty good condition, but it could be more than 40 years old—the old two-letter phone exchanges were still officially in use through the 1960s.
NE for Nevins Street, on the other side of Prospect Park. Thanks to Ephemeral reader Sheena for sending in this photo.
Here’s an invaluable resource for decoding old New York City phone exchanges.
“Beer” is the word that draws the eye to this very weathered ad painted (in color!) on the side of a building at Canal and Lafayette Streets.
“Importers and Bottlers of” is above it. The “liberty” script is lovely. The rest of the ad, however, is indecipherable.
This Sonn Bros. Whiskies ad still stands on Desbrosses Street in Tribeca. Hyman and Henry Sonn were Bavarian immigrants who became liquor dealers in the late 19th century.
One of the best concentrations of faded ads is in the Garment District, where clothing and accessories companies once—perhaps still—manufacture dresses, coats, belts, and other industry staples.
I love the 1960s-ish 45-single logo on this ad, for Baar and Beards accessories is on 37th Street. It’s close to their headquarters at 350 Fifth Avenue.
Vintage Robert Bestian handbags are for sale all over the internet, but other than that, there’s not much information this brand out there. The ad is on 33rd Street.
Does this really say “Style Undies” above a list of children’s clothes words like pajamas and play togs?