Posts Tagged ‘faded signs’

Ghost signs lurking along the Lower East Side

November 21, 2016

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.

The faded, falling apart signs for city laundries

September 30, 2016

I’ve always wondered: why do so many of New York’s laundry places and dry cleaners have store signs that look like they’re about to fall apart or haven’t been freshened up since the Carter years.


This is not a criticism; I love coming across signs that have seen better days and bring us back to a different New York. But while so many other types of businesses update their signage frequently, laundry signs tend to look like forgotten relics.


The French Cleaners on Columbus Avenue is now closed. But the sign feels very space age 1960s. Same with Reliance Cleaners, on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn.


This launderers sign on Christopher Street is a favorite; it’s colorful and neat with a 1970s vibe. Grand Cleaners in East Williamsburg has the same old-school feel.


This second French Cleaners sign in Fort Greene is hard not to love. The faded blue background! That mini Eiffel Tower! I hope it lights up after dark.


Miss Weber’s 22nd Street millinery shop

June 14, 2010

A faded ad painted in brick on a Chelsea building is all that’s left of Miss Weber, a hat maker who ran a store at 48 West 22nd Street.

“Take elevator”: If instructions were necessary, I’d guess that elevators were relatively new at the time the ad was painted.

So when does it date to? Well, Frank Jump posted a photo taken in 1997; he dates the ad to 1910.

And 14to42 says an Ida Weber ran a hat shop here from 1911 to 1913 before decamping to the millinery district on 39th Street.

Hiding in plain sight old phone exchanges

April 5, 2010

It’s a little unnerving that the who-to-call signs for elevator maintenance issues in many buildings are so old, their phone number starts with a two-letter exchange officially dropped in the 1960s. 

Like this one, with SU for Susquehanna. I wonder why that name was assigned to the Upper West Side?

Hopefully they’ve done more recent elevator inspections. . . .

This real estate company ad in midtown helpfully provides the full name of the exchange, ORegon.

If you look really hard, you can make out the exchange on this barely hanging on commercial real estate ad near Canal Street.

JU for Judson, the name of the 19th century church still standing on Washington Square South.

Ghosts of 19th century New York horses

February 9, 2010

Reminders of the city’s horse-powered past are all over the place. Sometimes a horse head is mounted on the gate of a mews, a tribute to the creature who made his home there.

This one above is at the entrance to Sniffen Court—the pretty, circa-1860s mews-turned-private homes on 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenue. 

Or the head of an equine sticks out of the facade of an old stable. That’s where this Charles Street beauty keeps watch. Below the head is a faded sign featuring the name of the stable owner, H. Thalman.

Plenty of stable signage can still be found on old buildings, such as this Greenwich Street garage.

What would happen if a resident of Strivers’ Row in Central Harlem (above) decided to ride, not walk, his horse on the path behind the brownstone houses there? 

Remember when phones had to be dialed?

May 20, 2009

Seriously, you had to actually hook your finger in a little oval and circle it around at least seven times.

Maybe they still prefer dial phones in Cobble Hill, where this faded sign was spotted on a Pacific Street building that houses a beer distribution business.


More vintage ads that are fading fast

October 29, 2008

Ghostly reminders of businesses long gone can still be spotted all around the city, like this rug cleaning sign in the South Bronx:

And an ad for shoe polish on 125th Street:

Wexler’s Jewelers (“since 1900”) and Wenleys (“latest fashions”) share the side of a building on 34th Street across from Penn Station: