Posts Tagged ‘ghost 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.

Ghost signs hanging over storefronts in Manhattan

August 18, 2014

New York is filled with ghost signs for store that have long departed an address. Yet the new shop owners never remove the old signage, giving the old businesses a phantom presence on city streets.


The liquors sign above is at Avenue A and 14th Street. As you can see, there’s no corresponding liquor store, just a nail salon and a karaoke bar.


When this pizza joint on West 18th Street pulled up stakes, the Persian restaurant that moved in didn’t mind the green Pizza Paradise awning. Maybe the Ps made it close enough?


Superbuy was one of the names of an old-school pharmacy that once existed on lower First Avenue across from Stuyvesant Town. The store is gone, but the orange sign remains.


I’m not even sure which of these signs is actually the ghost sign and which represents the business currently occupying this space on West 14th Street!

Ice cream store ghosts of Columbus Avenue

May 28, 2012

At 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, a lovely stained glass ice cream sign hides above a cafe, affixed to the second floor of a corner building.

It looks very 1920s or 1930s, but it’s a ghost sign that seems to have long outlived the store it was attached to. Whose store was it?

A few blocks north, at 74th Street and Columbus Avenue, is this less mysterious ice cream signage: for the J.M. Horton Ice Cream Company.

It’s a sweet remnant of the Upper West Side’s manufacturing past. So what happened to Horton?

More than a century ago, the small local dairy “was supplying over half of New York’s ice cream,” explains The New York Times in a 2000 article.

By 1930, competition from bigger producers put them out of business.

[Horton’s sign tip: Chris Wilmore]

A ghost of a coffee shop on 21st Street

April 16, 2010

The city needs more coffee shops—the old-fashioned, swivel-stool, formica-counter places that stayed open all night and let you linger for hours without ever informing you about where you coffee was grown and if it was fair trade.

I bet this place, on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street, was that kind. The owners of the deli that now occupies the spot just took their current sign down for some reason, revealing the old-school coffee shop sign behind it.

This should be their permanent sign, no?

Ghost businesses that left their mark on the city

April 2, 2010

Hiding in plain sight are signs and logos of companies that bit the dust long ago. Either no one bothered to take them down—or they’re part of the building and can’t be removed.

Bickford’s is the old-school “lunchroom” chain that used to be all over New York from the 1920s to the 1960s. This one on Eighth Avenue in the 40s has been empty for years.

One of my favorites is this logo for the Fischer & Co. Pure Pork Products headquarters, a two-story building on Second Avenue at 118th Street.

I couldn’t find a trace of this company anywhere. The 2-story building now houses a dry cleaner.

“Tree-Mark Shoes” is carved into the facade of the building that now houses Bowery Ballroom, on Delancey Street.

The company moved in after World War II and spent the next three decades there, according to The Lower East Side Remembered and Revisited.

Peeling back layers of downtown store signs

September 26, 2009

When a shop goes out of business, there’s a short yet sweet window of time during which the defunct store’s sign is down . . . and the ghost sign from a long-ago shop becomes visible. For a few days to a few weeks, you get this tiny glimpse into the city’s recent past.

Like Reisman’s Ladieswear at 226 East 14th Street. Not too many signs advertise “cut rate” clothing anymore:


Lafayette French Pastry, on Bleecker Street in the West Village, looks like it was a charming place to get a chocolate eclair in the 1960s. They moved over to Greenwich Avenue and West 10th several years ago:


I wonder what Richman, at 300 Canal Street, sold:


If the sign advertised a product or service, we’ll never know; it’s hidden behind a red blotch.