Posts Tagged ‘old signs’

Two Prince Street relics on a pre-SoHo building

August 19, 2017

SoHo’s cast-iron commercial buildings have long been repurposed into expensive lofts and boutiques.

But hiding in plain site on the handsome, two-story brick and iron building between Greene Street and Wooster Place are two relics, nods to the neighborhood’s late 19th and 20th century manufacturing past.

These metal signs, advertising the services of a lithographer and engraver as well as an office supplies seller, flank the ends of 120-125 Prince Street, actually two separate buildings constructed in 1892-1893 with a common facade.

“Stationery, Office Supplies, Paper, and Twine” states the one on the right. Twine? To wrap packages in an era before masking tape.

The sign on the left must have advertised the latest technology in printing at the time. Lithographing, engraving . . . manifold books? Special forms?

What they were for we may never know, but these businesses must have been right at home in the area at the time, when this post–Civil War red-light district was the 20th century commercial hub known as Hell’s Hundred Acres.

Imagine the area back then: few residents, no shopping, and all day in nearby buildings machinery churned and whirled and pulsed with the energy that comes from making things.

[Bottom photo: Wikipedia, 2012]

The dates on New York’s buildings and signs

September 2, 2013

I love looking up at old signs and facades and seeing the date the building or business opened. Sometimes the numbers are more functional than architecturally beautiful, but it’s always worth knowing how long a store or service has been around.


The sign for Northern Dispensary, kind of a walk-in health clinic for Greenwich Villagers in the early 19th century, has one of the oldest dates I’ve seen: 1827.


By comparison, the Treiss Building, on Atlantic Avenue on the Cobble Hill-Brooklyn Heights border since 1872, is practically a newbie.


Ornamentation like this, from the facade of a city firehouse established in 1894 in the Flatiron District, is always a treat. And the AD is a nice touch.


I’d love to go back in time and see what Thomas Drugs, on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side, looked like in 1904.


Judging from its shabby-chic faded look, the sign for Yonah Shimmel Knishes, on Houston Street, just might actually have been painted in 1910.

Old phone exchanges spotted in Crown Heights

January 23, 2011

Ephemeral reader Sheena passed along these photos she recently took of two old-school signs featuring pre-1960s two-letter phone exchanges. Both come from Crown Heights.

The DE in this F. Goldsmith & Sons sign could stand for Dewey or Defender. What those two words have to do with Brooklyn, I have no idea.

NI is for Nightingale—and Michael Cerverizzo & Sons is still in business on Flatlands Avenue.

Old phone exchange signs cannot hide

December 17, 2008

Two-letter telephone exchanges offer a glimpse into pre-1960s Gotham, and it’s always a treat to uncover new ones.

The Regent Sign Company prefix was spotted on a storefront on West Eighth Street currently undergoing renovation. AL?









If you needed to enter this old loft building in SoHo back in the day, you’d call WO 6-1048. I wonder if anyone still answers the phone at the P & G Elevator Company.


A faded ad reappears in the East Village

November 24, 2008

When old buildings are rehabbed, long-lost ads come back into view. This one is on Third Avenue in the East Village. Hudson’s was an army-navy emporium located at Third and 13th Street, a place to buy work clothes, camping supplies, and assorted surplus items. 


Opened in 1922, Hudson’s bit the dust in the early 1990s.

The disappearing soda fountain sign

September 22, 2008

They used to be all over the city: signs for delis, pizza parlors, and newsstands that featured the logos for Coca-Cola, 7Up, and other sodas.

Their days are numbered, but some of these soda-fountain signs are still around, like for this newsstand on Bleecker Street in the West Village:

This 7Up sign is the remnant of a restaurant that used to be on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. Now, it’s a Thai place, but they never changed the sign:

A Coca-Cola sign for a deli, hidden by scaffolding in the Flatiron District:

Makes you thirsty, doesn’t it?

Vintage store signs, pizza edition

July 11, 2008

Carmine’s Original Pizza, Norman Avenue, Greenpoint. Can’t you just see the steam rise off a hot cheese slice? I like to think maybe they grow their own tomatoes in the garden on the roof.

Next up is Cheesy Pizza on the Upper West Side. The typeface is a little snazzier. Note the CP logo.

Last but not least: Phil’s Pizza on Seventh Avenue South in the West Village. Extra points for the old-school Italian Ice cart.

The signs rate an A. How about the pizza?

Can you repeat the number please?

June 8, 2008

Here are three more old phone exchanges from store signs and the side of a building. First up is this number for Bernard Charles Real Estate on Greenwich and Charles Streets. The typeface looks very 1940s.

On Thompson Street is Frank’s. Gotta love a hand-painted sign.

Finally, Sixth Avenue’s unofficial welcome-to-the-Village sign. Where have you gone, Emil Talamini? An obituary from the New York Times in 1970 describes him as “a real estate broker and investor long active in the Greenwich Village area.” RIP.

Hey New York, gimme a sign!

June 1, 2008

Deciphering faded ads painted on buildings long ago is one of the city’s little pleasures. Here are three ghostly glimpses of New York’s recent past.

On Richards Street in Red Hook is this sign for the Kranich Soap Company. I couldn’t find anything on the history of the place. 

From the East 90s in Manhattan is this ad for a laundry company. “Best launderers in the…” It’s a mystery.

On Manhattan’s West Street off Leroy is this old hotel sign. Can’t make out the name but it was on 57th Street and boasted of having 1200 rooms.

Furs and waists in the garment district

May 9, 2008

It’s hard to read, but the lowest part of this cool old ad in the West 20s—for Schwartz & Schwartz coats and waists (an old-fashioned term for a woman’s blouse)—deserves a close look.

I couldn’t find anything about the Schwartz Brothers, but I did learn that Mr. Greenblatt, the furrier, was a Polish immigrant who manufactured his furs at 305 Seventh Avenue. He died in 1938.