Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lights Out 2011: Signs We Lost This Year

They get harder and harder to find each year, these old neon signs of New York.  Their disappearance is what prompted me to undertake this project five years ago.  Here's a look at some we lost in 2011.  (I have included a few that disappeared in the latter months of 2010.)

About 50 of the signs I've photographed for this project have disappeared since September 2006.  More vanished in the same period before I could get to them.  In the coming weeks I hope to add a complete gallery of "los desaparecidos" over at  I'll mark that occasion with a post here as well.  Meantime, enjoy these photos of this year's casualties.  In most cases, photos are all that's left.
Faber's Arcade, 1230 Surf Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn
Silverescent Neon Sign Co., c. 1948 
Lost courtesy of Thor Equities along with the historic Henderson Music Hall over the winter of 2010-2011. (Neon tubes that outlined the letters vanished years ago.)

Surf Hotel, 1230 Surf Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn
1997 (Prop for Spike Lee's "He Got Game")
Lost courtesy of Thor Equities along with the historic Henderson Music Hall over the winter of 2010-2011.  Please tell me this found a good home. (Thanks to Amusing the Zillion for origins of this sign.)

696 Gourmet Deli, 696 Third Ave., Manhattan
c. 1965
Hadn't worked in years.  Tubes removed and sheet metal apparently covered over with new sign faces.

Morscher's Pork Store, 5844 Catalpa Ave., Ridgewood, Queens
c. 1950 
Replaced with a new sign (LED?) that more or less imitates the original, but without the panache of its veteran predecessor. 

Jade Mountain Restaurant, 197 Second Ave., Manhattan
1954 (raceway sign); Laster Neon Engineering Co., 1960 (projecting)
The restaurant closed down back in 2006, but the signs hung in there until this past summer, when they finally vanished amid many a hue and cry. 

Tout Va Bien Restaurant, 311 West 51st St., Manhattan
Midtown Neon, c. 1955 
Replaced with a new sign for this old restaurant sometime around Thanksgiving 2011.  The restaurant, fortunately, is alive and well.

McSwiggan's Bar, 393 Second Ave., Manhattan
Taken down for repair or replacement, fate yet to be determined. DOB records indicate this went up along with a long-vanished fascia sign for an establishment known as Mullin & Swain's in 1956. 

Mayfair Chemists, 21 Seventh Ave., Manhattan
c. 1965
Old independent drug store closed some years ago.  Sign finally disappeared with expansion of neighboring Duane Reade this past fall.

Milford Plaza Hotel, 700 Eighth Ave., Manhattan (roof sign)
Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp., 1958
Taken down around October, 2011, amid reports a new sign is in the works.

R.H. Macy Co., 441 Seventh Ave., Manhattan (Seventh Ave. marquee signs)
c. 1932
DOB records suggest a very early installation date for this pair of emerald gems, which disappeared around Thanksgiving 2010.  A new pair neon signs with Macy's current logo appeared in their place.

Rainbow Cafe Restaurant, 3904 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
c. 1955
Restaurant closed down a few years ago, signs remained until being taken down this past summer.  Reportedly put into storage for possible restoration.

Alex Liquor Store, 1598 St. Nicholas Ave., Manhattan
c. 1960
Felled for an LED replacement sign in November.  Original now in a private collection.

Fedora Restaurant, 239 West Fourth St., Manhattan
c. 1946
Vanished around New Year's 2010-11 to make way for a facsimile amid a somewhat controversial retooling of the restaurant within. 


Rocco Restaurant, 181 Thompson St., Manhattan
One of the oldest neon signs in New York, poised to disappear when the restaurant packs up on January 2, 2012, after an 89 year run.

R.H. Macy Co., 441 Seventh Ave., Manhattan (fascia signs at corner of 34th & Seventh)
c. 1948
A pair of reverse channel beauties at Macy's southwesterly corner.  Will these survive Macy's impending renovation?

Milford Plaza Hotel, 700 Eighth Ave., Manhattan (vertical signs)
c. 1980 
The signs have been dimmed for the past few months as the hotel undergoes a major renovation. Hotel to rebrand itself simply "The Milford." Maybe they'll just lop off the PLAZA from the signs?


  1. It's not generally known outside of Coney Island, but the Surf Hotel neon sign on the Henderson Building (1899) was not original. It was a prop for the 1997 Spike Lee movie "He Got Game" and was left there. Still it is a very nice sign and the demo men were offering it for sale, along with the original painted sign shown in my post, to various people. So I would say, yes it very likely found a home.

    The loss of the Faber's Fascination sign still upsets me. It should have been saved by Thor Equities and made a part of the new Coney Island, the way the developer Durst saved and donated the Peep-O-Rama sign to the Times Square Alliance.

  2. ATZ: Wow, thanks for the tip! On the main page at, I had remarked of the Surf Hotel sign: "So perfect I wondered if it was the real thing or something left over from a film shoot."

  3. Wow, ATZ's comment makes me feel better. It means that there are still people out there who know how to make these great signs and someday they might come back into fashion!

  4. I recall on 125 st west of Lexington a store that was once the "whirlaway" and it's neon.

  5. MILFORD PLAZA sign was turned off shortly after the O went out. The R & D were already out. Heh.