Last week, while browsing some old digital photos I took back in 2006, I came across a shot of a relic sign I'd completely forgotten about. The sign belonged to Kosches Furniture, at 2171 Third Avenue in East Harlem. Having no recollection of even taking the photo, finding it was like discovering this great sign all over again. It's amazing how recently such relics were common enough in the city to be forgettable.
E. Kosches & Son, at 2171 Third Ave. (T. Rinaldi)
Some light Internet delving turns up nothing particularly informative about Kosches Furniture, and no other photos of its lovely sign. The DOB web site suggests that the business installed this sign in 1935, which sounds about right to me, from the looks of it. This is when a sign was a sign. Just look at that streamlined silhouette!
The splayed "eagle's wing" effect high up on the spire of the Empire State Building seems to have inspired the design of the Kosches sign. (T. Rinaldi)
Whoever designed this made especially nice use of what one might call the splayed "eagle's wing" effect – the tiered taper of the vertical part of the sign, that seems to reference the winged spire of the Empire State Building. This was a common device among sign designers of the 1930s and 40s (see, for example, the sign of the Veniero Pasticceria). The lettering, too, is superb period work (get a load of that "E"!).
The neon sign of the Veniero Pasticceria on East 11th Street, with similar silhouette. (T. Rinaldi)
At this point, you're probably wondering: is it still there? The answer, of course, is no. If it were, I'd run right up, re-shoot it from several angles, bask in its interwar aura, maybe do a sketch of its elevation to satisfy my documentary instinct. But Google Street View says don't bother. There is a new sign in its place, advertising the liquor store that occupies 2171 Third Avenue today. As often happens, the new sign echoes the basic shape of its predecessor, looking something like an up-side-down letter T, with no eagle's wings. An echo not loud enough.