Harold's before-and-after. 2272 McDonald Ave., Brooklyn. (T. Rinaldi)
(T. Rinaldi)Eventually Helvetica became so overused (big corporate logos etc) that old signs, especially neon, grew to become widely admired largely for the unique quality of those pre-Helvetica fonts. As previously discussed on this blog, a new generation of designers today has rejected the tyranny of Helvetica, using almost any other font or letterform in its place. Once the darling of highbrow designers, Helvetica now has trickled down to the lowest depths of generic slop.
It's especially sad in this case, because Harold's old sign exhibited some of the best pre-Helvetica letterforms of any old neon sign in New York. In its day, the sign probably cost the equivalent of a new Cadillac to install. Its appearance dated to the mid-to-late 1950s, when Harold Friedman had an earlier sign reconfigured after taking over the corner drugstore at this location.
The good news is that the business itself is still there, and Harold's name still comes aglow each night on Avenue U, even if it is now rendered in LEDs instead of neon. And beneath those LEDs, the store's management confirms that the original neon lays entombed beneath the new sign. But this is cold comfort for admirers of that old sign. On my way back from Gravesend, I broke the news to Mr. Friedman's daughter, whose e-mail to me had prompted the somewhat ill-timed story I posted in July. "Not ill timed at all," she replied: "a prophetic foreshadowing and goodbye."
• Via Paul Shaw, check out the Letterform Archive, a project to collect and document unique and historic fonts and letterforms as "inspirational analog artifacts."
IN OTHER NEON NEWS:
• Good news, for now: a stay of execution for the Subway Inn.
• Save room on your bookshelf for a new volume on San Francisco neon.
• As forecast here, Warby Parker has re-lettered the old Lascoff's Drugs sign on the Upper East Side. More to come.
• Via Jeremiah, a bad prognosis for Arthur's Tavern in Greenwich Village, whose neon has been in place since 1937.