Friday, October 26, 2012

Was Rexall, Now Blockheads

Something about the Blockheads sign on Second Avenue and East 50th Street doesn't seem quite right.  It looks like an old sign.  But it also doesn't.  The sheet metal wrapping the sides of its distinctive silhouette looks like it's been around a while.  But the aluminum sign faces and the lettering are clearly not very old, nor has Blockheads (a local chain of Mexican restaurants) been around all that long (their web site dates the chain's inception to 1989).  So I never counted it in my survey of New York's old neon signs.
Ex-Rex at 954 Second Ave. (T. Rinaldi)
Then I saw this:  a pizza joint sign in Mundelein, Illinois, surveyed by Debra Jane Seltzer this past August.  

Bill's Pizza and Fabulous Hot Dogs, in Mundelein, ILL.  (Debra Jane Seltzer)

This is actually, as Debra Jane immediately recognized, an ex-Rexall Drugs sign re-lettered for the pizza joint.   Aha!  Rexall affiliates hung signs of this standard design all over the country (Debra Jane has compiled a gallery – actually four galleries - of them here).  At least two of them have been recycled in this way. 

A Rexall sign in its original livery, at Stewart Drugs in Lexington, Tennessee. (Debra Jane Seltzer)

The question is:  was this Second Avenue storefront a Rexall before Blockheads came along?  Or did Blockheads just salvage this old sign from someplace else and hang it here?  The 1980s tax photos at the Municipal Archives web site are just plain too fuzzy to solve this mystery, though there does appear to be a sign of about the same size and shape in place here.  Do any east side old timers know the answer?

SPECIAL THANKS to Debra Jane Seltzer for lending the photos in this post. 

 Very nice coverage of New York Neon in Friday's (10/19/12) New York Times, in Eve Kahn's Antiques Column.

 Further down 2nd Ave, some neon and other signs in photographs by Jim and Karla Murray.
 Via the JVNY and ATZ blogs – Coney’s old Playland building is finally being demolished together with the hulk of its old sign.
 In Detroit, Tiger Stadium is gone but preservationists managed to save the sign, which has just been re-lit. (Thanks to Eve Kahn for the link.)

 Nov. 19, 2012 at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your mention in NYT. Yep, remember these Rexall signs, one in my hometown that's long gone now.