Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shore Is Gone

For all their prominence as landmarks, old signs are frail and ephemeral things in the end.  Hurricane Sandy reminded us of this last week, the storm's long list of casualties including two of New York's best landmark signs.  

Lobster carnage at the City Island Lobster House, 691 Bridge Street in the Bronx.  (flickr.com/jaydensonbx

In the Bronx, Sandy reduced the big neon crustacean over the City Island Lobster House to a sad pile of twisted metal and broken glass.  Near as I could tell, the big lobster wasn't particularly old (it seems to have been added to an existing roof sign in the late 1990s).  Though not so much historic, the lobster endeared itself to many as one of New York's most iconic neon signs, and probably City Island's most recognized landmark, a true signature piece of this Bronx enclave community.  The Lobster House itself has fortunately survived the destruction and is up and running again.  Plans for a new neon lobster are in the works, I am told, though the new lobster will probably be somewhat scaled down from the old one, sadly.

The City Island Lobster House in better days. (Kirsten Hively / Project Neon)

Across the city, the art deco vertical sign of Coney Island's Shore Theatre was a Landmark legally as well as literally.  Post-storm photos of the carnage appeared Tuesday on Tricia Vita's Amusing The Zillion blog, showing the sign's mangled remains dangling over Surf Avenue from the historic theater's facade. 

Wreckage of the Shore Theatre's art deco vertical sign, installed c. 1939. (flickr.com/Timothy Krause

The sign was not quite as old as the theater, which opened as the Loew's Coney Island in 1925 with marquee and vertical signs lit by incandescent bulbs.  The original incandescent signs disappeared around 1939 to make way for a set of streamlined, neon-lit replacements, which included the just-destroyed vertical sign (the neon marquee was already gone).  These were likely produced by Artkraft Strauss, which did most of the work for New York-area Loews theaters by contract. 

The Shore Theatre sign was a Coney Island landmark.  (T. Rinaldi) 

Loew's seems to have employed a few standard designs for its theater signage over the years.  The Loew's Coney Island's vertical replacement sign had at least one identically styled sibling, over at the Loew's Oriental on 86th Street in Brooklyn.  The Oriental has lost its sign and marquee but still stands today (it's now a Marshall's).  The Loew's Coney Island meanwhile kept its sign, which was neatly re-lettered from LOEWS to SHORE when the theater changed hands and was re-named around 1964.  

The Loew's Oriental on 86th Street bore a twin replacement sign. (American Classic Images)

The sad irony is that this was one of very few neon signs in New York that enjoyed the protection of the city's Landmarks Commission (the theater was Landmarked in 2010).  Protected from man, but not from nature, it turns out.  Plans for the future of the long vacant theater are still formative, but here's hoping its Landmarked status will ensure at least a good facsimile, perhaps incorporating salvaged parts from the original.

All things considered, a few smashed up signs are the least of of the troubles still facing NYC's hard-hit low-lying areas, and the thousands still without power, heat and water more than a week after the storm.  Even some areas relatively unscathed are still without vital transit connections.  Here are some ways to help the many who are still in need:

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy that you were able to document these before they were taken from us by Sandy!