Monday, April 28, 2014

New York Neon Walking Tour

On Thursday, May 8, I'll be leading a walking tour of old neon signs in the East Village.  For whatever reason, this neighborhood has an especially dense concentration of old neon, with some of the best historic signs to be found anywhere in New York, all within a few blocks of eachother.   


There’s Block Drugs, Veniero's and DiRobertis', Gringer, Russ & Daughters, Katz's, and a few more.  We'll stop by to pay homage to each of these and bask in the fine details of their design and assembly.  

Katz's, Gringer, and Russ & Daughters will all be on the tour. (T. Rinaldi)

I'll spill everything I know about where these signs came from, who made them and when they went up.  Space is limited to just 20 lucky admirers of old New Yorkiana, so sign up now!  The fare is $20 per person; all proceeds go to the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, who is organizing the whole thing.  Hope to see some of you there!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Skeleton Signs

Although the neon book focused on veteran outdoor storefront signs, skeleton signs are impossible to ignore.  It's here that New York's neon tube benders really show off their imagination and skill.  They're called skeleton signs because they're so, well, skeletal - just tubes and a transformer and some kind of an armature to hold it together.  While neon storefront signs have grown scarce over the years, skeleton signs can still be found all over town, though LEDs are moving in here, too.

There may not be a single legit or even semi-legit trade in the book that isn't advertised with a neon window sign somewhere in New York.  Beyond the locksmiths, cobblers, cleaners and nail salons whose neon window signs are quintessential features of the New York streetscape, skeleton signs advertise just about anything and everything imaginable.

Angelo True Value Paint & Hardware, 148-27 Hillside Ave., Queens

Show World Center, 669 8th Ave., Manhattan

$10 Psychic, Somewhere in Manhattan 
Somewhere on 47th St., Manhattan

Calvary Books, 4226 White Plains Road, Bronx

Skeleton signs have us covered from head to toe and everything in between.

Somewhere on Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn

Somewhere in Chelsea, Manhattan

Cohen's Fashion Optical, 189 Montague St., Brooklyn

Economy Best Vision & Hearing, 223 W14th St., Manhattan

Marini & Manci Dentistry, 21 Spring St., Manhattan

Uri Gallery Jewelers, 523 Fulton St., Brooklyn

Chelsea Healing Art, 393 8th Av., Manhattan

Because they've been made in essentially the same way for a good 80 years, it's sometimes hard to tell an old skeleton sign from a not-so-old one.  Real neon pro's can spot little details in their construction that are clues to their age - old transformers, assembly techniques, electrode styles, etc.  The rest of us can spot older signs based on typography that speaks with the twang of another era.

Lanza's Restaurant, 168 1st Av., Manhattan

Gothic Press, 1317 Ave. Z, Brooklyn

Aaron Plum Insurance, 255 W231st St., Bronx

23rd Street Hardware (Vercesi Hardware), 152 E23rd St., Manhattan

Stage Restaurant, 128 2nd Av., Manhattan

Grande Memorials, 382 Graham Ave., Brooklyn

John's Pizzeria "Port'Alba - Wines-Beer" / 278 Bleecker St., Manhattan

They are a polyglot bunch, these window signs, as multilingual as the city that wrought them.  Polyalphabetical, too.  

D'Sergio S. Multiservices Inc., 1590 St. Nicholas Ave., Manhattan

Karpaty Lys Mykyta (Sly Fox), 140 2nd Ave., Manhattan

Loeser's Delicatessen, 214 W231st St., Bronx

Hair Love Beauty Salon, 75-26 Broadway, Jackson Heights, Queens

Main Street, Flushing, Queens

Some signs say it with words...

"Igor Is Here" / Style and Smile Salon, 167 W21st St., Manhattan

"Freaks" / Surf Ave., Coney Island, Brooklyn

"Sleep Late" / The Edge Bar, 95 E3rd St., Manhattan

 "Any Bail Any Jail" / Spartan Bail Bonds, Inc., 81 Baxter St., Manhattan

"We Specialize in the Unique & Unusual" / Kinematics Fetish Store, W38th St., Manhattan

"Council Member Letitia James" / 67 Hanson Pl., Brooklyn

 Knights of Columbus Archbishop John Hughes Council No. 481, 1305 86th Street, Brooklyn

"In By 9 AM Out By 5 PM" / Cleaners, Somewhere on the Upper East Side, Manhattan

"Spandex World" / 228 W38th St., Manhattan

Haric Laundry, 335 E65th St, Manhattan

Others speak with pictographic simplicity.

Union Han Cook Meat Market, 34-08 Union St., Flushing, Queens

Pine St. Barber Shop, 79 Pine St., Manhattan

Ulloa's Photo Center, 4260 Broadway, Manhattan

Ambrosia Pizza, 8 W45th Street, Manhattan

Andre's Bakery / 1049 First Av., Manhattan

East Village, Manhattan

Swan's Cleaners, 356 9th Ave., Manhattan

HealthyBay Natural Foods Inc. / 161-30 Cross Bay Blvd., Queens

Gym Source / 40 E52nd St., Manhattan

Hungry?  Consult the neon menu:

"Fresh Fish" / Sunny Fish Market, 44-15 Queens Blvd, Queens

Somewhere in Washington Heights, Manhattan

"Camarones" / Somewhere in Washington Heights, Manhattan

"We Are Kosher" / Dunkin' Donuts-Baskin Robbins, 51 E34th St., Manhattan

Somewhere in Chinatown, Manhattan

Nice & Spicey / Kashmir 9 Cuisine of Pakistan, 478 9th Ave. around 39th St., Manhattan

The sheer volume of neon skeleton signs is such that I could scarcely begin to do them justice with just this one blog post.  If I missed any of your favorites, as I surely have, please drop me an e-mail at (rinaldit2 [at] gmail [dot] com) to clue me in.  Please include a photo if you can.     

•  My next neon walking tour has officially been calendared!  May 8, 2014, at dusk.  Reservations at the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.  


•  From Jeremiah's Vanishing NY ~ the Famous Oyster Bar signs have taken actually residence at their new perch, as promised, at the Grey Lady on Delancey Street.
•  Exciting news from Gowanus: the Kentile spectacular will come back to life, sort of, on May 3rd, 2014, by way of fancy laser beams.  It's a one night only gig.  
•  Also via JVNY, word on the impending demise of the Brevoort Garage by Union Square, home to one of my favorite parking garage signs in town.
•  From the Bowery Boys, a trove of 1940s color photos by Andreas Feininger showing the nighttime streets of New York bathed in red neon - this will blow your mind.  
•  From the ilovetypography blog, a short and sweet cinematic tribute to sign painting. 
•  From James and Karla Murray and EVGrieve: Some truly great ancient neon unearthed and trashed in the same day in the East Village.
•  A quick neon typography appreciation of the Superior Florists sign on 6th Ave, from Paul Shaw. 
•  Meanwhile, out west, Debra Jane visits Fresno, here and here
•  The Lost City blog visits upon some of my absolute favorite reliquary neon - the Louis Zuflacht building on the Lower East Side. 
•  Also via Jeremiah, really depressing rumors that we may soon lose Pearl Paint down on Canal Street, which has some nice neon and even nicer non-neon streamlined porcelain enameled storefrontage.   
•  Ending on a happier note - a short film on the neon of Hong Kong.