Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kentile Update

Lots of questions remain on what will become of the Kentile sign, but for now, here's what we know:

Kentile, 06/21/14. (sfspur/Instagram)

As of Sunday, June 22, 2014, the removal of the big metal letters is about half way done.  It took less than two days to dismantle the KENTILE lettering; the smaller lettering that spells out FLOORS will probably go even faster, and the whole thing will likely be erased from the skyline early next week.  What will become of the metal framework behind the letters remains unclear.  It appears to be scheduled for demolition but not included in the preservation scope.  (Perhaps they ought to stockpile those parts as well - could come in handy if the sign is to be re-erected somewhere.)

The Kentile has landed.  (gowanusalliance/Instagram)

As for the preservation efforts: the letters themselves appear to have been carefully removed, as promised.  The Gowanus Alliance, a local business improvement nonprofit, is taking custody of them and will keep them safely stored "in the warehouse" with the idea that they will be re-erected at an unspecified location when the time comes.  (Last week, the Gowanus Alliance issued a fairly thorough outline of its preservation initiative for the sign as it stands now.)  A citizens group has also formed to advocate for Kentile's eventual restoration.

(Debra Jane Seltzer)

Meanwhile, from Chicago, we have learned that Kentile's twin sign quietly vanished early last year.  What is noteworthy about this is that the Chicago sign vanished with nary a peep - quite unlike the media frenzy that has come with the loss of the Brooklyn sign.   

Rust stains on a factory roof are all that remain of Chicago's Kentile sign. (Google Maps)

While Kentile Brooklyn is memorialized to the hilt on Flickr and Instagram, photos of the Chicago sign are actually hard to find. What this tells us, more than anything, is that much of the Brooklyn sign's appeal lay in its context.  Kentile became a kind of mascot that embodied the whole found-object identity of Brooklyn in the 21st Century.   

(Live Poultry Industrial Clothing)  

The sign was a pleasure to see from the Gowanus expressway, but the real beauty of the Kentile sign, for me, was the way it batted its eyes at us as we passed by on the subway, the way it seemed to turn on axis as the train looped around it, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower and the lower Manhattan skyline screened in the distance through the latticework of those big metal letters and the structure beneath them. Riding past Kentile on the subway was something like flying around the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter.  From the train, the sign wasn't just seen, it was experienced.  If there's truly a Kentile resurrection in the offing, here's hoping the sign's new perch will do it justice by giving it the same kind of appeal that made it the iconic relic it came to be.

•   Save the date: another NY Neon walking tour scheduled for August 15, 2014, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.  Click here for more info.
•   From Frank Jump's Fading Ad blog, a neon relic uncovered in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  

No comments:

Post a Comment