RIP Harold’s Pharmacy neon
(on Macdonald Ave @ Avenue U in Gravesend, Brooklyn)
This is one of those days when I seriously consider just finally ending this project. I started the project to celebrate New York’s neon, but I feel like now I’m just mourning the losses.
The New York Neon blog has broken the sad news that Harold’s neon will glow no more in Gravesend. (The blog also had a great post recently about the history of the sign.) I’m extra sad because this is another great sign I don’t have the best pictures of (it’s a tricky corner, a long sign, and some letters were out when last I visited.)
Harold’s is still in business, and the neon tubes are encased behind the new LED sign, but it’s no longer a special corner worth a visit. *sigh* I have nothing against LED lights for some uses and nothing against Helvetica (which despite its overuse is still a well-designed font), but this is a real loss of something special, something unique, and something beautiful that was free and open to anyone passing by to see. I understand that shop owners can’t or don’t want to spend the money for maintaining neon — I wish we could somehow help subsidize this. Heaven knows my pockets aren’t deep, but I’d sure kick in a few bucks to help keep the unique signs of NYC glowing.
One small spot of good neon news, though, from Gothamist, who report that the rumors of Arthur’s Tavern’s death are greatly exaggerated. I hope it does outlive us all!
I finally made it with my camera to visit to beautifully restored neon at The Long Island Bar on Atlantic Avenue (I’ve been repeatedly foiled by the never ending snowstorms, among other things). I was feeling more Hopper than Toulouse-Lautrec, so I contented myself with peering in the windows rather than joining the animated crowd inside, but the interior looks almost as lovely as the exterior (you can read a review of the bar — it’s not a restaurant at all despite the sign — in The New Yorker). Of course the particular charm of the original is gone, but the glow, inside and out, is as bright as ever.
The Long Island Bar sits near the BQE on the south side of Atlantic Avenue at Henry Street, so technically is in Cobble Hill, I guess, though I’ve always thought of it as part of Brooklyn Heights. Whichever neighborhood it’s in, I’ll definitely go back sometime soon when it’s not a busy Saturday night and I’m not feeling so solitary. Still, though, the neon’s a treat, and I salute the new owners for bringing back the pink & green glow. You can read all about the ace restoration job by Let There Be Neon on the New York Neon blog.
One of the things I especially love about this sign is that on the Atlantic Avenue side Long Island is spelled out (in lovely script — I’ve always been partial to this style of cursive letter “I”), and on the Henry Street side it’s just LI:
It’s such a clever way of dealing with uneven facade lengths and emphasizing the primary facade without neglecting the side. As I’ve said before I’m a fan of pink & green in neon (though not so much elsewhere), and I always love the combination of script and block letters, especially when the block letters are as elegant as this with curve-topped As and drop-waisted Es. Add in the wonderful rotated column for BAR and some stainless steel, and it’s all pretty perfect.
While there I couldn’t help revisiting Montero down the street. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t sing its praises again, but it’s another sign I really, really love. (For more of the history that connects the two bars, read this article from 2006 in the New York Times.) If we could just get a couple more similarly spectacular neon signs on this stretch of Atlantic (and maybe tone down the floodlights at the gas station across from the Long Island Restaurant), it could be a real neon delight.
NB: The Project Neon giveaway winner will be announced soon!
Holy cow, you guys! Circo’s Pastry Shop’s recently restored neon is BEAUTIFUL. I emailed them ages ago to ask if they had any plans to relight their long-dark neon signs, and received a friendly reply that gave me some home that some day, maybe, it might just happen. But I know how these things go, and the chances of a large-scale neon restoration seem vanishingly small these days. But then, lo and behold, earlier this summer New York Neon blog reported the great news that super neon-bender Robbie Ingui of Artistic Neon had completed the restoration of the main signs. (I recommend reading that post for a wonderful behind-the-scenes report.)
With one thing and another I hadn’t made it out there until last night. The long, dark winter nights mean it’s now prime neon-viewing season, so I jumped on the L train and headed out to the far side of Bushwick — nearly to Ridgewood, Queens — to have a look for myself. (I was too cold to continue on to Queens Tavern née Caskys, but picking up some anisette biscotti and bringing them to the tavern for beer dunking sounds like a great neon double-feature for another time.)
There’s a bold neon-red “BAKERY” on one side of the corner storefront, and a classic pink and green “CIRCO’S pastry shop” on the other. The capital letters have slab-serifs, and “pastry shop” is in one of the most appealing neon scripts I’ve seen yet. I’m seriously in love with this neon and glad I hauled myself out in the cold to visit.
You should go, too. You should really, really go. It’s a fabulous Italian bakery, full of traditional Italian treats like biscotti di San Marino (only available in the fall near his feast day, November 11) and new-fangled confections, like custom-made cakes.
An aside about San Marino: he’s the patron saint of wine-makers (a fall activity), and legend says that San Marino cut his cloak to give half to a beggar for warmth, so an unseasonably late warmth, near his feast day (what we call an Indian summer) is known in Italy (and France) as a St. Marino’s summer (estate di san marino). I’m going to start using that. His feast is celebrated by eating biscotti di San Marino, and dunking them in new wine.
I settled on some anisette biscotti (I’m currently trying to corral the crumbs away from my keyboard), and marveled at the shop’s classic details, like the name in terrazzo on the front step. According to the writeup over on New York Neon, the window neon is currently being repaired — can’t wait to see that. And maybe, just maybe, the fantastic vertical “Dolceria” sign will come later. I hope so! If buying more biscotti will help, I’ll certainly be back soon. (Especially since I’m not 100% pleased with my photos — apologies for the weird color shift!)
Circo’s, you’re the best, and a new Project Neon favorite. Thanks for restoring your sign, and thanks to Artistic Neon for doing such a beautiful job.