San Francisco Neon Book Kickstarter
Randall Homan & Al Barna
As I posted on Facebook & Twitter, I’ve backed Randall Homan & Al Barna’s Kickstarter project to publish a book of San Francisco neon photos. The photos look fantastic and I can’t wait to see the book. Get on over there and pre-order your own copy!
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!
Farewell Subway Inn
Closing about August 15th, 2014 (hopefully relocating)
in Midtown on 60th Street between 3rd and Lexington Avenues
It looks like the ax is finally falling on the inimitable Subway Inn bar across from Bloomingdales in Midtown. Their Facebook page says that they will be closing around August 15th, though they hope to relocate. Here’s hoping they find a way to take their wonderful neon sign with them.
The subtle curve of “Subway,” the angle of “Inn,” the multiple “Bar”s — this sign is a true classic. I often think about trying to make a font out of specific neon signs — this is the one I’d start with. The bar itself was loud and crowded, but still a wonderful oasis from the sea of chain stores and boring office towers in Midtown. New York City is losing its dives, its grit, and its glow all too rapidly. Subway Inn, I hope you’re able to recreate all of it in a new home.
Farewell Rodeo Bar
Closing Sunday July 27, 2014
on 3rd Avenue at 27th Street in Kips Bay
I was disappointed to hear of the impending closure of honky-tonk venue Rodeo Bar on Third Avenue, and went out a couple of weeks ago to photograph the sign. I was further disappointed to find the sign engulfed in scaffolding, though by standing across the street only somewhat in the line of traffic, I was able to get most of it. Sadly, my only other photo is not quite in the full dark, though it does show the colors a little better:
I assuaged my disappointment by visiting a nearby favorite afterwards, which I’ll post about soon.
It’s been a while since I visited Rodeo Bar, but that’s just because I haven’t been going out and about at night much lately, not because of any lack in the bar. They showcase (for a couple more days) honky-tonk music, proffer free peanuts, and keep their kitchen open late. All in all a festive and fun place to hang out.
Farewell Rodeo Bar — the city will be darker without you.
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken
1st Street at 2nd Avenue in the East Village
Oy! I did not mean to leave you hanging this long waiting for the answer to the last post. Sorry about that, and here it is: Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. Fried chicken is one of my most favorite things, but, alas, no longer on the menu for me.
I have at last taken a few new neon photos over the last few days, and will try to post them soon.
The end is here — Kiosk has been evicted and tomorrow, Saturday March 8th, is their last day. There is a farewell party starting at 7p. I don’t know what state things will be in tomorrow (they may have started packing up already), but I’m going to stop by at some point to bid farewell to one of my favorite places in SoHo. They do have an excellent web site, and will undoubtedly find another IRL incarnation (hopefully with the great neon!), but I’ll miss their second floor Spring Street space.
I’m feeling a little cabin-feverish as the next winter precipitation event (snow or rain?) heads this way, so let’s head afield with this photo from Milkwaukee, circa 2009. Alas, I can’t find the name of the motel (this was before I began Project Neon, so wasn’t always as meticulous about recording the names of neoned businesses). Do you know what it is? I think it was on the south side of the city, near the airport on 41 or 94 before they merge. There were some nice hand-painted signs as well.
This neon is simple, but I like it. The clean lines of the gable set off the unchanneled glow nicely, and it has all the warmth a weary traveler could hope for.
I wish I could take some neon road trips soon, but I don’t really trust myself to drive at the moment with my muscle cramps, migraines, and occasional vertigo. Plus I’m still tired a lot, so I’m not sure how much fun a lot of driving would be. For now I’ll just keep looking through my travel photos and enjoying the glow closer to home.
Do you know the name of this mysterious Milwaukee motel?
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.