The Beatrice Inn
On W 12th St between W 4th St & 8th Avenue in the West Village
I’ve been meaning to stop by and see the restored Beatrice Inn sign for a while now. The Beatrice Inn is too swank for me (especially on a Saturday night), but maybe some weekday I’ll switch out my Chucks for something more fashionable and slip in for a quick drink. And I do love the impossible-sounding address. The West Village can be so wonderfully confounding.
At any rate, the sign is lovely. Classic pink & green, and the patina was left intact (read more about the restoration by the very wonderful Let There Be Neon over on Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York). So the opposite of the Fedora sign, which I want to like — I’m always in favor of keeping neon aglow — but that was just replaced with a vaguely similar sign instead of being repaired & restored, and it shows.
I walked around the West Village last night, revisiting some old favorites (Casa Olivera is no longer animated, but the white horse on the White Horse Tavern’s sign is back to blinking off and on). All in all the West Village still has a good glow, though if you want to see it on a weekend, you’ll have to deal with a lot of hoi polloi to do it.
Those of you following along on Flickr may have noticed some big (for me) news: I saved a slice of my tax refund to buy a slightly fancier camera body (the rest went to paying down debt — so boring!) Last night was my first night out with it and I’m really, really pleased. The high ISO settings are really going to be great for dimmer signs. It’s a little heavier than my old camera and I still haven’t sorted out all the settings, but I’m hoping once I get the hang of it, there will be a noticeable increase in the quality of my photos. Plus I got my lenses professionally cleaned. Improvements all around!
Oh, hey, look — the beautiful Long Island Bar is hiring! I hope when it reopens it will be even 1/10th as special as it used to be (though maybe that’s too much to ask). At any rate, I’ll be so very extremely happy if I can see the sign lit. We need more good neon news!
(on First Avenue at 62nd Street in the Upper East Side)
I needed some solace today, both from the terrible news from Boston and from the day-to-day weariness of this and that. Milkshakes soothe both my soul and my stomach, so I stopped in at the Ritz Diner at lunch time for a chocolate shake to go.
The Ritz is, despite what the website says (“not just a diner, but a ‘ritzy’ diner”), a pretty classic diner (with pretty classic prices, considering the neighborhood). Counter, tables, grilled cheese, etc. — it’s all there. Most importantly, it is:
The main sign is pretty straightforward — just mazy channel letters spelling out RITZ DINER — but that seems about right for this place. I need to go back some time after dark and get better photos (these are old), though it’s a big tricky with the awning. For now I’ll just say I’m glad the Ritz is still keeping 1st Avenue aglow (along with Goldberger’s and others).
in Bay Ridge on 5th Avenue between 85th & 86th Streets
I haven’t been to Hisnch’s Confectionery (is that the best name or what?) since it changed hands, and the new owners are looking to sell at the end of the month (*sigh*), so I thought I’d pay visit.
I have to admit I have a bit of a grudge, just a small one, against the current owners for using my photos on the web site and Facebook page without asking, and the vinyl baner blocking the window neon didn’t help, but once I was safely ensconced inside away from the cold with a vanilla milk shake (there’s not much diner food I can eat these days, but happily my ability to digest dairy has not suffered), my mood improved tremendously. Their wasn’t exactly a crowd (maybe 5 people total in the booths in back, and I was the only one at the front counter), but the guys working in the kitchen and at the front counter were cheerfully bantering in Spanish. The two TVs installed in back (ugh) were tuned to the Super Bowl, but the one up front by me was showing a documentary about Grand Central Station, that the front-counter guy was engrossed in and turned up the volume briefly before returning to washing up.
Oddly, the sound system was playing Eye of the Tiger when I came in. Next up sounded suspiciously like Rush, and then “Wayward Son” by Kansas. A little incongruous, but original, I guess.
Of course I’ve written about Hinsch’s before (and photographed it, too), and the giant pink script sign is one of the most iconic of New York. Sadly the vertical sign was a mess, completely dark with broken tubes dangling.
What will happen here next? As I finished my frothy shake and headed back out into the night I turned around to look at the sign one more time. Will I ever see that pink glow again? I hope so…
Las Vegas, 1958
From Shorpy, a really excellent site you should know
I’m having a quiet, restful weekend, but I’m hoping to do a neon visit some time next week.
Some reminders from the neonoverse: if you’re interested in the update to the Project Neon iPhone app, it would help speed things along if you could see your way to donating $1, $2, $5, what ever you feel like throwing in the tip jar. If you’d like to own a piece of neonalia, visit the Project Neon Etsy shop. I’m finishing up a letter C alphablock right now that I’m very pleased with. And if you’d like to keep up with little Project Neon bits and bobs, follow along on Twitter or Facebook.
Gotham City Peep Show
(in Times Square on 8th Avenue between W 43rd & 44th Streets)
Top: 2012; Bottom: 2011
Have you noticed that the Gotham City lady has changed her hair color? She used to be blond, but I noticed recently it’s turned red and went out tonight to document the change. I like the new ‘do, though sadly her eye & mouth are out — I hope they get repaired soon. I suppose you could think she’s winking at you, but the lack of mouth makes her seem a little sad.
I love the details in the sign — the stocking tops, the fluffy hair, and especially the belly-button. I didn’t have the energy to check out the interior tonight, but Narratively did recently. Check out that link for more on what’s behind the neon lady.
A quick jaunt around Times Square gave me the opportunity to rephotograph Zenith Garage, a simple sign but one of my favorites. My walk also inadvertantly took me past the now dark Colony Records sign, a dismal sight. *sigh* I also saw Show World, which apparently Project Neon has overlooked until now. I like the festive circus tent.
In other news, I’m still working on verifying the fate of Mitchell’s. I’m cautiously optimistic that there may be good news in the end, though we may still need help. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more.
Pearl Street Diner
in Lower Manhattan on Pearl Street at Fletcher Street
I recently learned from the NYNeon blog that the Pearl Street Diner has been closed since the hurricane. I should have guessed and gone to check on it, but I go down to Wall Street so rarely these days that I sometimes forget about the good things tucked in amongst the concrete canyons. I really hope the diner reopens soon — and I’ll be there for a proper neon visit the minute it does. (That NYNeon blog post linked above also lists some other sad neon losses from the last year.)
Adios to 2012. It’s not my favorite year so far, but there have been some bright spots. Most importantly, thank you all for following along, for contributing, and for chiming in. Fellow neon fans definitely make my world brighter
See you all in 2013!
Mitchell’s Wine & Liquor Store
in the Upper West Side on W 86th St between Amsterdam & Broadway
Recently I received a tip from Project Neon reader Rob B. who warned me that the neon sign at Mitchell’s will be removed in a spring renovation. Noooo!
I really like this sign. It’s not the most elaborate sign in New York, but it dates from the ’40s according to New York Neon, and I find it appealing. I like the dark blue circle between Wines and LIquors, I like the odd tail to the Q, and I like the addition of the green vertical sign to the right. It all adds up to a nice sign I’d be sad to see go.
I stopped by on Christmas eve to pick up a new bottle of Marsala, my secret ingredient in many stews and sauces (and a great pick-me-up for the chef as well). The shop is lovely, and though small, packed to the gills with bottles of every alcohol around. Rolling ladders allow the staff to reach the upper echelons of the wooden shelves, giving the shop a ship-like feel.
The staff were friendly and seemed sympathetic to my inquiries about the sign, but alas my Spanish has rusted shut from years of disuse and the English of the gentleman I spoke to was a little tricky to make out. It sounds like the street level shops along the large building (200 W 86th Street) are all getting renovated, and with the renovation the liquor store is ditching the sign. That would be terrible!
The sign looks to need some repair — there were a few letters out and one letter on the vertical sign was missing its tubing — but that’s certainly no reason to scrap the whole thing.
I’m going to do a little more investigation and see if I can find the name of the shop owner and maybe get more of the story. In the mean time, if you would like to write the shop and tell them how much you love the sign, their full address is:
Mitchell’s Wine & Liquor
200 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
I’ll let you know any updates as I hear about them. Let’s save this sign!
in Harlem on Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd between W 124th & W 125th Streets
The Lenox Lounge is closing at the end of the month. There are conflicting reports about how radical the change will be when it reopens under new owners, but it will certainly change. I am, once again, kicking myself for not visiting an NYC landmark until the end of its era.
The Lenox Lounge is a gem inside and out. I didn’t go to hear music, just sat at the bar after work, surrounded by affable working stiffs who, like me, needed a stiff drink. Unfortunately a mild beer is the most I can handle these days, but at the happy hour price of $3 a bottle, it hit the spot well within budget. The crowd was congenial without being nosy or noisy, and after a stressful work day, nothing could have been better. But the city’s changing and the Lenox Lounge with it, and I have a bad feeling that it’s going to turn all fancy-pants, and not be the kind of place it’s OK to sit and drink a $3 beer for an hour in the company of regular people.
The neon sign is one of my favorites. I love the unique lettering, especially the crescent-moon Es. I can only hope the new owners love the sign half as much as I do, so it will remain as a memorial to the cool spot that once stood just behind it. I hope I’m wrong, I hope things will continue on at least mostly the same, but seeing what’s happened to similar places (like Fedora’s), it doesn’t seem likely, does it? Go while you still can.
RIP Lenox Lounge, 1942 - 2012
More sad neon news coming up in a few days. Help document the neon that’s still shining (and not just in NYC) in the Project Neon Flickr pool!
Oh, and I’ve been trying to post more to the Project Neon Facebook page if that’s your thing.
(in the Upper West Side on Broadway between 105th and 106th Streets)
I’ve got a couple of posts I’m hoping to have time to get to this weekend, but first I’d like to say thanks to Lisa Hix, for the Project Neon interview she’s written for Collectors Weekly. Thank you, Lisa, for making me sound vaguely coherent!
The photo above from Riverside Liquor on Broadway is one of my favorites (as you may have guessed from its inclusion in the Limited Edition Prints). When I stopped by for a visit last weekend, though, the sign was looking a little the worse for wear:
It’s still a great sign, but I do hope it gets repaired soon. Speaking of repairs, I also stopped by Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, hoping that the removal of the scaffolding from the building meant they had maybe fixed their neon. Alas, no luck.
Riverside is a small liquor shop with an indecipherable (at least to me) cataloguing system. You’re best off asking for help, which was what I ended up doing. I was buying some blended scotch to try scotch & soda — believe it or not, I’ve never had it! — as part of a new project of mine, A Culinary Companion. (It’s a writing project, not a pictures project, about food & literature.) I was surprised to find both scotch & soda and brandy & soda very pleasant. Not as forceful and warming as the straight up liquors, but neither were they just watered down nothings. More just a gentler form of drink, refreshing with the bubbles. A pleasant accompaniment to a lazy afternoon.
Anyway, the staff at Riverside were friendly and helpful, and there was a steady parade of patrons from all walks of life. The sign is a bright spot on broadway, with the classic mazey infill that I love. I’ve said before that pink isn’t one of my favorite colors (I guess I’m not a very girly girl), but pink neon is just fantastic.
OK, I’ll be back later this weekend with more neon news, links, and photos. See you then!
(in Williamsburg on Grand Street between Graham Ave & Humbolt Street)
Alas I am not doing any scuba diving these days (I’m strictly a warm-water diver and anyway not in any shape for athletic activities at the moment), so this isn’t a proper neon visit post, as there isn’t anything I need at Stingray Divers, but I was very much in need of a pick-me-up this evening, so I took a short walk up Grand Street in my neighborhood and took photos of a few local signs including this one. A short walk is all I’m up to for now, but the earlier evenings are getting me antsy for a longer neon expedition. Hopefully soon!
By the way, there are currently a total of 938 Project Neon Tumblr followers and RSS subscribers. When the total hits 1,000 I’ll have a big give away of items from the Project Neon shop, OK? OK!