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!
(On First Avenue @ 66th Street in the Upper East Side)
I’ve already written about Goldberger’s Pharmacy, but those of you who have been following along since the beginning may recognize that this is the first neon photo I posted to the Project Neon Flickr set, exactly two years ago today. Yep, it’s Project Neon’s 2nd birthday. Goldberger’s (together with the Cork & Bottle) was the original inspiration for Project Neon on a dark December night two years ago. Those weren’t the first neon signs I’d photographed, but they were the first signs in New York City, and so began this project.
I’d like to thank all of you who have been following along, everyone who supported the Kickstarter project, and all the shopkeepers and neon repairers and sign makers who make the city nights brighter. Without all of you Project Neon never would have happened.
(on Richmond Ave between Eltingville Boulevard & Wilson Avenue in Eltingville, Staten Island)
Spring is not an easy time for Project Neon. Between my allergies to all the pollens and the dreaded approach of Daylight Savings Time, bane of neon glow, I generally prefer autumn. And now DST is ridiculously early — it starts this Sunday at 2AM! — so I forced myself out into the night after work last night to return to Eltingville and see if I couldn’t catch Delco Drugs’ sign aglow. Two subways, a ferry, and a train later, I did! It’s beautiful!
What you see above is one half of the sign. It sits next to Lenny’s Cleaners & Laundry (which wasn’t open, but the sign was on) and just a few blocks away from the Eltingville Pharmacy, which you may remember from my trip to Staten Island last November when Delco was off, which nearly made me cry. It’s a hassle to get there (about 2 hours minimum, if you time the ferry, train, and subway transfers correctly), but I was so happy I did before DST took Delco away from me (it’s open until 8p on weeknights).
The script is lovely — look at the loops on that D! — and l love that it’s outlined instead of just a single stroke. Makes all the difference, I think.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a straight-on shot of the whole sign (much less the two neon neighbors) because of trees and crosswalk signs and lamp posts, but I stitched three photos together to show you the full Delco Drugs (I wish the words were a little closer together), and here’s the best I could do of Delco with Larry’s together. You can also see the whole sign pretty well from an angle (the photo above is angled, too). You might be able to see that it’s channel lettering and that there’s a bit of red-shift on the right end of Drugs (which I love — kind of like neon’s version of patina), but you probably can’t see that it’s on a wonderful textured chrome background behind the sign.
As I was taking these pictures a fellow & his friend walked up to me and asked me if I liked the sign. Of course I said I did, and he introduced himself as the owner of the store. I didn’t catch his name and he seemed on his way somewhere, but before he left he told me how much he loved the sign and how much care and repair he puts into it. He said the sign (and its neighbor) is about 45 years old, but I think it may be a smidge older (as NYNeon.org says) and he was probably forgetting how far into the 21st century we are, as I always do. At any rate, he headed off and I finished my photos then popped inside to pick up some Advil before heading back up to the train station (conveniently just a block away) and homeward.
Eltingville is lucky to have three really great neon signs on the same street, and a bunch of other nice neon around, too. Now if I can only find another den of neon like this elsewhere on Staten Island. Any tips?
In about an hour I’m leaving for the neon bending workshop at Brooklyn Glass. I’m very excited!
Block Drug Store
(in the East Village on 2nd Avenue at 6th Street)
Yesterday I left work early to go to Block Drugs to pick up something for this terrible cough I’ve had for a few days. According to my research I hadn’t yet reached the point of needing a doctor (no fever, cough hasn’t lasted over a week yet), but I wasn’t sure what kind of medicine I needed exactly, so I headed down to the amazing (inside & out) Block Drugs.
As the cool curved corner neon says, Block was established in 1885, and even though the sign turns off at 7p every day when they close (so you can only see it in full glow during the winter), it must be a favorite since this is my most popular Flickr photo ever, beating out even cute kittens and baseball.
The inside, though tiny, is full of great antique details. And the staff are incredibly helpful and very friendly. It’s nice to have someone tell you to fell better as they hand you your medicine. Thanks, Block—I’ll be back. And I’ll definitely be back in the fall when the sun sets a little earlier to take more photos!
Kickstarter update, for them that are wondering: I have nearly finished all the membership cards (they look fantastic!) and many of the photo prints (they also look great!), but I still need to re-shoot a couple of blurry images for the posters. Being sick has slowed me down on that, but I hope to get it done in the next week. The mailers have just arrived, so hopefully I’ll be able to start sending a few things out as soon as I’m feeling better (I don’t want to send you any germs!) I’ve also begun work on the database that will run the app, but there’s still loads to do there. Right now, though, I’m just going to have some more cough syrup and take a nap.
(On First Avenue @ 66th Street in the Upper East Side)
Oh, the nostalgia! This is the very first sign I ever photographed for Project Neon, way back in December. And, in a bit of a cheat, I’m using one of those photos now as I ducked in here at lunch when it is not generally dark. And don’t give me a hard time about a lunch-time neon visit—did I tell you about my terrible 11 days of grand jury duty? I realize I didn’t post last week, so backdate this post, and I’ll put up the next one
in a moment (once I thawed out I realized I was too tired—I’ll post it tomorrow).
The sign here is fantastic. And it’s bright enough to be still pretty cool during the day. The shop is on a corner, so there are signs on each street side. The font is an awesome squared off but still curvy thing, and the colors are neon red (veering toward pink in some letters—I love that) and cyan. The one exception to the squared-off lettering is the autograph-like “Goldberger’s” with one of those mid-century Gs I could never pull off (though I tried like crazy in the fourth grade).
The shop itself is a great as the sign. Like a lot of these old pharmacies (and as you might guess from its prominence in the sign), drugs, specifically prescription drugs (though they also have a lot of supplements and health-food store type stuff), seem to be the mainstay of this shop. They certainly occupy most of the interior square footage. Despite that, though, I found plenty of useful other things—I ended up buying only the Kleenex I came in for, but I’ll be back for blister bandages, the small hair bands I can’t find anywhere else, ear plugs, and more. And the pharmacist who rang me up (sporting a crisp white lab coat) was really nice despite the fact I wasn’t buying much. So nice to know I can give Duane Reade a miss next time I need cough drops.
Afterwards I dashed over to East Side Brick Oven Pizza, which the always awesome Slice Harvester had recommended as a not terrible slice. Also, it has a neon sign. Unfortunately the neon sign is crap—it’s backed with horrible shiny metallic stuff that looks like the pelt of a Mylar balloon. You’d think that shiny stuff behind neon would make for awesome glow and reflections, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. It looks horrible. I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of it, so you’ll have to go see it in person if you’re curious. The slice is, however, decent, which is about as much as you can hope for in the UES.
PS: It turns out Manganaro’s probably isn’t going away.
PPS: It looks like Gonzalez y Gonzalez is gone with a Chipotle to take over the space. I didn’t love the place, but I did love the neon out front. I’m sad Project Neon will never be able to pay them a visit. If Chipotle keeps the neon, I will buy, like, four burritos. And a coke. Pleeeeease?