The Greenwich Hotel
(on Main Street at Church Street in East Greenwich, Rhode Island)
And now we arrive at Part III of the Rhode Island Neon Adventure (for those of you just joining us, part 1 is here, and part 2 is there). You guys, this place is amazing. Alas, I am extremely disappointed to report I didn’t take the possibly superior pictures from the other side (except this one, which is pretty good). I really need to go back and have another go.
The Greenwich Hotel includes a really lovely bar and a hotel, though the hotel (and part of the bar) are in the midst of a major renovation. If you want to stay here, you’ll probably have to contend with a tiny room and a bathroom not just down the hall but downstairs. I would have voted to stay here anyway if the balconies were accessible, but they were sealed with pieces of wood nailed across. How fun would it be to go outside during the night and look right at the top of the sign? Anyway, I definitely want to stay here when the renovations are done — then I’ll take more pictures and also catch the few things I missed in this quick trip, including Johnny Cakes and the Culinary Museum (which has neon signs inside!)
This grand hotel feels almost European with its high ceilings and faded charm, but this sign out front is all-American. There’s so much going on! Scripts, block letters, and that amazing green arrow — look how the lines match up, even though they’re cut off by “Dining & Entertainment.” You could draw the whole thing with a single stroke. The tipsy little martini glass is great, but the most intriguing detail is the purple C on a shield topped by the helmet from a suit of armor. What on earth is the story behind that? And the whole thing shines onto some large engaged columns that set the glow off nicely. It all adds up to some really dynamic signage.
It’s a tour de force of a sign, easily outshining the charmingly named Norman’s Restaurant Tap & Lounge across the street. But the pair of them frame East Greenwich’s main street nicely, despite the many thick phone lines and signs in the way:
There were a couple of neoned diners we weren’t able to see at night (most notably Cindy’s in North Scituate), and I know there are some neon signs in the Culinary Museum. Do you know of any other Rhode Island neon I missed?
Rhode Island certainly is a lively experiment, and I’ll definitely be back. Here in New York City it looks to be a rainy week, so I won’t likely get to make a neon visit until the weekend at the earliest. In the mean time, as those of you on Twitter already know, I’m working on some R&D for some new items to be added to the Etsy shop soon.
Big thanks to Paul for being an expert on Rhode Island culinary specialties, for doing the lion’s share of the driving, and for being willing to join me in my neon chasing expeditions.
Ardente Supply Co.
(On Valley Street at Eagle Street in the Valley neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island)
On the way to Olneyville, following some excellent directions suggested by Google (I never would have deciphered that tangle of streets so well myself), we passed this great sign for the Ardente Supply Co., purveyors of plumbing, heating, and lighting supplies. It’s like Google knew it should route me past any nearby neon.
The street was dark, the sidewalks bare, and the motorists speeding past seem to pay little heed to the glow. So interesting which businesses in which neighborhoods decide to host a lovely neon sign like this.
The combination of neon red and just slightly turquoise green is fantastic, as is the very idiosyncratic and lovely script on the right, a perfect counterpoint to the bold ARDENTE. It’s common to see block letters paired with script like this, but I think I’ve only ever seen the proper name in script (and usually with fully joined-up cursive letters), not as here with the proper name in block letters and the remainder in a script with loose but separate letters. The circle period is a nice touch, too. So happy I came across this! What other hidden gems are hiding in Providence & the rest of Rhode Island? One more fun find coming later tonight…
Olneyville New York System
(on Plainfield Street at Dike Street in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island)
I just got back from a couple of wonderful days in the Ocean State, Rhode Island. As someone who grew up in Alaska, Rhode Island’s compact size kind of blew my mind. Two days is enough to drive back and forth across the state several times, even with Narragansett Bay sitting in the middle of everything.
I had always intended Project Neon to venture forth to other cities, but I’ve been so taken up with New York City, I haven’t had the time. There are still a bunch of New York neon signs to document, but I think the time has come for an occasional field trip.
I saw three great neon signs in Little Rhody — I’ll post each one separately. First up, arguably Rhode Island’s most famous neon sign: Olneyville New York System, home of an excellent specimen of the indigenous hot wiener (don’t call it a hot dog). Watching the guys behind the counter dress them is like watching the Bolshoi Ballet, but noisier and more delicious.
The hot wiener is, as Wiki tells us, a staple of Rhode Island’s cuisine. (I was lucky enough to have Paul, the author of that article, with me to show me the Rhode Island ropes.) Wash it down with a coffee milk, and you’ll be hitting two of Rhode Island’s greats. And if you head to Olneyville at night (they’re open late), you can see this beautiful sign, too.
Things that make the sign great: the stripes, the rounded A in EAT, and the tiny painting of a hot wiener at the bottom. I really like the whole thing a lot.
The owner spotted me photographing the sign, of which he seemed quite proud, and told me to come back next week, when E and T will be back from the shop where they’re being repaired. Alas, I don’t think I’ll make it, but I’ll definitely be back as soon as I can. Rhode Island, you are awesome, your hot wieners are delicious, and your neon is beautiful. Of course I’ll be back.
PS: Did you notice the spelling mistake above? Or maybe they just like using their own unique spelling. Normally that would bug me, but for some reason I like it here.
PPS: It appears that this is another Rhode Islandism to spell wiener weiner. So many particularities in such a small state!