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!
(In the West Village on 6th Avenue at Waverly Place)
You guys, did you hear the news? The Waverly Diner has reopened, and it hasn’t been made soulless or horrible. I had a quite enjoyable late breakfast there last weekend with my brother, who was visiting from the Last Frontier. (No, not outer space (that’s the final frontier) Alaska, where I grew up.) I had been worried about the fate of the Waverly, an icon of the West Village, when I heard about the gut renovation and saw the sign dark earlier this winter. But a leisurely feast of silver dollar pancakes and plenty of coffee reassured me that all is well on this corner of 6th Avenue & Waverly Place.
The sign is a colorful beacon in orangish red and kelly green that wraps around the corner facade, with classic curved As and a list of meals served, which would be all of them. So happy to see this corner alight again.
So that concludes my catching up (though I may make a post soon of news & updates). I’m going to venture out tomorrow night if this lingering cough doesn’t get any worse and see what I can see in Queens. Apologies, by the way, to anyone who has emailed me in the last couple of weeks — I’m working to catch up with that, too.
(7th Avenue South btwn Grove & Bleecker Streets)
Casa Oliveira is a swell wine & liquor shop in the West Village. It was a bit of an old home week to stop by there last night, since I used to work nearby and would pop in whenever I needed some booze. I made the trip back, as I have a bunch of cherries at home and, together with the new cherry pitter I picked up at the Brooklyn Kitchen, I’m all ready to make brandied cherries (and maybe cherry ice cream with a hint of brandy as well?), except for an utter lack of brandy at Project Neon headquarters.
I was so very happy to see the sign not just in working order (last time I was there the Casa Olivera was out), but brighter than ever. I love this sign not only for the animation (“Liquors” alternates with “Fine Wines”), for the sidewalk sign with the great address number (also shown above), but also for the lovely patina of the red and white painted backdrop of the swing sign and the enameled backdrop of the facade sign. So beautiful. I do wish the sidewalk sign had outlined instead of single-stroke letters, but that’s a quibble. The overall effect, especially when the sign is as bright as it was last night, is splendid. (If you can’t see the animation, click the box below.)
The people at Casa Oliveira have always been gracious and helpful, too. It’s a small shop, but I’ve always found what I wanted.
It was nice to see a sign in working order, especially after hearing about the remnants of Jade Mountain (the iconic Chow Mein sign has been removed, and part of the remains of the channel letters crushed) and finding that Morscher’s Pork Store in Ridgewood has replaced their wonderful neon with a tacky plastic sign. I am really heartbroken about both of those. But happily there are still places like Casa Oliveira, who are willing to maintain beautiful signs like this one.
(in the West Village on W 4th St btwn Charles & W 10th Streets)
Project Neon is all about celebrating the great stuff we’ve got (and other people have the history stuff covered better than I could), but I hope you can allow me one moment of fond recollection for Fedora. If you’re not in the mood for nostalgia, I understand—I’ll see you back here next week!
The Fedora sign still presides over the block of West Fourth Street between Charles Street and West Tenth Street (ah, the confounding geography of the West Village!) and there is still a restaurant & bar called Fedora there (which some people quite like), but it is worlds away from the affable, affordable, inimitable place that came before. Kudos to the new owners, though, for replacing the old sign with a very similar one (the new one is pictured here). That does make me happy.
The old sign had better colors (pink & green! classic!), but the new sign maintains the quirky shape and curved-A lettering. It’s a simple sign, but welcoming and particular—what a neon sign should be.
I have to confess that I can’t bring myself to try the new Fedora. It looked too… too, if you know what I mean, when I stopped by to take the picture above. Uncharacteristically, I think I’d rather keep my memories of the old Fedora intact than give the new place a shot. Maybe that’s a sign of getting old. I know the city changes (that’s what keeps it alive) and countless great new things open all the time, but sometimes I just can’t bring myself to let go of the past.
I only went to Fedora a few times (one of my great regrets), but I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcome anywhere ever. I wrote a brief post about my last visit that you can read at Catasterist. Wow, I’m tearing up a little just thinking about it. Fedora was, as I said, nothing fancy but everything special. Here’s to the memories!
(Thompson Street between Houston & Bleecker Streets in the West Village)
I was pretty disappointed when I got to Rocco Restaurant this evening and found not the lovely, flickering sign I’d seen recently, but a nearly burnt out sign—the back was completely out and the green on the front was, too. I was sad not just because it’s always a little sad to see a neon sign in need of repair, but because I wanted to make a subtle neon animation inspired by the mostly fashion-related animated gifs of From Me to You. The awning was blowing about a little so I made it anyway (it’s pretty subtle), but I’m definitely going to experiment more with flashing & flickering signs.
But back to Rocco’s. Even though the sign uses single-stroke letters (usually not as appealing as outlined or filled letters unless it’s a script), I still love this sign—especially when the green part is lit. It’s on a great great red & white base with curves that put me in mind of a tiered wedding cake. Plus I’m pretty fond of signs that hang over the sidewalk. And while I enjoy the Kabuki-like black paint used to disguise tubes connecting letters, I’m also pretty fond of this style where the tubes dive in and out of the sign through tiny rabbit holes. Plus I like the stretched-out lettering in “Rocco” and the way the stems of U and R seem to combine to create a single outlined stem.
I’d seen this sign in the distance often when I worked in the neighborhood, but I’ve never been in, so tonight I got my friend Paul to join me for a classic red-sauce dinner. Clams Casino followed by pasta (tortellini bolognese for me, spaghetti carbonara for him) and tiramisu—a classic Italian dinner in a classic setting. The restaurant’s been around forever (well, since 1922) and I’m guessing hasn’t changed a whole lot. A warm glow & a pleasant chatter of conversation make this a cozy nook in the raucous Friday night West Village. The food was good if not great, but a totally great place to spend an evening. Here’s hoping the cost of our dinner will go toward repairing the classic sign of this classic red-sauce joint.
PS: Hey, welcome to the bazillions of new followers and subscribers! Don’t forget to visit the Project Neon Kickstarter page, where you can get cool rewards (membership cards, photo prints, and posters) for supporting my project to make a digital guidebook to New York’s best neon signs.