32nd STREET ADS

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6th Avenue in the Greeley Square area…from 29th north to 33rd… is undergoing change extremely rapid even by NYC standards, as structures from the early to mid 20th Century are quickly being razed and luxury towers, many with retail and restaurants on the ground floor, are replacing them. Sixth Avenue’s old Flower District and Sewing Machine Repair Districts are endangered, as well.

This can be a boon for ancient ghost ad buffs, as advertisements that haven’t been exposed in the light for decades get to take one last turn in the sun before they, too, succumb to a real estate boom that so far seems to be resisting an overall economic malaise that has settled in during the mid-2000s….

West 32nd Street, west of 6th, is no stranger to ancient advertising; about a year and a half ago, we lost a pair of very interesting ones, advertising a long-lost restuarant and a taxidermist’s, on a building now demolished to make way for an incredibly tall residential skyscraper. Ad maven Walter Grutchfield was there on apparently the one day of the year that the ads got full sunshine.

Ah, but 32nd Street wasn’t quite done with us yet. A demolition left us with an amazing view…

Once again I turned to Walter Grutchfield

Protective Ventilator is more or less definitely 1910. The one above (Alliance Press?) is probably slightly older. The Manhattan telephone directory has Alliance Press at 114 W. 32nd St. in 1907. They were printers, but seem to have been founded by the Rev. Albert B. Simpson. Both he and a couple of colleagues lived in Nyack, N.Y. I am busily hunting down more on these folks.

Note the Binding, Embossing, Designing, Linotype, Composition script. Linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1883, was the primary means of printing in the world for most of the 20th Century, replacing tedious handsetting of print; it was an incredibly complicated mechanism that was pretty much overtaken by phototypesetting in the 1970s and 1980s (your webmaster was a phototypesetter) and latterly by the desktop inkjet and laser printers for home use.

Amazingly both sign painter firms have left signatures on the ads, H.H. Upham & Co for Protective Ventilator … as we see on this ad in the April 15, 1892 number of Science Magazine, Upham produced memorial tablets, but must have branched into sign painting at a later date.

As a matter of fact, on my West Broadway pages a few weeks ago, I highlighted a building that was H. H. Upham’s headquaters — it’s 508 West Broadway, the building emblazoned with medallions stating “founded 1858″ and “erected 1891″ . That, and a lot of other obscure information about the Village, can be found on this document prepared for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Weirdly sharing the same “H.H.” initials with H.H. Upham. I cannot discover anything else about J. H. H. Van Hoven, at least online, that is.

We’ve said that 6th Avenue is undergoing rapid change; this is probably one of the final photographs taken of the 1915-1920 era 7-story building on the SW corner of 6th and West 32nd, till recently home to American Burger on the ground floor, and if my thinning memory banks recall correctly, a home to Nedicks in the swingin’ 60s, where orange juice was swigged out of conical cups in plastic holders. Requiescat in pace.

By 2011, a enormous glass-front tower had been built in its place.

Moving south a block to W. 31st Street and 6th, where the entire west side of 6th has been demolished between west 29th and West 31st. Before these buildings succumb to the wrecking ball (as they probably will within he next couple of years) here’s the east side of 6th, a mix of camera shops (Olden, with its neon camera sign at 32nd, seen on this satanslaundromat page, seems to not be there anymore, at least the sign isn’t. ) Willoughby’s, now at 31st Street and 5th Avenue, was a 32nd Street staple for decades; my father, a Nikon man, was always in there and I remember numerous treks to Willoughby’s on the BMT R local to 34th-Herald Square.

Enjoy this view from West 31st while you can get it — it’ll soon be obscured by one of the humumgous towers that we see off in the distance. It reminds me a little of the Monolith Monsters – now they’re invading Manhattan!

A pair of tall 1920s-era skyscrapers can be found on 6th between 30th and 31st. At the tippy-top of the taller one we see an ad for a long-lost clothing store for “infants, children, teens.” Judging from the yellow and red colors, and the word “togs”, I’d say it’s from no earlier than 1957; before then, clothing store signage was more serious. Note too that the ad faces downtown-bound traffic; 6th Avenue was made one-way uptown in the 1960s.

An old real estate office sign on 6th, once again facing downtown traffic, has been half out of it for decades….


6/26/08





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2 Responses to 32nd STREET ADS

  1. Wendy Oborne says:

    History’s ghosts. I do love your site.

  2. Debbie says:

    This is so wonderful! The Alliance Press was founded by Rev. A. B. Simpson in the 1880s and 125 yrs. later, I work for the denomination he founded as a Web designer. The Alliance Gospel Tabernacle was also founded by Simpson and you can still see glimpse’s into its past at 8th and 44th Street. That is the location of the original building and sanctuary and many of the fixtures from Simpson’s time are still in that building. (up until last year, John’s Pizzeria occupied the old sanctuary)

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