I find myself shambling through indifferent crowds in Manhattan more often these days, as I have taken a job (as of December 2011) smack in the heart of the Flatiron District, formerly a down-at-heel stretch containing anonymous offices on 5th Avenue, and a stretch of mostly abandoned, monumental stores on 6th. When I first encountered lower 6th Avenue in the 1960s or 1970s, it was home to a group of paper and twine manufacturers and, of all things, shoes and socks wholesalers. That has not completely deserted the area; south of the Garment District, there’s still a small sewing machine distribution and repair district.
The Flatiron, though, whiffs of new money of late, with brilliantly lit and arranged store windows. While northern 5th is still Luxury Row, the Ladies’ Mile still attracts legions of ladies to Bed, Bath & Beyond (in the old Sigel-Cooper Building at 6th and 18th) that I jokingly refer to in female company as Bedroom, Bathroom and Kitchen. Across the street is a Men’s Wearhouse, for funerals and weddings, and an Old Navy for knocking around the house.
Weather and light permitting I will soon begin toting a camera around the Flatiron for however long my sojourn here lasts, but in the meantime, on a recent Sunday I wandered down 8th Avenue, which is something of a restaurant row between 14th and 23rd, and beheld its ancient signage.
This medallion-like sign reminds me of the remaining ones dedicated to the Organization of American States on the Avenue of the Americas (6th)
Tello, or whatever it was called before that, has always had old-style painted signs on the corner of its 20th Street bistro. They almost fooled me into thinking they were ancient when I first encountered them.
This sign looks like it could be new.
This classic definitely isn’t, though.
At 18th, another in NYC’s legion of ancient liquor store signs that take a liq’in and keep on tickin’. Most of these last simply because they get the job done and there’s no need to modernize. (I wish all my employers had thought the same way over the years.)
Now, this sign between 14th and 15th is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. It’s 60 years old if it’s a day and it’s still in marvelous condition. Painting lettered signs outdoors, or even on office doors, is a dead skill, and it’s such a shame. Look at the extra, unnecessary details like serifs and the little triangles under the TH’s.
Part of the reason this old campaigner on 14th Street has lasted till the present undoubtedly is because it’d be such a pain in the neck to remove it. That’s why I’m still in my current apartment.