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.





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9 Responses to SIGNS OF 8TH AVENUE

  1. John Telesca says:

    The liquor store at 18th St & 8th Ave – is that a frame building? That’s pretty rare in midtown.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Tello used to be on 19th Street, and that sign is from its earlier home. The space that they moved into was once a seafood restaurant, hence the artwork.

  3. chris says:

    There used to be a sign painters supply on bowery near 7th

  4. Old Skool says:

    Love the service entrance. Symbolic of a more refined age (in design anyway).

  5. barb g says:

    good luck wi your new job kevin

  6. Renee N says:

    Congratulations on finding another “day job”, Kevin! And thanks for all the time, love, interest, historical research and attention to detail you still continue to invest in FNY. All my family and lifelong friends have moved to different parts of the country, so you and your website are my one remaining link with the places that filled the first 25 years of my life. With gratitude, and best wishes for a prosperous new year, Renee N.

  7. Doug says:

    Tello’s corner location was formerly Seafood Mare.

    North Village Liquors was originally larger. It included the current grocery store.

  8. april says:

    Kevin, I echo Renee N’s sentiments exactly. May your new job prove a profitable two-way street. Always reading you (in Kissimmee), April

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