By GARY FONVILLE
Forgotten New York correspondent
Signs featuring “Rex Cole” have appeared previously in FNY. They were installed around the time that a newfangled technology for the home kitchen appeared on the scene called mechanical refrigeration – replacing the labor intensive ice box. In my travels around NYC, I have been able to capture some of the remaining ones.
So who was Rex Cole and why is his refrigerator on so many NYC housing projects? Cole (1887-1967) was originally a lamp manufacturer, then became associated with General Electric in the 1920s and designed white enamel Monitor Top refrigerators. Famed architect Raymond Hood designed a series of buildings in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the Grand Concourse, and Northern Blvd. in Flushing for Cole’s showrooms that either looked like refrigerators or featured them in the design! Most are still standing but have been altered beyond recognition. Enamel signs proclaiming Cole’s GE refrigerators can still be found on a handful of buildings around town.
This Rex Cole showroom was at 4th Avenue and 65th Street in Bay Ridge. It didn’t survive the construction of the Gowanus Expressway in the early 1960s.
Personally, I know of two Rex Cole signs that have been removed. One was on an apartment building on Lincoln Place, between Brooklyn & Kingston Avenues in Crown Heights Brooklyn. The other one was at Southern Boulevard & Longwood Avenue in Longwood, The Bronx.
Oops, that Rex Cole sign grew legs and walked away! Somebody clearly knew its value. A blank space is all that remains. Location: Southern Boulevard & Longwood Avenue, The Bronx.
The other Bronx location is here on the west side of Broadway, near 225th Street.
This apartment building stretches between Crown & Montgomery Streets, in Crown Heights and has signs near both streets. A view from Utica Avenue, looking west.
I used a zoom lens to capture the one facing Crown Street…
And the one that faces Montgomery Street.
Gloriously sitting over New York Avenue, near Carroll Street, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Sterling Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn is the place where this one can be found.
There is one on Elton st and Jamaica ave in Brooklyn facing Highland park.
There’s another one in the Bronx, on Mace Ave between Barker and Olinville:
There’s also a quite old house right next to it (heading towards Barker)
Those signs are the AC version of a Latin Catholic inscription. INRI, in english it means I’m Nailed Right In. The vandals must have had fun getting the one off the side of the building.
we had one of those signs on our apartment building on ave. O in brooklyn. the landlord replaced all the refrigerators in the building with GE and took out all the hotpoint gas units. raised the rent $3.00 a month back in 1956. pop was not happy.
That is funny because GE and Hotpoint are basically the same products, made by the same company, and Rex Cole was the sales manager for both
The Rex Cole Showroom at 65th Strret & 4th Avenue exists. It was the Bay Ridge Porsche, then a pizzeria, and now a cabinet maker.
Rex Cole was my great great uncle and a fascinating person–was the toast of Manhattan in the early 30s. His showrooms were legendary and groundbreaking at the time. Here’s a site with some pictures of them:
Unfortunately the Depression was the end of all that.
Thank you Carol for such an interesting addendum. This really took me back.
Carol is my cousin, the daughter of my mother’s sister. Over the years, I talked with Rex from Time to time on the phone. The Depression ruined him, but he was generous to a fault. Also was one of the chief financiers of the Masters Golf Tournament
There’s a sign on the side of 463 E 178 St in the Bronx
If you stand at the corner of Lefferts and Washington Avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, you’ll see a sign on the side of what I believe is a co-op building on Lincoln Road. I just happened to look up a few weeks ago and saw it out of nowhere. I recall seeing more of these on other buildings going down Flatbush Avenue previously, but I can’t seem to find them anymore! I know I’m not hallucinating about that…
Today the Bay Ridge location at 6530 Fourth Avenue is Total Kitchens.
Bad news- the one in Prospect Lefferts was taken down over the past week. Was in the area two days ago and I saw suspended scaffolding next to an empty space where it once was. Bummers!
Spotted one in the East Flatbush area. I have a photo on my phone if anyones interested.
There is one in Brooklyn, on East 17th St. a few houses in from Ave R. I always see it when I stop by the red light on that corner, if you look up when there are no leaves on the trees.