I’m planning a big series in Forgotten New York — I have been walking the downtown numbered streets from east to west, or vice versa, looking for interesting stuff. Surprisingly, I had not thought to do this before and I’m finding some great things. Most recently I found myself on East 6th (there is no West 6th in Manhattan) and I’m jumping the gun but I feel the mighty Block Drugs neon sign at #103 2nd Avenue at 6th merits its very own entry.
Block Drugs’ red neon sign on the SW corner of 2nd Avenue and East 6th, which (unofficially) goes back to 1948, still lights up brilliantly at night. Nostalgia has taken hold in bistroville, with many signs of former businesses being retro-fitted for use in modern ones (as in Prime Meats, a German restaurant in Brooklyn which employs a glass-etched sign found I think) on Flatbush Avenue; Prime Meats shuttered in 2018, and I hope that etched glass sign found a new home. I wish there would be a retro-neon trend, with new neon signs being made in the classic fashion.
Block has been in business since 1885, as the corner of the sign indicates. In the windows, there are smaller red neons, one of which says “Cut-rate Cosmetics.” If that date is correct that puts it among NYC’s oldest extant businesses, but surprisingly, it didn’t make my Bible on these matters, Ellen Williams & Steve Redlauer’s Historic Shops & Restaurants of New York (Little Bookroom, 2002).
I’m unsure if Block has been in this corner location since 1885, or if it moved here from elsewhere. This Municipal Archives 1940 tax photo indeed shows a drugstore on the corner; note the etched-glass sign for Ex-Lax, the Chocolated Laxative. No way to tell from here if it’s Block Drugs, though.