by Kevin Walsh

Though I live in Little Neck and my needs are seen to by Little Neck Drugs on Northern Boulevard, I thought I’d note Harpell Chemists on 150th Street and 14th Avenue in Whitestone. For one thing, it’s one of Whitestone’s more stalwart businesses, having occupied the ground floor on the corner Tudor building since it was founded in 1906…

Here’s how it looked in 1940 in this Municipal Archives photo. Wouldn’t you know it, the “Harpell” name on the neon sign can’t me made out from this angle.

The “chemist” (Harpell’s uses the British “chemists” for “drugstore”) is no longer owned by the Harpell family. It’s successful, as there are now two branches in Ditmars (31st Street) and Bayside (Francis Lewis Boulevard and 26th Avenue).

I’m fascinated with Harpell’s illuminated sign. It’s in one of my favorite fonts, Caledonia, which is generally used in books and not for signage; it was first drawn in 1938 (by prolific type designer and artist William Addison Dwiggins) and was so named, for the Latin name of Scotland, because it was based on a series of fonts in the 19th Century called Scotch [sic] Roman as they were developed in an Edinburgh foundry.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Rich T December 9, 2020 - 7:40 pm

Whats with those speakers on the telephone pole? Some type of warning signal?

Kevin Walsh December 9, 2020 - 7:49 pm

Christmas music.

Ed Findlay December 9, 2020 - 11:15 pm

If you look very closely at the building just to the left of the stop light’s support arm you can still see the bracket where the neon sign was affixed to the building. On the 14th Ave. side zoomed in you can see the original wiring for the sign as well as a secondary support. The sign might be long gone, but traces remain in plain sight

S. Saltzman December 10, 2020 - 2:26 pm

Interesting street light in the old photo. It looks like the same arm holds the streetlight luminaire and the fire alarm light luminaire.

Kevin Walsh December 11, 2020 - 10:04 am

Yes, they used to do it like that

George Cassidy December 10, 2020 - 5:34 pm

I think you would have hard time finding the intersection on Francis Lewis and 126th Street,

Kevin Walsh December 11, 2020 - 10:03 am

You caught me. 26th Avenue.


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