WHEN you are a photographer in New York City taking photos of infrastructure, it sometimes isn’t easy. I was setting up a shot on 1st Avenue over the weekend, concentrating on the shot. When I had finished, I moved to put the camera in the camera bag I have that slings over my shoulder, when I almost collided with a tall gray-haired personage who had come up from behind me. He looked like Bill de Blasio without being de Blasio. He mumbled an apology but I’m like “Jeez!” because he must have seen me on the sidewalk as he was approaching, but failed to give a wide berth despite having plenty of room on the sidewalk to do so. He gave me a dirty look and continued on his way; being a wealthy Midtown East-er, he didn’t have the time for a graybeard with a camera who was pointing it at lampposts. It was then what I have always thought was realized: New Yorkers don’t yield. It’s always a game of chicken on the sidewalk, and people perceived as lesser in the social standing are expected to move first.
Anyway, here’s a Forgotten New York classic I have my doubts about, at #112 Reade on the corner of West Broadway. It’s on an Italianate building constructed in 1860, when this part of West Broadway was still called College Place because Columbia University was still located down here. Notice that the bottom two floors are different; that’s because of a 1912 renovation and the wide arched windows may have come later than that.
The main attraction of course is the painted ad, with the serifed inscription “Paint, paste, paper and push.” on one “panel” and a hand wielding a paintbrush on the other. It’s been determined that this was a painted ad that advertises painted ads, or so a 1994 New York times article had it. But I’m not so sure that this is vintage. My thinking is, it could be more recent and was painted for a movie set. Which movie, who knows.
Here’s a look at the building in a 1940 tax photo. Besides the building, there’s plenty going on here: note the short ornate cast iron pole with the fire alarm marker globe. These short poles abounded along West Broadway as the 6th Avenue El used to run uptown on West Broadway until 1938 or so. Of course, on the right is an “Olive” two-light stoplight, introduced in the 1920s and frequently found until the mid-1980s.
But what don’t you see? The “Paint, paste, paper and push.” sign and the hand and brush. the two “panels” are blank. What happened is one of two things: 1) Obviously the “paint paste” ad was placed there later, after 1940. 2) The paint on the West Broadway side wore off, revealing the “paint paste” ad underneath. I do not know which way to lean. Comments are open for your opinion.
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