"Breweries" caught my eye, but only after several years. In April 2010, when I first photographed this overlapping set of signs for a custom supplier of pipe and fittings, it was difficult enough just to make out the company name. Appliquéd artwork and spray-painted tags have since added to the visual hubbub. On a recent return visit, I saw this building in a different light, literally.
It's fascinating to imagine a time, a century ago, when many breweries were opening and expanding nearby. So many, in fact, that they would be called out in business-to-business advertising — not only in the papers but also in public, painted signs.
How it must rankle the media buyers to rely on telephone kiosks! The second ad does make an attempt, it seems, to shake off the landline legacy by using the grammar and stacatto text associated with doge, an internet meme that subverts conventional grammar by pairing nouns and modifiers in dissonant phrases. However, by the time this campaign was conceived, approved, executed, and placed, doge had already lost much of its currency. In short: So last year.
Ads for GrubHub and Seamless "Outdated paper menus are full of lies. Lies, I tell you!" Tremont, Bronx "Such takeout. No calls. Very amaze." Flushing, Queens
When this factory was built in the early 1920s, Ridley's was well-established as the oldest confectioner in New York. Founded in 1806 at 1 Hudson St., Manhattan, the company had expanded to a second, "up-town" facility at 1149 Broadway, near Madison Square Park, by the time of publication of 1872's Great Industries of the United States.
That book roundly praised the quality and purity of Ridley's "numerous and varied" ingredients, "a singularly agreeable array of things wholesome, flavorsome, delicate, and aromatic. They include, first and foremost, sugar; then the auxiliary substantials of honey, molasses, cream, gum arabic, almonds, filberts, cocoanuts, peanuts, chocolate, licorice, jujube, flax seed, coriander seed, caraways, cinnamon (i.e, the cassia of commerce), cloves, and Iceland moss. Next are the flavors, which are birch, boneset, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, hoarhound, lemon, musk, peppermint, raspberry, rose, sassafras, vanilla, and wintergreen."
As to the time and manner of Ridley's demise, I can't say. Current leads on local birch candy are equally elusive.
Ridley's Surviving signage on 34th St. between Queens Blvd. and 43rd Ave., Long Island City, Queens
Faded lettering, shown on the 124th St. side of this blocklong building, marks a former Kress 5-10-25 cent store. The far side of the building (not shown) is home to a T-shirt and sneaker outlet, one of many along the 125th St. corridor. The massive barrel vault, however, is a legacy of an older and much grander establishment.
The Pabst Harlem Music Hall and Restaurant opened its doors in 1900. Like the Pabst Hotel, built one year earlier on the site of present-day Times Square, the Pabst Harlem figured in a nationwide marketing program to identify the brewery with prestige properties and advance "the cause of Pabst beer." A contemporary postcard view reveals a restaurant that could accommodate 1,400 customers at once, all dining in grand fashion. The PBR would be flowing, too, you'd imagine, though perhaps only in a side room off the glamorous main hall.
The Pabst Harlem closed in 1917, not long before the advent of Prohibition.
Pabst Harlem Music Hall and Restaurant 243 West 124th St. (Frederick Douglass-Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds.), Manhattan
The current, Chinese-owned grocery looks out on a high school and on Sara D. Roosevelt Park. It's a good bet that if you step inside (I didn't), you'll still find chocolate, java, and pop, and many more packaged snacks and soft drinks, too. The grocery's much older predecessor, whose surviving signage can also be glimpsed at the far left of the first photo, may well have been a pizzeria. The curve, below and to the left of the "big cans" sticker, turns out to be a capital "C" when the deteriorating facing is bent back (it doesn't bend far). C-a-l-z ... "calzone".
This advertisement for cut-rate shellfish brings to mind the oft-told tale, from days of yore, of too much lobster on the weekly menu. A typical version, cited by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, asserts that in colonial times the crustaceans were so plentiful that they were considered "poverty food," and that indentured servants, compelled to eat them again and again, "finally rebelled. They had their contracts state that they would not be forced to eat lobster more than three times a week."
To be sure, lobsters were easy pickings four centuries ago. James Rosier, the official chronicler of Capt. George Waymouth's 1605 expedition from England to Maine, documented one evening's catch:
"And towards night we drew with a small net of twenty fathoms very nigh the shore: we got about thirty very good and great Lobsters, many Rockfish, some Plaise, and other small fishes, and fishes called Lumpes, verie pleasant to the taste: and we generally observed, that all the fish, of what kind soever we took, were well fed, fat, and sweet in taste." (Original capitalization, spelling, and punctuation preserved. Evidently homely "lumpes" not identified.)
The rebellion part of the lobster story — more often, in fact, a salmon story — "is one of the most frequently told about New England seafood," Sandy Oliver writes in The Debunk-House. But lack of primary evidence, Oliver elaborates, would indicate that it's just not so. No minutes have ever emerged of a meeting between the indignant diners ("pick one," she invites, "the apprentices, servants, boarders, lumbermen, occupants, prisoners...") and the officials in charge of the menu, and no such ordinances have been uncovered. Even the Department of Marine Resources doesn't claim its own account for Maine — it was "in Massachusetts [that] some of the servants finally rebelled."
As for these latter-day lobster tails, I know nothing more about them except by association. One neighboring flyer holds out the offer of "all cash" for your house, building, or land; another promises "cheap divorce." This cut-rate lobster may well be perfectly palatable, but you wouldn't be blamed for testing the waters elsewhere instead.
Minty, but in a wintergreen way that you're more likely to associate with chewing gum: teaberry ice cream (small, $5.29).
The building exterior features signage for Roxy's Sporting Goods, possibly a prior tenant; the fascinating Philadelphia Ghost Sign Project has isolated and enhanced the faded images. Also shown: more surviving signage from this day's walk.
After several decades in historic central Philadelphia, Trenton China decamped some years ago to the outlying Port Richmond district. The company's former restaurant-supply store, which is being converted to a mix of apartments with ground-floor retail, will offer "Old City charm," states the rental agency's website, with "original exposed brick walls and wood beams."
Except for an austere rendering on the accompanying Facebook page, however, the brusquely rendered sign doesn't appear in online promotions. In real life that paint job actually wraps around the corner of the building; the excellent site Hidden City Philadelphia offers a fuller look. Will it stay or will it go?
"Trenton China Pottery" Surviving signage at The Pottery Building, 102 North 2nd St. (at Arch St.), Philadelphia