05 February 2008

Who Will Save the Signs?

The plans for what it arguably Brooklyn's most high-profile condo complex, the one that will convert the old Domino Sugar Plant in Williamsburg into a conclave of happy shiny people, will not include the iconic "Domino Sugar" sign, the NY Sun reports. Not that anybody really thought it would. Developers aren't typically as whimsical and sentimental as the rest of us, and wouldn't see how such a thing would add value. But there was a little hope.

Which leads me to a perennial worry of mine: as the City goes through its current transformation from iconoclastic patchwork to developer's tinkertown, what's to become of the signs that once proclaimed "One guy with a particular idea does business here?" The matter is never discussed by the builders, who obviously see the neon placards as just another piece of junk to be disposed of, and not the relics and urban artwork of another New York. Last we saw of the McHale's sign, it was in the window of some antique store; Lord knows where it landed. The owner of Gertel's nabbed his own sign for himself and hung it up over his wholesale concern in Brooklyn, thank God. But how often can we count on businesspeople to value their old signage?

Along with the Domino sign, other priceless signs whose fate we should be worrying about include the P & G Bar and the Jade Mountain "Chow Mein" sign (still hanging on Second Avenue, last I checked). Really, shouldn't the Met or the Smithsonian get involved? Surely some curators can see artistry and historical value in these metal-glass-and-neon creations.

On another note, I was recently relieved to see that the Old Town Bar sign was finally back in place, newly bulbed-up.


Anonymous said...


Brooks of Sheffield said...

Exactly right, Carol, only it's in Las Vegas. We need something here.

Ookla the Mok said...

O'Flaherty's down 46th isn't McHale's, but I do like to still go there -- and then pretend that afterwards my friends and I are heading over to McHale's for a giant burger. At least it's not false Irish (story) as you mentioned. It's genuine Irish -- with, um, Slavic waitresses. (sigh)

You ever go to Guido's down Eigth south of Port Authority? I can't believe they knocked it down, and it's been an empty lot for two full years. It was where they shot the back cover for Billy Joel's "Stranger" album.

"I'll meet you any time you want, in our Italian restaurant."

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Franklin: Never went to Guido's. You make me sorry I missed it. Great tip about Joel. Hey, is that your real name? If so, you're named after one of my fave obscure Presidents.