09 December 2008

Last Trace of Longchamps Disappears

Good Longchamps news is quickly followed by bad Longchamps news here at Lost City. (Only here is there such a thing as "Longchamps news.")

Just hours after I posted about my new treasured possession—a genuine Longchamps credit card—reader David Freedland writes in to say that the last visible remnant of the one-time prominent chain of classy restaurants has disappeared from Manhattan.

Back in May 2007, I wrote about a remaining Longchamps sign lingering over a building at Madison and 49th—a former location. It hung there for many years after the restaurant it advertised vanished. Now David informs us that the sign has finally been taken down.

Since first spotting that relic, I have learned that the sign's lettering is a "form of eccentric typography known as the Emphatic Inserted Italic—italic letters placed among or alongside roman letters for emphasis or effect."

And the sign was apparently even more historic than I assumed. It was erected in the 1930s sometime and was for a time the only neon sign on Madison Avenue.

The first Longchamps opened in New York in 1919. It took its name from the racetrack in Paris' Bois de Boulogne. Specialties included oxtail soup, crabmeat a la Dewey, Nesselrode pie and baked apple. (Would love to know if they published a cookbook.)

I repost here a snippet I previously communicated about designer Winold Reiss, who created many of the stylish Longchamps locations:

The exterior of Reiss's 1941 design proposal for a new bar and roof garden at the 49th Street and Madison Avenue Longchamps displays the chain's trademark vermillion coloring and lettering, including the falling "S," while the undulating lines that enliven its canopy and bronze wall panels recall the early borders of the M.A.C. The entire effect is not dissimilar to that of the Barricini candy box already illustrated: the name or sign identifying the product or establishment has been completely integrated into its design; the fa├žade has become a sign rather than simply providing a place for one.

Look here for some of the murals that once adorned various Longchamps.

Longchamps filed for bankrupcy in 1975. It took 33 years to take down that sign.

(Photo courtesy of reader Meccows.)


David Freeland said...

Fascinating history about the sign, Brooks. Basically, the whole building has been taken over by Pax Deli and repainted. I guess the owners decided that the old Longchamps sign would confuse patrons. For me, that kind of historical layering only adds to the experience of visiting a place. Let's hope that they have it in storage somewhere, and didn't throw it away.

meccows said...

What a bummer, I loved that sign. Took a couple photos of it a couple years back if you're interested:



Peetzadog said...

Since you wanted to know if Longchamp's printed a cookbook - here's a link for you. I'm sure you could find it elsewhere, but at least this is a start.

Unknown said...

If the blogger is interested I have a metal Longchamps Restaurants Chocolats Tin, very art deco-ish with an orange flip top, container is white,gold and orange with gold lettering. I'd be happy to send it to someone who would value it, other wise I will throw it out, I've too much stuff!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Tomatoejane: I would be very interested. Please contact me via the link on the right have side ("Contact Me") and I'll give you my mailing address.