05 October 2011

Up on the Rooftop

My eyes were gliding over the charisma-free face of upper Broadway between Columbia Circle and Lincoln Square—a blank, spirit-robbing wall of glass and metal—when they fell on this bit of skyline. The old Empire Hotel, roof signs intact.

The city used to have hundreds of these sort of simple, skyward advertisements. (Another classic, surviving example is the Essex House on Central Park South, below. Picture courtesy of Restless.) I suppose that, sometime around the start of the last century, they were considered vulgar. But, today I think their charm is quite clear. They puncture the blandness of the straight, cold cityscape, add a bit of variety and visual excitement. Signs such as this are both simple and grand. I wonder why hotels don't make use of this sort of option anymore. Too expensive, perhaps. Or maybe they mistakenly think them to be too old-fashioned. Or maybe nobody knows how to make these kind of signs anymore; the craftsmen are dead.

Can anyone out there think of any others that survive besides the Essex and Empire?


Erica said...

The one that immediately leaps to mind is the KenTile Floors sign, which I always see while traveling to and fro' the city on the F line. I, too, wish there were more of these signs.

Also, on a related note, Grassroots Tavern on St. Mark's has a wooden phone booth. :)

JAA said...

There's also the New Yorker Hotel sign (always a welcome sight when coming into the city from a trip to see family down south) and the Tudor City signs.

Anonymous said...

Don't know for certain if they're still there (or if they are still hotels), but...

Milford Plaza Hotel's "M"
Tudor City Hotel
New Yorker Hotel
Hotel Carter
W (Union Square)

Anonymous said...

New Yorker hotel ?

RRyan said...

The "Tudor City" rooftop sign on the building overlooking 42nd St. is still there.

Taupe NY said...

someone already mentioned it, but the first to come to mind is the W at Union Square.

I always these signs looked out of place but I guess they really aren't after all.