A “hot” historic find: When the modern sign for a shop called Game Champ went down, this hidden neon beauty emerged from the shadows. The sign for Hot Bagels — complete with “flames” and holes where the neon tubing used to be — is in Bay Ridge on 86th Street. #brooklyn #bagels #nyc #bayridge #history #urbanarchaeology

A “hot” historic find: When the modern sign for a shop called Game Champ went down, this hidden neon beauty emerged from the shadows. The sign for Hot Bagels — complete with “flames” and holes where the neon tubing used to be — is in Bay Ridge on 86th Street. #brooklyn #bagels #nyc #bayridge #history #urbanarchaeology

Some news from Superman’s lobby at The Daily Planet. The Solar System photo display that dated to the 70s was removed today. Daily News staffers, the likes of Christopher Reeve and anchor Pat Harper and countless tourists passed the display over the years. It will be replaced with — according to a trusted security guard — displays about building history among other things. We shall see. Still, I’ll miss a display that still claimed Pluto was a planet. #dailynews #history #science #astronomy #pluto #solarsystem

Some news from Superman’s lobby at The Daily Planet. The Solar System photo display that dated to the 70s was removed today. Daily News staffers, the likes of Christopher Reeve and anchor Pat Harper and countless tourists passed the display over the years. It will be replaced with — according to a trusted security guard — displays about building history among other things. We shall see. Still, I’ll miss a display that still claimed Pluto was a planet. #dailynews #history #science #astronomy #pluto #solarsystem

Easy to miss, this flagpole outside Barclays Center once stood at Ebbets Field. #dodgers #brooklyn #history #baseball #barclayscenter

Easy to miss, this flagpole outside Barclays Center once stood at Ebbets Field. #dodgers #brooklyn #history #baseball #barclayscenter

Death of Brooklyn’s New St. Clair Restaurant offers window into its hidden past

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I’ve longed been intrigued by the New St. Clair Diner, which was at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street in Boerum Hill. The name was slightly evocative of something sophisticated — it had a whiff of old New York —  and the fact that the sign said it had been there since 1920 made it all the more intriguing.

But for one reason or another, I never got around to going. And now, it’s too late. The St. Clair closed in early January, and the site has been purchased by developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities. Its future as a glitzy retail space works in tandem with the increasing chichification of Atlantic Avenue and thereabouts.

You can read a nice ode to St. Clair HERE, and the Brooklyn Paper has more of the nitty gritty on the deal HERE

The St. Clair, the Brooklyn Paper reports, opened in 1967 and was renovated in 2008 when it switched ownership. Well then, what to make of the “since 1920” business on the now vansished sign? Well, it’s safe to assume this was a restaurant for many decades prior to its incarnation as St. Clair. 

The removal of the signage offers proof: Now visible for all the world (or, well, Atlantic Avenue) to see is a very old old sign for “RESTAURANT.” From the color to the font to the simple decision to go with “RESTAURANT,” instead of some glitzier branding, this sign clearly predates the 1960s by several decades.

The sign has not been hidden for decades though. As Lost City points out, it briefly surfaced in 2008 during the restaurant’s renovation. 

Take a good look at this relic of another Brooklyn before it’s covered up again.

Or, let’s be honest, see it before it’s destroyed.

— Rolando Pujol  

Subway Inn is quite possibly my favorite neon sign still glowing in Gotham. I breathe a sigh of relief (and snap a photo) each time I walk by and see it humming along as it has for decades. #neon #nyc #signs #bars #divebars #manhattan #history

Subway Inn is quite possibly my favorite neon sign still glowing in Gotham. I breathe a sigh of relief (and snap a photo) each time I walk by and see it humming along as it has for decades. #neon #nyc #signs #bars #divebars #manhattan #history

Save Grand Central! Vintage shirt from 1970s preservation campaign to save the terminal. See at Vanderbilt Hall, along with other amazing artifacts of the station’s history. #history #nyc #transit

Save Grand Central! Vintage shirt from 1970s preservation campaign to save the terminal. See at Vanderbilt Hall, along with other amazing artifacts of the station’s history. #history #nyc #transit

Lumber Boys is in Murray Hill, and here’s a cool way to figure that out. Look at the old-fashioned phone number just above the door. It conceals the neighborhood name in a code of sorts: MUrray-0410. You’d dial M and U on your phone, or 68, and the rest of the number.  #nyc #history #phone #urbanarchaeology

Lumber Boys is in Murray Hill, and here’s a cool way to figure that out. Look at the old-fashioned phone number just above the door. It conceals the neighborhood name in a code of sorts: MUrray-0410. You’d dial M and U on your phone, or 68, and the rest of the number. #nyc #history #phone #urbanarchaeology

Courtyard of the Van Tassel Apartments in Sleepy Hollow, designed by Andrew J. Thomas on commission from John D. Rockefeller Jr. It opened in January 1930 and was called “Westchester’s Most Prominent Apartment Building.” #architecture #history #sleepyhollow #gm #generalmotors

Courtyard of the Van Tassel Apartments in Sleepy Hollow, designed by Andrew J. Thomas on commission from John D. Rockefeller Jr. It opened in January 1930 and was called “Westchester’s Most Prominent Apartment Building.” #architecture #history #sleepyhollow #gm #generalmotors

After 40 years, the FDR Four Freedoms memorial on his namesake Manhattan island is a reality

After 40 years of delays, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at Roosevelt Island will open to the public on Wednesday. Set on the southern tip of FDR’s namesake island, it’s easily one of the most dramatic memorials you’ll see anywhere, and has been called the city’s new "spiritual heart."  Its story — and how it finally got built — is inspiring,

What’s especially amazing is that it’s the work of Louis Kahn, the master brutalist architect who died in 1974 in New York City, in the decade in which his memorial would have been built had it not been for the city’s epic fiscal crisis. That his vision has finally been realized 38 years after his death makes this memorial as much a tribute to Kahn as it is to Roosevelt.

I visited during a sneak preview on Saturday. Here are some of my photos. (You can easily plan an FDR weekend by visiting this memorial, and then heading upstate to Hyde Park. Here’s my post of his legacy in the Dutchess County town, the setting by the way, of an upcoming film, with Bill Murray quite credibly playing FDR himself.)

(Rolando Pujol)

What do Miles Davis, Joseph Pulitzer, Celia Cruz, Robert Moses and Fiorello La Guardia have in common: Woodlawn, the Bronx’s breathtaking cemetery

New York City has some of the most extraordinary cemeteries in the world. Woodlawn Cemetery in the northern Bronx is one of them. Reachable by the No. 4 train — it is appropriately the last stop — the cemetery is one of the finest you will find anywhere on earth.

Its gentle sloping hills, lawns, trees and wildlife are an urban oasis — you could be dropped here and conclude you’re no where near New York City. The mausoleums and monuments are designed by renowned architects and sculptors, and how they complement the natural setting is breathtaking.

Woodlawn is also home to a grand constellation of amazing interments, people who were influential in a range of fields. The list of notables here is too great for any one blog post, but I have selected a handful of graves that are extraordinary to behold.

The fall is a wonderful time to explore the cemetery, as I did recently with map in hand. Here are some selections from my visit, organized in order of how I encountered them as I strolled from the main gate on Jerome Avenue:

J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney — yes, THAT J.C. Penney — rests here.

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F.W. Woolworth

F.W. Woolworth started his legendary, namesake five-and-dime chain, about as simple and all-American as you can get. His grave, however, is anything but a five-and-dime. In fact, building it required a staggering amount of nickels and dimes, just as his skyscraper in lower Manhattan did.

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Celia Cruz

The Cuban flag rests on her crypt, along with photos of the beloved salsa performer. She shares the mausoleum with her husband, Pedro Knight.

"La Guarachera de Cuba:" In Cuba back in the day, they called salsa “guaracha,” so the epitaph appropriately remembers her as “The salsa singer of Cuba.”

This is her tomb’s stained-glass window, as seen from the outside. It depicts the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity of Cobre (la Virgin de la Caridad del Cobre).

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Fiorello La Guardia

Fiorello La Guardia’s tombstone is simple yet elegant, and has a bit of a 1940s air. Fiorello means “little flower,” so it’s only natural that his grave should depict one.

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Max Roach

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Illinois Jacquet

These music legends are in the “jazz neighborhood” of the park.

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Miles Davis

Roach and Jacquet are across from the grave of Sir Miles Davis. His tomb is dramatic, but the lettering can be somewhat difficult to read.

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Duke Ellington

Of course, the fulcrum of the jazz neighborhood is the grave of Duke Ellington. He and his relatives rest under a large tree, flanked by two stone crosses. It’s a simple but dramatic sight.

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Irving Berlin

The grave and family plot of Irving Berlin, who penned some of the most memorable songs ever. Pay your respects during the Christmas season (“White Christmas”) or Easter (“Easter Parade”) or whenever, really.

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Jay Gould

Jay Gould, 19th century industrialist and robber baron, rests in this impossibly ostentatious, interpretable (and unmarked) temple set on a vast lawn.

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Austin Corbin

He may not be a household name anymore, but this robber baron’s baby is: The Long Island Rail Road.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, suffragette and pioneer of the women’s rights movement, is buried here. Her tombstone sums up her achievements.

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Joseph Pulitzer

Yellow journalist (and namesake of the considerably less yellow Pulitzer Prize) Joseph Pulitzer contemplates his final deadline here.

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Herman Melville

This is one of those graves where you just ask, “Wow, HE’S here?” Indeed, Herman Melville, the creator of “Moby Dick,” rests in Woodlawn beside his wife.

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He’s hardly a household name, but J.C. Leyendecker is a big deal in the history of American illustration, publishing and advertising. He was the illustrator of the iconic Arrow Collar Shirt Man, and his work graced the cover of the Saturday Evening Post before the magazine’s famous association with Norman Rockwell.

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Thomas Nast

Here lies the great political cartoonist and Tammany Hall scourge Thomas Nast, who crafted the popular image of Santa Claus and the Republican Party elephant. This is definitely the time of year to pay your respects.

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Robert Moses

This was perhaps the most surprising tomb, not so much for its ostentation but rather for its utter lack of it. Here lies Robert Moses, one of the most powerful men in the New York of the 20th century, who ruthlessly transformed Gotham and the region through public work projects that to this day remain both vital and controversial. Yet here he lies, in a mausoleum, surrounded by the fellow New Yorkers his decisions influenced, who are far from powerbrokers. It’s shocking, really.

Text and photos: Rolando Pujol

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