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.
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
The old Hotel Tudor is now a Hilton, but the corporate hands haven’t gotten around to taking down the old sign, a Midtown East unofficial landmark. Hopefully it’s too costly and not worth the trouble to tear it down. This photo was taken from the 10th floor of WPIX, itself a neighborhood fixture since 1948. #signs #tudorcity #manhattan #vintage #oldnyc #murrayhill #kipsbay #unitednations #hotels #relic #artifacts #urbanarchaeology
A vintage Optimo Cigars sign in Queens has a little bit of everything, and some of it defunct, like ‘Walkman’ and film
Optimo Cigar signs were a staple of old New York. They existed on countless storefronts around the city, along with their cousin in promoting cigar-chomping among Gothamites, Te Amo. These days, Optimo and Te Amo signs are increasingly rare, so it’s a big deal when you find one, especially an example like this pair. They are an archaeological treasure trove.
The sign, above, touts multiple things that are either obsolete, or have been rendered somewhat taboo in New York — especially during the Bloomberg administration, with its aggressive public-health policies — such as, well, Optimo Cigars itself!
The sign also promotes obsolete goodies such as film and “Walkman.” These are all services, along with “radio,” that you can get these days not in piecemeal purchases at, say, a bodega, but on a smartphone, a point I make in this earlier Retrologist post about a nifty 60s sign in Park Slope.
The one right above is on the side of the building, and is also a retro gem, made all the more charming with its missing “I.”
Text and photos: Rolando Pujol
This amazing, vintage 7 Up sign is in North Beach, San Francisco. It’s a riot of 1960s hippie goodness. Will have much more on it and other vintage signs and storefronts from San Francisco in upcoming posts on The Retrologist. #hippie #retro #vintage #signs #sf #1960s #pop #flowers #psychedelic (Taken with Instagram)