The neon of New York City

New York City has long been known for its array of lights and neon signs. New York’s history with neon signage, however, has been nothing short of simple.

In the 1930’s, neon signs shutterstock_231189940-1were an integral part of the New York City landscape, representing the image of NYC as a “glamorous metropolis”. Neon signage was known to represent spots of great business, like well-known bars, restaurants, and stores that gave New York an identity of its own. Many business owners enjoyed using neon for their signage because it captured the attention of potential customers.

After this era, the signs started becoming less and less popular. By the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, instead of the neon representing swanky advertisements, nightclubs, and well-known businesses, it became associated with the grimier parts of town. Many of the neon signs, specifically in old Times Square, represented X-rated peep shows and porn shops.

One of the most iconic neon signs was that of the Subway Inn, a dive bar that sold beer and sandwiches, next to the Bloomingdale’s on 60th Street. After many complaints about the sign being an eyesore to the rest of the commercial and upscale block, the sign was removed in 2015.

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Photo via Rolf Süssbrich/Wikipedia

The lack of protection to preserve historic neon signs, combined with the adoption of more energy-efficient LED lights, has caused the demise of many of these signs that have been around for a long time. In addition to not having the proper system in place to preserve historic signs, replacing a neon sign would actually be more costly for business owners rather than just replacing it with a different kind of sign.

Other iconic signs that have since been removed include the animated Fuji film sign and Planter’s Peanut sign in Times Square, and the sign for Monte’s restaurant in the East Village.

‘Let There be Neon’, which was opened in 1973, is one of the few neon sign makers that still exists in NYC.

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