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More Great Ghost Signs of the East Village and LES

We’re back with the fifth in our series of ghost signs. Click the photos to see artifacts of businesses that have long disappeared.

<STRONG>Edelstein Bros. Pawnbrokers, 233 East 14th St.</STRONG>

Edelstein Bros. Pawnbrokers, 233 East 14th St.

Jazz great Charlie Parker kept a chronology of the last 10 years of his life, which was published as Bird's Diary. Its last page shows a pawn shop ticket for Parker's famous King Super 20 alto sax from Edelstein Bros. dated Jan. 24, 1955, less than two months before his death.

According to Walter Grutchfield the Edelstein Brothers, Isaac and Max, moved to the 14th St. location in 1945. The brothers inherited the business from their father Simon in 1875. Edelstein Bros. remained at this location until 1981.

<strong>Burger-Klein, 28 Ave. A</strong>

Burger-Klein, 28 Ave. A

Fifty years ago, Ave. A was a mecca for furniture retailers. Nine stores stood cheek to jowl between Houston St. and 7th St. including Tifford's (107 Ave. A), Greenstein & Sons (26 Ave. A) and Lichtenberg's (48 Ave. A). Burger-Klein sported a distinctive cube-shaped sign that remained for years after the store closed but was removed in 2014.

<STRONG>Benson Furniture, 6 Ave. A</STRONG>

Benson Furniture, 6 Ave. A

The Ave. A furniture district is gone but the ghost sign of Benson Furniture has survived. Turn the corner on Houston St. and a skinny sign tucked away on the side of 244 Houston St. still beckons furniture shoppers looking for a good deal.

<strong>The Industrial National Bank, 72 2nd Ave.</strong>

The Industrial National Bank, 72 2nd Ave.

The design of the Industrial National Bank remains as unique today as it did on its opening in 1929. "The architects had produced a startlingly different structure," explains Daytonian in Manhattan. "The upper floors exploded in color and fancy. While the overall style was vaguely Renaissance Revival, the green and beige terra cotta spandrel tiles and the rope-twist engaged columns added an exotic air."

By 1931 Continental Bank & Trust moved in and the building has remained occupied by a variety of banks ever since, which has helped preserve its façade. Today the building is a branch of Bank of America but "The Industrial National Bank" remains etched in the roofline on 4th St.

<strong>Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.</strong>

Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.

When it closed in 2006 the Grand Machinery Exchange was the last artifact of a once-bustling downtown machine district. The Exchange was a showroom for used equipment used by nearby bronze forgers, book printers, food canners and garment makers. The New York Times explained that here "a tribe of used-machine dealers gathered, most of them former junk peddlers, and their refurbished presses, shapers and grinders kept the factories humming." As factories moved out of the area and fax machines and the Internet connected buyers and sellers, a central location of machinery was no longer needed.

The Machinery Exchange, opened in 1927, was not the building's first occupant. The Baxter St. building was erected in 1915 as a stable for the Police Headquarters on Centre St. Today it is called the 136 Baxter Condominiums, but some of the barely-legible Exchange signage remains.

<strong>Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.</strong>

Machinery Exchange, 136 Baxter St.

When it closed in 2006 the Grand Machinery Exchange was the last artifact of a once-bustling downtown machine district. The Exchange was a showroom for used equipment used by nearby bronze forgers, book printers, food canners and garment makers. The New York Times explained that here "a tribe of used-machine dealers gathered, most of them former junk peddlers, and their refurbished presses, shapers and grinders kept the factories humming." As factories moved out of the area and fax machines and the Internet connected buyers and sellers, a central location of machinery was no longer needed.

The Machinery Exchange, opened in 1927, was not the building's first occupant. The Baxter St. building was erected in 1915 as a stable for the Police Headquarters on Centre St. Today it is called the 136 Baxter Condominiums, but some of the barely-legible Exchange signage remains.

<strong>Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow St.</strong>

Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow St.

In the late 19th century, the Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society was one of many landsmanschaftn, organizations that provided medical and financial help to Jewish immigrants from a specific hometown – in this case, Kletsk, Poland. The Lower East Side notes, "At its humblest, the landsmanshaft was simply an association of people from the old town who could provide the lonely immigrant with moral support, and perhaps with modest funds to take care of such stark necessities as medical care or burial. More prosperous associations could help struggling businessmen get started, or even build their own synagogues or gathering places."

The building was sold in 1911 and since 1930 a series of funeral homes have occupied the ornate building. Today Boe Fook Funeral Home serves the Chinese community there.

<STRONG>Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A</STRONG>

Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A

For decades, Ave. A was the destination to shop for baby carriages, strollers, cribs and toys. Ben's Juvenile Mart (87 Ave. A) and Schachter's Babyland (81 Ave. A), with its kiddie horse ride in front, were a few doors apart. Schneider's Juvenile Furniture (20 Ave. A) on the corner of 2nd St. was the last to leave the neighborhood in 2004.

Across Ave. A from Schneider's was another kids store whose name is unknown. Its gilded glass signs advertising children's dresses and suits, underwear and "novelties" remained hidden for decades until they were discovered in 2016 by the owners of 2A Bar. "We were simply doing routine renovations on the façade of the building to fix our windows," says Laura McCarthy, co-owner of 2A since 1984. "Lo and behold, we found these signs hiding out for decades upon decades underneath."

<strong>Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A</strong>

Infants' Wear, 21 Ave. A

McCarthy found that one of the six original panes was missing. Local artist and patron Lisa Barnstone created a replacement that reads "2A Bar." "She was able to beautifully replicate the missing plate in the same style and font as the originals and it blends right in," says McCarthy. The bar features a small gallery of historical photos of the corner storefront that includes its past life as a dentist's office.

<strong>Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery</strong>

Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery

The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors notes that "by 1890 it was estimated that 9,000 homeless men, many of them alcoholics or gambling addicts, found lodging in Bowery flophouses. Accommodations could be a person-sized spot to flop on a wooden floor in a large open ward for five cents or a wooden cubicle about four-feet-by-seven for 15 cents."

The Alabama House was built in 1889 to fill that need. Daytonian in Manhattan provides an exhaustive account of the “loafers, lounge lizards, dancing men and kindred Broadway and Bowery folk" who flopped at the Alabama. A faded ghost sign for the hotel is visible on the north side of the building.

<strong>Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery</strong>

Restaurant Supplies at Alabama House, 221 Bowery

By the end of the 20th century, the Bowery's Skid Row was replaced by the Restaurant Supply District. Chair-Up, a supplier of chairs, stools and tables, moved into the storefront in 1984 and covered the façade with huge signs. When Chair-Up moved to Delancey St., the removal of its awning revealed painted glass signs that advertise coffee urns, steam tables and other restaurant supplies. By their age, the signs may have been for Advance Kitchen, Chair-Up's predecessor.

<strong>Witty Brothers, 50-52 Eldridge St.</strong>

Witty Brothers, 50-52 Eldridge St.

In 1939 the Witty family – four brothers and a cousin – took over the Lower East Side clothing shop founded by their grandfather in 1888. Witty Brothers became a chain of six stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn that sold high quality men's wear. The eight-story Eldridge St. manufacturing plant employed 400 people, according to Distinguished Jews of America. Witty Brothers was acquired by Eagle Clothes in 1962. Infamous New York notes that when notorious mobster Monk Eastman was found shot to death on 14th St. and 4th Ave. in 1920, detectives found a Witty Brothers tag inside his jacket. The tag read, "E. Eastman, October 22, 1919—No 17,434—W.B.” After the murder, Henry Witty told the New York Tribune, “Monk Eastman, the old time gang leader … we have made clothes for him for 19 years. The last suit we made for him was delivered Oct. 21, this year.”

<strong>Martin Albert Custom Draperies, 288 Grand St.</strong>

Martin Albert Custom Draperies, 288 Grand St.

In 1980 friends Al Harary and Martin Zeliger founded Martin Albert Custom Decorators at 288 Grand St. The custom drapery store had a small upholstery business around the corner on Eldridge St. "On Sundays you couldn't move on that street," says Harary. "We had a guard at the door, we couldn't let everybody in at one time."

Its two-story sign, with a bold red arrow pointing to the storefront, was painted a year or two after the store opened. "We're looking at about $300 to paint the sign and considering how they designed the lettering [laughs] it was a little rough. I think it was a guy with a scaffold. We didn't have money for sign painters. A year or two ago somebody painted over the sign so it wouldn't disappear from the world. Kind of an amateur restoration."

Martin Albert Interiors moved to 19th St. in 1993. In 2012 Martin Albert moved to 257 W. 39th St., where today it creates custom interior designs and upholstery that have appeared on the Today show, Saturday Night Live and Sex and the City.

<STRONG>First Roumanian-American Congregation, 89-93 Rivington St.</STRONG>

First Roumanian-American Congregation, 89-93 Rivington St.

The First Roumanian-American Congregation, a synagogue built more than 150 years ago, was known as the "Cantor's Carnegie Hall" for the acoustics created by its high ceiling. The synagogue was torn down in 2006 after its roof collapsed but its entrance's ghost sign remains. According to At the Edge of a Dream: The Story of Jewish Immigrants on New York's Lower East Side, Jacob Pincus – who would go on to achieve fame as opera star Jan Peerce – was one of many cantors "drawn by the synagogue's magnificent acoustics … entertainers Eddie Cantor and Red Buttons were in the congregation's choir. George Burns was a member … Edward G. Robinson lived on Broome St. for a while and celebrated his bar mitzvah" at the synagogue.

<strong>Max Feinberg, 86 Orchard St.</strong>

Max Feinberg, 86 Orchard St.

Pushcarts dominated the streets of the Lower East Side before they were banned in the 1930s but local businessman Max Feinberg thought big. Feinberg bought the building at 86 Orchard St. in 1928 and established his clothing business on the street still famous for its storefront merchants.

"Feinberg provided ready-to-wear children’s clothing, and sold them at wholesale prices on the ground floor of his building, while holding his office on the 2nd floor and storage on the 3rd," notes the Tenement Museum.

<strong>BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.</strong>

BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.

Paul Devitt converted the venerable salon into a bar in 1995 and the concept has spread across the U.S. Beauty Bar customers can sit under the salon's original hair dryers and enjoy a manicure with their martinis.

<strong>BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.</strong>

BONUS: Thomas Beauty Salon / Beauty Bar, 231 E. 14th St.

Though the retro signage at the Beauty Bar seems authentic, its design is based on the original signs of the Thomas Beauty Salon, a 14th Street fixture for 40 years. "We had the original signage for a few years, but had to replace them with similar style signage, due to damage and age," explains Michael Stewart, managing partner of the "beauty saloon." "The only original sign is the one inside the display window."

Photos by Frank Mastropolo

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The Fillmore East, ‘Church of Rock N Roll,’ Recalled By Those Who Helped Open It 50 Years Ago

During 1967’s Summer of Love, the Village Theater at 105 Second Ave. was New York’s premier rock music venue. The Anderson Theater, two blocks south, competed with rock acts in early 1968. But the landscape changed later that year when San Francisco promoter Bill Graham converted the Village Theater into the Fillmore East. Most of Graham’s technical staff defected from the Anderson, which soon closed. Graham’s “Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll” presented stars that included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

The Fillmore East’s March 8, 1968 debut show featured Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin a month after the band rocked the Anderson. The show also featured blues great Albert King and folk rocker Tim Buckley. Graham’s eclectic lineups exposed rock fans to the best of jazz, folk, blues, Latin and Eastern music and made the East Village the center of the rock universe. Competition from arenas like Madison Square Garden and increased salary demands from bands convinced Graham to close the Fillmore East on June 27, 1971. Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991.

The 50th anniversary of the Fillmore East will be celebrated tonight, March 8, at Theatre 80 in the East Village, and next month the Who will release a live album recorded at the Fillmore East in 1968. For an inside look at its history, we talked with some of the people who worked backstage and on stage at the storied venue.

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The Anderson Theater, Forgotten Forerunner of the Fillmore East

Unlike the former Fillmore East two blocks north, there is no plaque at 66 Second Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets to honor the Anderson Theater. The forgotten Anderson kicked off with a series of rock concerts sponsored by Crawdaddy magazine on February 2, 1968 with Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin and Soft White Underbelly, predecessor to Blue Oyster Cult. Notable bands followed in the months ahead: the Yardbirds, Traffic, Procol Harum, Moby Grape and Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin. Big Brother’s Feb. 17 show introduced Joplin to many New York rock fans.

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Scorsese Continues Little Italying LES For Irishman Shoot

Work continues apace as Orchard and Broome Streets turn into 1970s Little Italy for the upcoming filming of The Irishman. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the Netflix film stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci.

Yesterday we showed you the replica of the original Umberto’s Clam House. The mob favorite, at 129 Mulberry Street, at Hester Street, was where gangster Joey Gallo met his fate. Era-correct yellow street signs that will be used for the film show the attention to detail Scorsese is famous for.

Many of the other faux storefronts also depict real businesses. Forzano Italian Imports and E. Rossi Italy Music & Book, from Friday’s story, were Mulberry Street mainstays back in the day.

Click through our slideshow to see the latest reveals.

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

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Scorsese Transforms the LES Into ’70s Little Italy, For The Irishman

(Photos: Frank Mastropolo)

This week Lower East Side hipsters may fret that the neighborhood’s invasion of piercing salons and beard-trimming shops has come to an end. Storefronts on Orchard and Broome Streets sport signs reminiscent of 1970s Little Italy. Signs for E. Rossi’s Italy Music & Book Co., Vitale Funeral Home, Hester Discount Hardware and others have popped up, seeming to herald a comeback for the mom-and-pop shops the man-bun crowd has shunned.

But don’t worry, the shops will be gone soon. The signs are props for the filming of The Irishman, the upcoming Netflix film that examines the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa in 1975. The flick stars mob drama heavyweights Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci. It reunites De Niro and Keitel with Martin Scorsese, who directed the pair in another LES drama, 1973’s Mean Streets.

Based on the 2003 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, The Irishman marks Scorsese’s long-awaited return to the gangster genre. Shooting began here in August and will continue through December, just in time for SantaCon to arrive.

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If 8th St. Became Jimi Hendrix Way, Would It Get More Crosstown Traffic?

An imagination of Jimi Hendrix Way (Frank Mastropolo)

In the mid-1960s, Jimi Hendrix honed his craft as a singer and guitarist in Greenwich Village clubs like the Gaslight Café, Trude Heller’s, and Café au Go Go. After a 1966 performance at the Café Wha?, Hendrix was persuaded to go to London and form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He returned to New York a superstar. Hendrix moved to West 12th Street in 1969 and in 1970 built his most enduring Village legacy, Electric Lady Studios.

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Musicians Recall Dylan’s First Big Gig and 25 Years of Music History at Gerde’s Folk City

Gerde’s Folk City, on West Fourth Street. (Photo: New York University Archives Photograph Collection)

Greenwich Village in 1960 was ground zero for folk music. Beat poets of the ’50s gave way to folk singers in Village coffee houses like the Gaslight Café and Café Bizarre. Musicians gathered at the Kettle of Fish bar and Izzy Young’s Folklore Center, which sold books, records and instruments.

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Bob Dylan Is the Village Voice’s Final Cover Boy, But He Wasn’t the First to Record ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’

It is appropriate that the Village Voice ends its print run today with a photo of Bob Dylan on its cover. Like the Voice, which launched in 1955, Dylan also got his start in a Greenwich Village filled with coffee houses and small clubs that featured poetry readings and folk music.

As a member of the New World Singers, singer-guitarist Happy Traum was a regular on the Village music scene. This week Traum talked with us about Gerde’s Folk City, the West 4th Street club where Dylan played his first professional gig in April 1961. Traum recalled that before Dylan performed it on stage, he shared the lyrics to perhaps the best loved folk anthem: “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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A Favorite Ghost Sign Quietly Vanishes in the East Village

Before. (Photo: Frank Mastropolo)

Lanza’s Italian restaurant opened in 1904 at 168 First Ave., an East Village favorite until it closed in 2016. A regular customer, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, was Carmine “Lilo” Galante, boss of the Bonanno crime family. Lanza’s had a reputation as a mob hangout since the Bonanno and Columbo families dined there.

For perhaps the entire life of Lanza’s, all its customers passed under a turn of the century ad for PN Corsets. The sign was there in 1993 when Woody Allen used Lanza’s for a restaurant scene in Manhattan Murder Mystery. In 2015 we featured the PN ad, painted on the adjoining building, in a collection of neighborhood ghost signs.

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50 Years Ago: The Summer of Love Brings Pot, Protests and Psychedelic Rock to the East Village

Tompkins Square Park
(Photo: James Jowers)

“As the hour grew late and working people around Tompkins Square Park began turning out the lights on Memorial Day 1967, police asked several hundred music lovers to turn down the volume of a guitar-and-bongo concert in the park,” reported the New York Daily News. “The crowd’s reply … was a barrage of bottles, bricks and fists that left seven officers injured.

“And thus began the Summer of Love.”

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