Monday, August 31, 2015

George's Coney Island in Worcester, MA has been serving hot dogs since 1918.

George's Coney Island in Worcester, MA has been serving hot dogs since 1918. It started out as a small lunch counter and was renovated by George and Catherine Tsagarelis in 1938 in an art ‪#‎artdeco‬ style complete with wooden booths, tile floor and long lunch counter. They specialize in ‪#‎hotdogs‬ with their famous secret ‪#‎chili‬ sauce, yellow mustard and chopped onions. ‪#‎signgeeks‬ ‪#‎neongeeks‬ ‪#‎coneyisland‬ ‪#‎vintage

Friday, August 28, 2015

Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore on Madison Avenue at 35th Street closed in January 2015

Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore on Madison Avenue at 35th Street closed in January 2015 after being in business for over 30 years. It was the first ‪#‎travel‬ ‪#‎bookstore‬ in the United States and was founded by Harriet and Arnold Greenberg, who were both travel writers. They had an extensive collection of ‪#‎vintage‬ and ‪#‎antique‬ travel ‪#‎books‬ as well as rare books and maps. They also had a huge selection of travel guidebooks including ones published in 1901 by Adam & Charles Black, German-published Baedeker guidebooks, and American guidebooks commissioned as part of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. The bookstore is still operating online for anyone interested in finding rare travel books. The loss of this bookstore hit us particularly hard because there are so few independent bookstores left in the city, and especially one with such a unique collection. According to state data, between 2000 and 2012, the number of bookstores in Manhattan fell about 30 percent, from 150 stores to 106 stores.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

STORE FRONT and Faile Art. We are happy our book STORE FRONT: The Disappearing Face of New York continues to inspire artists...

Our Store Front photos are part of Faile's Gentrification Game feature at their Brooklyn Museum Show!

From Gothamist: "There's also The FAILE & BÄST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, an intensely bright interactive environment created in collaboration with Brooklyn artist Bäst. There you'll find arcade games, pinball machines, and foosball tables—all sculptures, but interactive ones that you can actually play (for free). The games includes a gentrification video game meant to be played with others, everyone racing to knock down the old Brooklyn buildings and replace them with new condos."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hogs & Heifers in the Meatpacking district closed on August 23rd after being in business for 23 years.

Thor Equities purchased the building they are located in and when their lease expired, increased their rent by $14,000 to a total of $60,000 a month. This iconic ‪#‎bar‬ was known for selling $3 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon ‪#‎beer‬ and encouraging women to get up on the bar and dance with a bartender and remove their bras and hang them on the wall. The owner, Michelle Dell, estimated that they 16,000 bras were removed from the walls of the ‪#‎divebar‬ since they first opened in 1992. The bras and taxidermy on display have been catalogued in case they find a new location in ‪#‎NYC‬ to re-open, but she is not hopeful.

Photo from 2009 appears in our book "New York Nights".

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Walk Through An Abandoned New York City Asylum

Our second installment of an off-the-beaten track location in New York City. Our first, titled "A Walk Along the Crack Tracks" explored the abandoned tracks, tunnels and homeless of the South Bronx's old Port Morris line. Link:

Today we take a walk through an abandoned psychiatric facility that opened in 1912. It began as a "farm colony" for mentally disturbed patients to live in a pastoral setting with plenty of space, fresh air, and farming for its patients. It used the healing power of work in a structured environment to help in their rehabilitation. We start on the first floor...

Hallway and stairwell. It is very dark and we capture our photos using long exposure and a tripod. There are signs of homeless living in at least one of the rooms but thankfully no one is around.

Nameplate. New buildings were constructed in 1926, 1929, and 1933 and the facility became a state hospital with a capacity of 3,300 patients. By the 1940s there was severe overcrowding with over 6,000 patients.

Doors. Thick metal, small windowed doors look out onto the hallway. Rust and peeling paint accumulated on the floor show how long this particular building has been abandoned.

Wheelchairs. New treatments for mental illness were introduced here, including hydrotherapy, insulin therapy, and electro-shock therapy.

Chair. A dark hallway takes us to the main staircases. It is completely silent except for the paint chips that crunch underfoot.

Dayroom. Rotting curtains filter the sunlight. The facility was also known to perform lobotomies.

Wall mural. Peeling artwork lines the room. By 1959 the patient population reached the staggering level of 7,000.

Gurney. "State School Tile" lines the walls. Antidepressants and tranquilizing drugs became widely used in the state mental health system in 1955. All windows we encounter are barred and locked.

Wooden wheelchair.  The large front wheels are missing.  The new drugs that were introduced meant quieter wards, fewer injuries to staff and patients, and a dramatic increase in the number of patients who could manage daily life on their own.

Chair Stuffing.  The remains of a mural disintegrates slowly behind two upholstered chairs that seem in the process of being consumed. We encounter no animals throughout the duration of our stay. It is silent, still, and stuffy. And more than just a bit melancholy.

Head support.  A large wheelchair sits in a yellow room with floral curtains and waist-high room dividers.  We left any relics where we found them with no staging on our part. 

Shoes, female. Deinstitutionalization which began in the 1960s became coupled with policies outlawing work, based on the legal notion of patients' rights. It was considered that having patients work in the kitchen or laundry or garden or in workshops constituted "exploitation".

"Outdoor" recreation area.  Once "work" was outlawed many patients had little to do but sit zombielike in front of barred windows or the never turned-off TV. "Outdoor" rooms that punctuate the ends of some hallways, offered fresh air and seemingly little else.

Retro-modern chairs. Lead paint chips and the ever present asbestos dust diminished their "take-home" desirability... Air born toxins are always a danger when doing this type of exploration. As well as arrest.

Patient artwork. The deteriorating walls are occasionally adorned with artwork created by the patients themselves as a form of therapy.  Such work's presence, in the empty dismal rooms, set the overall tone of heartbreak and sadness that stayed with us.

The number of patients at the hospital declined to 1,100 by 1991. Buildings like this one, already in disrepair, were left to deteriorate further. They were too expensive to renovate and bring up to code.

All photographs © 2015 James and Karla Murray

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A visit to Gramercy Typewriter in the Flatiron District

Gramercy Typewriter in the Flatiron district was founded in 1932 by Abraham Schweitzer. It specializes in selling and repairing vintage, antique, and portable typewriters of many makes and models. When manual and electric typewriters which have experienced a resurgence in popularity again,  fell out of favor in the 1990s the Schweitzers started selling and servicing HP Laser jet printers, fax machines and provided toners and supplies.

Paul Schweitzer, second-generation owner, began working for his father in 1959 spooling typewriter ribbons by hand. His son Justin also works for the family business and together they repair and polish up typewriters and sell a nice selection of refurbished machines from the early to mid 1900s.

When asked what his favorite brand was, Paul told us that he doesn't really have a favorite but likes the quality of the German-made Olympias. He also pointed out the Underwood in the photo below which although looks like it had a wood veneer, it was actually manufactured with a wood-grain metal. When we brought in our circa 1938 Remington Rand he quoted us a price of $375 for a complete overhaul and cleaning.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sardi's in the Theater District

Sardi's in the Theater District was founded by Vincent Sardi and his wife Eugenia in 1927 and is known for its hundreds of illustrated caricatures of show business celebrities that cover the walls. Mr. Sardi, a #theater lover, kept the #restaurant open much later than others in the area to accommodate the schedules of #Broadway performers and it soon became a popular spot for actors, producers, press agents and drama critics to drink and dine. We love its #vintage #neonsign that can be easily seen from Seventh Avenue and of course are mesmerized by all of the amazing caricatures inside!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream shop in the ‪#‎EastVillage‬

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream shop in the ‪#‎EastVillage‬ opened after a successful launch selling ‪#‎icecream‬ from a yellow truck on the streets of ‪#‎nyc‬. They use only the freshest ingredients to produce their ‪#‎classic‬ scoops and even their ‪#‎vegan‬ scoops are made in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with cashew milk, ‪#‎organic‬ coconut milk and coconut oil, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter and carob bean. We love their ‪#‎handpainted‬ ‪#‎sign‬ and particularly enjoy the ‪#‎pistachio‬ and salted ‪#‎caramel‬ flavors. Just like their sandwich board outside the ‪#‎storefront‬ says, what better day to get "Hot Day Ice Cream" than today with temperatures around 90 degrees.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

116 Cuchifritos in #Harlem has been in business for over 50 years.

The shop specializes in #cuchifritos, a variety of #pork based dishes that are commonly fried. The word "cuchifritos" literally translates to "fried pig". This restaurant also sells #frituras or fritters which are fried snacks common in Puerto Rico and Latin America. We love this bright #signage with the yellow, orange and red bulbs surrounding it and decided to photograph it glowing at night.

Photo appears in our book "New York  Nights".

Friday, August 14, 2015

B&H Vegetarian Restaurant on Second Avenue near St. Mark's Place, East Village reopens today!

B&H Vegetarian Restaurant on Second Avenue near St. Mark's Place reopened today after being closed for 5 months following the deadly East Village gas explosion and fire that destroyed three buildings near the restaurant. 

Hudson watches the re-opening day crowds as he waits for his breakfast... Below, orders were flying off the grill.

Ola & Fawzy Abdelwahed, husband & wife owners, were finally able to reopen the 1930s dairy & vegetarian restaurant after neighbors and customers rallied in support of B&H, raising $30,000 in funds and helping speed up City Hall to grant the necessary permits. The couple took turns running in and out to give interviews to all the New York media. Here they are with #ABC7NY. 

Hudson trying to steal the microphone foam wind shield muff during his interview...  Fawzy even brought out Hudson a bowl of ice water. Below, all was forgiven.

Ola was hustling, keeping up with incoming orders and taking time to greet and thank each and every loyal customer... 

Above, our pancakes on the grill!

Once our food (buttermilk pancakes and 2 scrambled eggs and hash browns), Karla was grabbed again by Channel 7 ABC NEWS and asked what B&H re-opening means to the neighborhood... If you look closely you can see Hudson's teeth marks on the mics foam muff. Below, Hudson waits patiently for his food...

Central Park, earlier. NYC.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


"James and Karla Murray have been capturing impeccably accurate photographs of New York City since the 1990s. In the course of their travels throughout the city’s boroughs they’ve also taken great care to document the stories behind the scenery. The Murrays have rendered the out of the way bodegas, candy shops and record stores just as faithfully as the historically important institutions and well known restaurants, bars and cafes. From the Stonewall Inn to the Brownsville Bike Shop and The Pink Pussycat to Smith and Wolensky, the Murrays reveal how New York’s beleaguered mom & pop business stand in sharp contrast to the city’s rapidly evolving corporate facade. "
348 Pages Hardcover $65

Click on cover for larger view:

L'Etoile Verte

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunset over the East Village tonight, earlier... NYC

Bridge Café, Water Street, NYC

Bridge Café on Water Street was established in 1979 by the Weprin family. The Café sits on the first floor of a historic wood frame building built in 1794 along what was once the East River's western edge. Newell Narme opened a "grocery and wine and porter bottler" in the space in 1794 and since then it has operated under various names as a saloon, boarding house, liquor establishment, and restaurant. Through research conducted by historian Richard McDermott, it was found to be one of the oldest surviving drinking establishments in New York City, continually serving alcohol since 1847 when Henry Williams first opened a porterhouse at its location. Sadly, the Bridge Café has been closed since it was flooded during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Photo and full text appear in our book "New York Nights".

Monday, August 10, 2015

In honor of National S'mores Day we are posting our photo of Jacques Torres Chocolate on Lafeyette Street in NoHo.

Jacques Torres is a master pastry #chef who opened his own #chocolate shop after working as head #pastry chef at the famous Le Cirque restaurant. All of his hand-crafted chocolate products are made with premium ingredients and most are made from #scratch including his own chocolate-covered #grahamcrackers and #marshmallows so you can build your own #smores. This #NoHo store sells a huge variety of chocolate and #bonbons, hot chocolate, #icecream and #cookies. We not only love everything inside but think the brightly colored awning and #signage are great! #nationalsmoresday #storefront #food

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer. Line for ‪#‎SammyAdams‬ @sammyadams on the Lower East Side last night for his show at the ‪#‎BoweryBallroom‬. ‬

We loved the juxtaposition of the old ‪#‎typography‬ for Bowery Aqua and the playful and colorful ‪#‎graffiti‬ by ‪#‎street‬ artist #KennyScharf and the #COST ‪#‎wheatpaste‬. ‪ ‪#‎streetart‬ ‪#‎bowery‬ ‪#‎cue‬ ‪#‎summerinthecity‬ ‪#‎nyc‬ ‪#‎summerofsammy‬ ‪#‎girls‬ ‪#‎lowereastside

Thursday, August 6, 2015

In honor of National Root Beer Float Day we are posting our photo of Gem Spa in the East Village.

This 1940s era corner #candy store specializes in #eggcreams made with their original Hamilton Beach blender but also sells delicious Root Beer Floats! Jack Keroac was known to frequent Gem Spa for their egg creams. This photo taken in 2001 is from our book "Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York" and although the shop looks similar now, they have new signage and an updated awning and sadly the "Put Your Face on a Sticker" box is no longer out front but instead there is a #Zoltar fortune telling machine! #nationalrootbeerfloatday