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Letters from Neon: A Walking Tour of New York’s Old Neon Signs with Thomas...

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Cooper Union

41 Cooper Square

New York, NY 10003

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The Lower East Side is blessed with an especially dense concentrations of vintage neon signs. Signs like these advertised businesses large and small throughout the city beginning in the 1920s and 30s. They fell out of favor in the 1960s thanks to rising costs, restrictive zoning ordinances, and the appearance of less costly forms of outdoor advertising. In recent years, they have all but disappeared as old, independent businesses across the city have succumbed to rent hikes and old age.

Our tour will take us past about a dozen signs dating to the 1930s, 40s and 50s, including that of the Orpheum Theatre, possibly the oldest surviving neon sign in New York. We will see them at dusk, as they start to come to light and when they look their best. Some have been beautifully restored; all are in perpetual danger of disappearing. We will discuss their materials, design, origins and future.

The group will meet at 41 Cooper Square and leave from there.

Thomas Rinaldi grew up in the Hudson River Valley near Poughkeepsie, New York. He is the co-author of the book Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape, published by the University Press of New England in 2006, and the author of New York Neon, published by W.W. Norton in 2012. His photographs have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the New York Observer, Westchester Magazine, CNN Online, and elsewhere, and have been exhibited at the Municipal Art Society of New York and will be shown in a forthcoming exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany. He holds degrees from Georgetown University and Columbia University, and has worked for the National Park Service, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and the Central Park Conservancy. Rinaldi currently works as an architectural designer in New York City.

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Cooper Union

41 Cooper Square

New York, NY 10003

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