Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Novelties Unsheathed

The lovely Gordon Novelty Shop on Broadway and 22nd was covered a few years back by Thor Equities plywood and sheathed by a tarp, begging someone to rent the old space. The tarp said, "Lease me now, love me forever!" It showed a faux-facade of what it hoped would come.

Now, it looks like those hopes are coming true. Or maybe they're just going to try harder.


See all my Gordon Novelty Shop photos here

This week, a reader tipped me off to the fact that the tarp and the plywood have come down--surely for gutting as a new tenant moves in. "The elegant gold lettering is still on the windows and it's very old timey," said the tipster, "But soon it will be vanishing as renovations continue."



I rushed up to see it for what will probably be the last time. It is one of the most beautiful facades left crumbling from the old city.

While Thor tore down the colorful letters of the old sign, many elements of the windows are still intact. Who knew that underneath that plywood, all along, a paper Halloween cat still yowled behind the glass?



And the gold lettering is, of course, a treasure--spelling out the vocabulary of lost novelty shops: WIGS, BEARDS, GRAB BAGS, NOISE MAKERS, CHINESE LANTERNS, PARASOLS...

Go soon, before it evaporates and becomes the surely dull thing it will become.




17 comments:

JakeGould said...

Never forget the whimsy that used to exist in Gramercy Park!
http://bit.ly/b71F1a

Ken Mac said...

i am on it, thanks for the tip

Kristen said...

I used to walk past this storefront every day .... Well, maybe this is unfeasible, or possibly just naive, but why doesn't someone (a persistent someone) contact Thor to see if they can just *have* the old Gordon letters or windows? It would be a shame to see part of the decades-old scenery of Gramery Park just trashed, when it holds memories for so many people. (I'd do it myself if I didn't live 4000 miles away these days!)

Goggla said...

This place always caught my eye, probably because it was colorful compared to everything around it. Maybe the new tenants will keep the blue paint or...sell new novelties!

I know, I know, morning coffee makes me unrealistically optimistic...sigh. We need more novelties in this increasingly un-novel city.

Caleo said...

In the summer of 2001 I was working in topographic surveying, and my boss took me with him to survey this joint. I had walked past it for many years and always admired how it had survived so long. Well, we surveyed all the floors and the roof. The upstairs storage looked and smelled like the 1900's, if that makes any sense. Just the smell of worn down wood floors and endless crates and boxes filled with whoopie cushions and hand buzzers and vampire fangs and every other novelty imaginable. I mean thousands of boxes of this type of stuff, row after row after row. We climbed a rickety wooden staircase to access the roof and fix coordinates.
We spent a couple of hours inside the place and both of us marveled at having a chance to step back in time. It was as if the interior was caught in a time warp, completely seperated from the changing city outside.
So believe me, the exterior was only a taste of the sublime " old schoolness" that this place was. I was very lucky to get a last peek inside what was then a living museum of old New York.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Caleo, thanks for that vivid description. must have been amazing to be up there.

Jen said...

If my name was Gordon, I'd surely want to nick the piece of the glass window that says "Gordon Novelty Co" in curlicue letters. Thanks for the great pictures.

gerard splendore said...

Not only did I purchase some novelties here (large gold Chinese fans for a theatrical production @ my Virginia alma mater) but I worked on the design of a real estate office across the street in what was formerly the amazing lighting store. Just like the many manifestations of the first floor of the Flatiron building, all is in the name of "progress", and jobs and money. Novelties? Who needs 'em? At least in Gramercy.

Kenny G said...

Recently, a pop-up gallery rented one of the storefronts. Inside was an amazing amount of original detail with pressed tin ceilings and wainscoting halfway up the walls. It looked like it was right out of 1890, which it probably was. Press your nose up against the glass and you can see it's all still there.

Theresa M. Collins said...

I saw this frontage on Tuesday and it stopped me dead in my tracks!! I was without camera, so I growled and groaned and moved on -- then voilà!! Thanks JVNY!!

Anonymous said...

amazing

Lisanne! said...

Oh I do remember Gordon's. Too bad Thor has it. But it's not surprising. Joe Sitt saw these windows and thought "some people probably love these windows. Someday I will break their hearts and destroy them".

It was a fun place.

ERIC said...

i walked by here for the last couple of days and it seems that demolition is underway.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks ERIC, i just posted about this today

rkc said...

I located a detailed storefront photo of gordon's in 1976
http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/North_America/United_States////photo1130413.htm

-rkc

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks rkc, it's beautiful. i can use that.

maximum bob said...

I remember the Gordon mail order
catalogue as a kid growing up;
it was priceless stuff back then:
sneezing powder, soap that turned your hands black, fake puke, whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, cheap rings, vampire fangs, horror masks,x-ray specs, it was like the ads in comic books on steroids.