Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jade Mountain Crushed

This week, Grieve alerted us to the removal of the Chow Mein neon sign from above the old Jade Mountain Chinese restaurant on 2nd Ave., thanks to some work being done on the building. I got nervous for the Jade Mountain neon sign that has been lying face-up atop the roof of Shoolbred's since the restaurant closed in 2007.

a few weeks ago

Recently, the inner text of the sign popped up, like a body suddenly sitting upright in its coffin. Walking by, you could see the last letter N in "mountain" peeking out with its distinctive chinoiserie shape. Perhaps it knew what was about to happen to it.

Now, that N has been crumpled like an aluminum can, smashed under the boots and equipment of the construction workers. I hate to think about what the rest of the sign looks like.


I got in touch with Thomas Rinaldi, author of the blog New York Neon and a forthcoming book by the same name. His response: "What a heartbreak!"

He wrote, "I think many people would agree with me that the Jade Mountain sign was a thing of real cultural value and significance. It was particularly noteworthy as one of New York's very last early- to mid-century signs that used a stylized iteration of East Asian calligraphy adapted to Roman characters. I know of only two others that survive at this point in the city, both of them abandoned. It's another one of New York's most important historic neon signs needlessly destroyed."

Can anybody get over there and rescue this sign?

*UPDATE: The sign has been taken away...

in better days

Further neon reading:
Peep-O-Rama refurbished
Fedora sign


Anonymous said...

I'M totally crushed. I can't believe a collector or an archivist didn't snap this up! It should be in MOMA in their design archive. This is beyond a shame. - BN -

Kirsten said...

So pointless and sad. And just last night I was in Ridgewood and saw the plastic eyesore that Morscher's Pork Store replaced their lovely neon with. Heartbreaking.

Mitch Broder said...

I sure wish I could rescue it. I once rescued the M from Florsheim in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but in terms of outdoor signage, that's about all I can handle. But since it's now all about money, I wonder why building owners don't make more of an effort to collect. There are at least a few people in this country with the cash, space, and refinement to provide a home for such neon treasures. The landlords could get even richer.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Aw, damn. You'd think they could have sold the sign or given it to someone who values it. What a rotten waste.

Mark said...


I lived around the corner from Jade Mountain for 35 years, and passed that sign multiple times daily.

Final proof that you cannot go home again.

Anonymous said...

The first needless destruction occured when the real estate company advertised the Jade Mountain space for rent several years ago. They installed a flimsy sheetmetal "FOR RENT" sign by screwing it on top of the neon sign. In the process they broke multiple neon tubes and crushed and perforated the carefully crafted formed metal leters.

Anonymous said...

Let There Be Neon, the Manhattan based neon sign company that made the neon Shoolbred's sign offered Mrs. Chan, the owner of the building that once housed Jade Mountain, money to buy the old neon sign and the Chow Mein sign. Jeff the owner of LTBN refurbishes classic old neon signs and saves them or loans/donates them to a neon museum. She never responded to him. Shoolbred's carefully removed the sign and placed it face up so as not to break the neon. Originally, Shoolbred's owners, (Robert Morgan and William Ivey Long) asked if they could buy/use the old sign while it was still up and work it into the new bar somehow. The original plan was to keep the sign in place and simply work the new facade around it. After Mrs Chan said no, Shoolbred's decided to replace the old neon sign with another large neon sign to pay homage to the once beautiful Jade Mountain sign. If you've ever seen the inside of Shoolbred's you'll understand how much attention they pay to preserving history and the love of the old. The Chow Mein sign did however remain in place. And Shoolbred's found the power supply and wired it to a breaker. They would light up the old sign which eventually burned out on one side and just read Chow and the other side lit up Mein. It would flicker on and off and really made for a classic New York sight from the 60s or 70s. Eventually the sign burned out all together and it was decided to let it lie in peace. If someone wants to get in touch with Mrs Chan or her son Nick about the signs and try one last time to save them you should probably drop by Shoolbred's and leave a letter with them to get to the Chan family. You can also see what the facade of the whole storefront looked like just before the Chan family closed Jade Mountain in the book Store Front, The Disappearing Face of New York by James & Karla Murray.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for that thorough info. i alerted Jeff at Let There Be Neon earlier today, so maybe there will be a second chance for this one.

Anonymous said...

A follow-up from Anonymous at 2:53

Thanks for the larger picture provided by the LTBNeon insider. I realized that when the "FOR RENT" sign caused the initial damage(which was pretty awful) that it was in part because the Chan family was not concentrating on the stewardship of an old neon sign. They certainly had more important issues to deal with. However, the real estate company should have had a clue.
In the larger picture, sites like this can only raise awareness of facets of city life that are worth preserving. Spreading the word and educating people is vital. Open their eyes.
Thanks Jeremiah.

lxe said...

Spoke to Dean Maroulakos the General Mgr of Shoolbred's and Ninth Ward today. He asked that anyone with historic/preservation concern for this sign please contact him through email at or call his cell 646 275 0461 so he can direct you to the landlord.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Anon and lxe--i posted your suggestions in a separate post today. hopefully, readers will write in about saving this sign.

Anonymous said...

I was walking by that area today and saw the sign laying on the side walk with a group of guys looking like they were getting ready to take it out, anyone have any updates on what's happening to it?

Jeremiah Moss said...

this is all i know right now: