Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mayfair Billboard

Continuing the sad story of the destruction of the Mayfair building in Times Square, 701 7th Avenue, a look at the visual history of its big, wraparound corner billboard.

photo by Aylon Samson

Photographer Aylon Samson sent in the above photo of the building currently wrapped in a black demolition shroud, the last of its many costume changes through the decades.

NYPL, c. 1935

The building was originally home to the Columbia vaudeville house, then the Loews Mayfair.

The billboard has sort of always been there, framed in lights, heralding the big-screen movies inside. Like The Day the Earth Stood Still and a spectacular 3-D Jane Russell being chased by sharks in Underwater! That was the heyday of the 1950s.

c. 1951

c. 1954

(In some photos of the Mayfair, you get a glimpse of the Parisian Dance Land taxi dance hall--above Whelan's, in the lower right corner, next to the RKO Palace. The dance hall was featured in Stanley Kubrick's film Killer's Kiss. Read about that place here.)

c. 1954

c. 1955

Later, the Loews Mayfair became the DeMille theater, and the giant billboards continued, like this one from Jack Lemmon's Luv.

c. 1967, via Vintage Images

At some point, the movie theater was broken up into a triplex, called the Embassy 2-3-4, and stopped advertising on its own billboard.

Panasonic took over, looking rather dull, but with a useful note about the weather, and still keeping the old Mayfair shape.

photo: Matt Weber, 1984

In more recent years, it was covered with a clutter of Broadway billboards, instead of one big one, losing its distinctive look.

Once the building's demolition became imminent, the billboard was covered with black-and-white portraits of tourists, topped with a giant eyeball. (Yes, that is an army of people doing yoga in the middle of Broadway.)

Last year, the billboard was completely stripped away, revealing the building beneath for the first time in nearly a century.

photo by Aylon Samson

After the building is reduced to rubble, a giant glass box will go up, and Times Square will get a monstrous, wraparound TV screen.

It's no 3-D Jane Russell.

the digitized future

Mayfair's interior artifacts
Plans for the new building
Mayfair's exterior artifacts
Toys, Souvenirs, Jokes


Don said...

In the movie Fame, high school student Monty lives right across the street from the billboard, and it figures in his big solo number.

ee said...

It's very Blade Runner/Minority Report/Philip K. Dick -esque. This blog is like a precog. Do real estate developers and iZombies dream of electric sheep?

Gavin Whitelaw said...

Hi there,

LOVE the Blog. Can you please credit the Mayfair image of LUV as being from my blog and also credit to please. I have no problem with it being used but would like it credited. Thanks. Gavin

Anonymous said...

AHHH, just lets face it now. NYC is so over.

Gavin Whitelaw said...

Thanks for the credit. As an aside, do you know when the Brass Rail Restaurant just to the north of Times Square closed? I have been trying to find out but with no success so far!

Yank said...

The wraparound signs were so great, but the building underneath is a pure beauty. What a loss!

laura r. said...

hongkong here we come.

Joey Blau said...

I read today that they will be installing HD Video screens in the subways.. to blast ads at the customers.

I hate this invasion of the public space .. if you have ever looked at your PC and went.. WHOA! and covered up some annoying flash-ad... well that is what is coming for the subways. even installed in the tunnels..

Next they will read your phone and call out to you by name.. they will know your browsing history and your available balance on your credit cards.. "Hey Johnny! buy some more SLURM! I know you like it!"

Ken Mac said...

The building stripped bare is a final insult. Like a prisoner stripped of everything.

Alexander said...

FRESH FRUIT DRINKS/FRANFURTERS, street level 1950's photos; owned & operated by Gus Poulos, founder of Papaya King (originally known as Hawaiian Tropical Drinks)as one of many permutations of "Franks N Drinks".