Signage of the Times

A photo essay. To view all 18 images, check out the email version.

All around New Haven, there are signs of the past—literal signs, or in some cases signs of what were once literal signs.

Many advertise businesses that’ve closed, like the long-gone Loft’s Candies on Chapel Street and Connecticut Savings Bank on Church, or the recently closed Hotel Duncan on Chapel and Indian restaurant Thali on George.

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Some of them mystify, like the “BICYCLE” that rides the side of Hull’s Art Supply—a vestige of Cycles LaChance, a bike shop that used to operate there—and this weathered collection of words visible on York near Crown: “Monarch Laundries Inc. / Storage Vault.” Others are mysterious for being well-hidden, like a back-alley pane of glass recalling a former occupant of a restless Temple Street commercial space: the Playwright pub. Following a string of other tenants, that space is now filled by the night club Vanity.

Sometimes you get a twofer. At Dollar General on lower Chapel, the stone threshold reads “Horowitz Bros” for the razzle-dazzle department store that used to occupy the building, while, behind new yellow letters, you can still see the outlines of General’s immediate predecessor, Family Dollar. At Orange and Court Streets, recently closed Peruvian spot Cviche 181’s sharp white window lettering hasn’t yet been scraped away; above the window, the words “corner deli,” “breakfast” and “luncheon” can still be deciphered from a previous eatery there.

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In at least one case, the signs point to a place that’s only temporarily closed: State Street Station, which is being renovated. In other cases, signs are for places that simply moved. For example, it appears the “Yale School of the Fine Arts,” now the Yale University School of Art, once resided in what is today the eastern wing of the Yale University Art Gallery, a sign on the exterior seems to declare. The art school’s current building, once the home of the Jewish Community Center, is across Chapel and up a block.

Another mover is F.D. Grave & Son, a cigar company that was founded in New Haven and stayed for more than a century. Around 1999, the company relocated from its longtime factory on the southwest corner of State and Crown Streets to a location in North Haven and, within the past couple years, reportedly ceased manufacturing. But you can still buy its cigars at the Owl Shop on College Street; and, from George, on the southern face of the old factory, you can still see a historic forest green ad for its Muniemaker cigar line. The ad appears to have been more recently repainted, in the same spot where decades of George Street drivers saw it.

It’s a sign of its times but also of something contemporary: a healthy interest in New Haven’s storied past.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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Dan has worked for a couple of major media companies, but he likes Daily Nutmeg best. As DN’s editor, he writes, photographs, edits and otherwise shepherds ideas into fully realized feature stories, helped very much by a small team of dedicated contributors.

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