In the absence of the original, is an aura enough?

In early 2016, the Pepsi Cola sign along the Long Island City waterfront became the first and only sign in New York City to receive protected landmark status. Later that year, the removal of an awning for a shuttered boutique in Lower Manhattan revealed a neon sign for Loft’s Candies that had been untouched for over 60 years.

What’s surprising about this sign isn’t that it survived, but that it seems to be the only one that’s survived in New York. Loft’s was once an enormous chain of penny candy stores and soda fountains. At its height in the 1960s, it had over 300 retail stores. At one point in the 1930s, it even owned the Pepsi Cola Company. The connection to Pepsi is fitting, given its status as the only protected sign in New York.


Using the example of a recently uncovered 60-year-old neon sign as point of entry, this article examines larger issues related to New York City’s Landmark protections, zoning regulations for signage, and the limitations of standard methods and areas of preservation. It also looks at the influence of social media on the revival of analog methods of sign creation.

Through archival research, site visits, and interviews with city officials, local business owners, documentarians, and artists, this article investigates what aspects of New York City’s cultural heritage are preserved through the protection of its outdated and forgotten signage.


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