Ghost of Madison Square diner, long before Shake Shack
For Memorial Day, we celebrate a piece of Americana -- metal soft-drink signs that once graced countless diners and luncheonettes.
There's still a few around, for sure, but today, we bring your attention to one that is hidden in plain sight in Madison Square, right across from the park on East 23rd Street.
Preserved under a deli's awning is evidence of a long-ago diner. It's a downright perfect relic: An intact Pepsi Cola sign, coupled with some lettering for a coffee shop.
Madison Square Park may be home to the Shake Shack, and the neighborhood around it devoid of all the seed its accumulated during the latter half of the 20th century, but we guess that if you look closely enough, it's possible to find traces of the neighborhood's retail past.
You just never know what lurks underneath those ubiquitous vinyl awnings.
-- Rolando Pujol
UPDATE: Jefferson Siegel updates us with the tragic history of this site, and includes a photo that shows the coffee shop sign in question.
The coffee shop under the awning was just east of the Wonder Drug store, which caught fire on October 17, 1966. When firefighters went inside the drug store to fight the flames, the floor collapsed under them, killing 12, the largest one-day loss of life for the fire department up to that point.
The fire spread to other buildings. This photo, taken the next night, shows Broadway looking north from 22nd St. as a crane was brought in to demolish what remained of the buildings.