The last trace of Longchamps vanishes
The site of the Longchamps on Sunday (Photo by Elisabeth Stuveras)
And the sign as it looked toward the end of its life on Madison Avenue, in June 2006. (Photo via everystreetinmanhattan on Flickr)
The massive Art Deco neon sign at 423 Madison Ave. was a beautiful reminder -- certainly the last we know of -- of the old Longchamps chain of restaurants. They once dotted the city until being absorbed decades ago by Reise Restaurants and the locations rebadged.
The persistence of the Madison Avenue sign prompted a Lost City blog post in 2007, and back in the late 1990s, mentions in New York Times articles, one of which offered this morsel from a Longchamps insider in 1998:
''As a former Longchamps restaurant employee, I am familiar with the background of this sign. It was one of the earliest neon signs in the city, erected by the Claude Neon Sign Company over 50 years ago, and was for a time the only illuminated sign on Madison Avenue. The Department of Buildings should be called in to order the sign removed before it collapses!''
Well, you know where this is going. The sign is indeed no longer there, having disappeared at some point in the past year or so. We plan to make a few inquiries about its fate -- if ever there was a sign that had been worth saving, this was it -- but we can't help but fear that it was destroyed.
It wasn't that long ago that we'd happily crane our neck to take its measure whenever we'd pass by, and wonder about the lost wonders of this restaurant chain, whose space at 423 Madison Ave. is now occupied by a Pax sandwich shop.
The sign, however, did leave a little reminder of its long tour of duty above Madison Avenue. As you can see from the photo above, the old sign took a big bite out of this townhouse's cornice. It's gone, sure, but definitely not forgotten.
In fact, Longchamps does not rest easily in the annals of New York restaurant history, having a funny way of reasserting itself in the streetscape.
A few years ago, long-concealed Art Deco neon signs for Longchamps, below, re-emerged at the corner of East 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, at the base of one of the most Art Deco of buildings, the Chanin Building. After signage for Houlihan's restaurant was stripped, and before a K&G Fashion Superstore sign could replace it, these Longchamps beauties came to light. Whether they were eventually destroyed or simply covered up again, we do not know. But these relics looked stunning beneath Renee Chamberlain's masterful frieze that gleamed right atop them. For a few days, another era held court at 42nd and Lex.
We can't help but think about Longchamps whenever we pass this corner, as we always will a little farther uptown, where a chomped cornice serves as a quiet reminder.
-- Rolando Pujol