New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, December 29, 2008

ArtKraft Strauss

Occasionally something absolutely jumps out at me and screams. Seeing a weathering sign like this on a ramshackle industrial building is in itself interesting. And perhaps if I was familiar with every square inch of Manhattan and possessed a photographic memory, sightings like this of the ArtKraft Sign Company would only be a short review class and not a major event. I have ridden by this location hundreds of times over the decades but never really made any note of it. However, on January, 2007, I had written of this company in my article on the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign flanking the East River - see here. So, the name ArtKraft Strauss was somewhere in my subconscious mind waiting to be triggered. The photo required some multi-tasking - I only had seconds to find and grab a point and shoot camera, open a car window and shoot while driving in slow moving traffic on the West Side Highway.
ArtKraft Strauss is the most important signage company in the history of New York City. They are responsible for signs known internationally, like the Camel cigarette man who puffed smoke rings over Times Square from 1941 to 1966. Signs like this were virtually de rigueur for visitors. Coca Cola has had a sign here since 1907 and has gone through several iterations with a 1992 spectacular, 42-foot model of a Coke bottle utilizing start of the art electronic technology. For 87 years, this is the company that was responsible for lowering the ball at Times Square on New Year's Eve. See a history of ArtKraft's signs with photos and videos at their website.
ArtKraft Strauss was founded in 1897 by Benjamin Strauss as Strauss Signs. This company merged in 1931 with Artkraft-New York, founded by Jacob Starr, a former employee of Strauss Sign. ArtKraft has dominated the signage in Times Square through the era of neon and since the 1980s with electronic displays like that of Coca Cola.
Until 2006, ArtKraft Strauss utilized this space (40,000 square feet on two floors) at 57th Street and 12th Avenue for their manufacturing. They have since divested of manufacturing operations and now operate as a design, consulting and project management sign company. The space is now occupied by the not for profit arts organization chashama and hosts over 24 visual artists in walled, open studios on the 1st floor, and rehearsal space on the 2nd floor for theater companies. I hope they keep that sign ...

6 comments:

Terry B said...

Another amazing find, Brian! And I love that you don't just stop with an interesting picture, but drill down and get the story. I visited both the ArtKraft and chashama sites; the history on the former is fascinating, and it's great that the building is being used in such a cool way now.

alphachapmtl said...

What is the tower in the background?

Brian Dubé said...

Terry B - thanks. I do try to do some heavy drilling :)

alphachapmtl - I'm not sure what the tower is, but it appears to be a residential building on 57th street and 11th Ave.

Terry B said...

A quick update: I just read that the Coke billboard in Times Square has gone green. It's wind powered!

Brian Dubé said...

Terry - Great. Sounds like a blogable thing. I need to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to find out that the building is occupied by Chashama - I have been curious about it forever and finally also took a photo of it - driving by - do you have any idea who the artist behind the "yellow robot" on the building which by the way also shows up on (literally) our street (53rd W of 8th Ave)...I can not see it on your photo..