Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I’m tres jealous of all the folks down in Florida – not only b/c of the weather, but because I would so love to go to the Floridiana Festival & Highwaymen Artist Show in St. Petersburg on Saturday 1/29. I’d much rather take a look at the vintage Florida souvenirs, art, kitsch, memorabilia, and historical artifacts, than checking the weather reports to see if snow will put the kibosh on my weekend plans!


The 10th edition of this popular kitschy Florida “antiques & collectibles” event returns to St. Petersburg for its 10th edition on Saturday, January 29, 2011, from 10 am to 5 pm at the historic Garden Club of St. Petersburg.

A celebration of Florida’s cultural and tourism legacies, this annual show features an abundance of old roadside attraction kitsch, as well as vintage Florida art and old tropical decor. It’s an antique show custom made for Floridians or wanna-bes! (That’s ME! Mod Betty, a Florida wanna be!!)


Featuring old Florida souvenirs and memorabilia for sale, spanning the range from alligator ashtrays, flamingo figurines, and citrus-shaped radios, to postcards and other fun ephemera from the Sunshine State’s old parks and hotels, the Floridiana Festival brings together premier exhibitors and collectors of vintage Floridiana, clamoring to be the first ones to discover some unique Florida finds.


Serious collectors will enjoy the selection of alligator memorabilia and souvenir sterling silver spoons and hotel china from Florida’s “golden age of souvenirs,” while more casual collectors of kitsch can find postcards of bathing beauties and old tourist attractions, alligator purses and other Florida fashion.

Kitsch rules at this show, definitely, but for decorators looking for some serious, vintage tropical furnishings, it’s also a hot spot to pick up some old rattan, tropical lamps, and beautiful wall art.


In addition to the abundance of Florida memorabilia for sale, other show highlights include:

-Meet and greet with The Florida Highwaymen artists from the 1950’s & 1960’s

– Lectures, slide presentation and book signings by Florida Authors…PLUS you just might meet some of the original mermaids who will be on hand to discuss their time at Weeki Wachee!

(Retro Roadmap loves Weekee Wacheeclick to read about our visit! )

The Garden Club of St. Petersburg is located at 500 Sunset Drive South, at the intersection of Park Street and 5th Avenue South in St. Petersburg, near the western end of Central Avenue close to the bridge over to Treasure Island.  Show admission is $6.00; children under three years are $3.00.  Free parking.

For info, contact Hula Hula Productions at (727) 421-0441 or visit www.hulahula.biz

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Not sure what the weather is like where you are, but we’ve got snow-a-fallin here outside of Retro Roadmap HQ, so instead of going out on the roads, I’m looking backward down memory lane via my own photo collection.I figured I’d go back as far as I could in my own collection and start with Paragon Park, circa 1984.

Growing up, Paragon Park, a small amusement park in Hull MA just across from Nantasket Beach was my idea of the ultimate place to go, and we’d hopefully go there once a summer if we were lucky.

Paragon Park 1984While my mother caught up with her pal Betty, whom she hadn’t seen in years, and my sisters made new friends with Betty’s daughters I roamed around and snapped random photos with my new 35mm camera.

Paragon Park 1984 Guess Your WeightStill learning how to compose a photograph, I think back and realize that my penchant for photos without people in them was in force then, and I went as far as to scribble out the lady who was in the foreground of this photo of the Snack-a-rama. I’m so glad I caught the Art Deco lines and colors, as well as a bit of the ski lift ride as well!

Paragon Park 1984 Snack A RamaI have always been a fraidy cat about going on roller coasters, and I remember my mother telling me that when she was a kid she made my grandfather take her on the giant coaster, and it was the first and last coaster ride she’s been on! I thought it was pretty cool that the Paragon Giant Coaster was on the list of the Smithsonian’s Top Ten Coasters list.

Paragon Park 1985 6

I remember thinking that day that I would come back and photograph the place right, and get some good shots as there were rumors that the park would close after the next season.

Well friends, you never know what’s going to happen because the park never reopened the following season, and when I returned in the summer of 1985 I was greeted with this sad sign:

Paragon Park 1985 Public Auction
Not only had Paragon Park been permanently shuttered, but I had even missed the public auction of all of the goods from the place. I do recall later that year being able to pick up a trinket or two at Building #19, a local salvage and odd lot shop, but even now the sight of this sign makes me kick myself.

Paragon Park 1985 - Roller Coaster Giant Coaster Sign
I circled the site, which seemed so big when I was a kid, and realized how small it was, surrounded by chain link fencing now.
Paragon Park 1985 - Roller Coaster Cars

The Giant Coaster sat silent, and the undulating tracks looked like the skeleton of a dinosaur carcass, being slowly dismantled and eaten away at by the vultures that couldn’t wait to turn the site into a condominium complex.

Paragon Park 1985 - Demolition of Roller Coaster

All I was left with – besides a footprint on my backside for not taking more, better photos, when I did have the time, were my memories of having an all day pass – discounted by collecting match book covers – stapled to my shirt hem and spending the day riding the kiddie cars, the Congo Cruise, the merry go round and more, playing skee ball in the arcade and eating ice cream on a hot summer day.

Paragon Park 1985 - Exterior Arcade Sign

I still visit Nantasket when I can, thumbing my nose at the condos and visiting the carousel (PTC #85) that they saved and moved down the street. But it’s not the same. So folks, remember – tomorrow never knows – if there’s someplace or something you like – go there now, enjoy it, take photos, and do what you can to make sure it sticks around, because some day it might not be there anymore!

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One of my new years resolutions is to share more of my old photos with folks – so here’s the first assortment from my “Random Roadside” box of photos!

Here’s me in front of the Frazer Diner in the spring of 1999. As I mentioned on my writeup of the Frazer Diner I had no idea when I was posing for this photo that I’d end up living 15 minutes away from it, with a cute guitar player. I’m sure glad it worked out this way!
Frazer Diner 1999
This is a photo of Fains Carpet Store in Providence RI taken some time between 1987-89. Roadwarrior Debra Jane Seltzer posted some photos of this striking storefront in her Roadside Architecture blog recently, and I knew I had a photo when it was still Fains. Love the Art Deco facade!
Fains Carpet Store Providence RI

I’m pretty sure that this photo was taken on the same trip to Rhode Island as the Fains facade, not sure why I didn’t shoot the diner itself, but I think we got off at the wrong exit and were turning the car around.
EverReady Diner Sign, RI

In the small world vein I see that roadpal Gunnar shared some photos of the Meadowbrook Drive In Theatre in Middleboro MA on his blog Eccentric Roadside. The comments indicate the theatre closed in 1987 so I must’ve shot this shortly therafter.
Meadowbrook Drive In Theatre Sign, MA
I know there are small reproduction metal signs of this classic Good Home Cooking sign floating out there on the internets, but this photo is of the real deal, from The Galley Restaurant in West Springfield MA. Taken in 1995 by moi! Here’s a link to some of the history of the Galley’s sign if you’re interested.

The Galley Good Home Cooking Neon Sign West Springfield MA 1995
This photo of the Route 66 Diner was taken in 1995 in Springfield MA as well. I remember eating here and the diner being clean as a whistle, and very affordable.
Route 66 Diner 1995 - Springfield MA

The Englewood diner used to sit behind the Capitol Market in Dorchester MA and I’d see it every day going to and from school. That whole shopping complex was very cool with a big neon sign for the market as well as the restaurant next to it, I think it had a Bradlees too. Not sure why I didn’t take more photos of the entire place, but if I beat myself up for all the photos I haven’t taken I’d be a black and blue pulp. So I DID take a photo of this classic diner, before it got moved.
Englewood Diner Dorchester MA 1988-89

That is just a drop in the bucket of the Retro Roadmap Photo Archives, dear readers. I’ll be sharing more of them as inspiration hits!

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As I sit here in Retro Roadmap headquarters hovering over my cup of tea for warmth, I’m remembering the hot beverages and cozy atmosphere of Caffe Reggio in New York City. We visited Greenwich Village’s oldest coffee house a few weeks ago thanks to the recommendation of our NYC go-to-guy for all that’s cool in the city, RetromanNYC , and I’m glad we did!

Caffe Reggio Neon Sign

Caffe Reggio is famous for introducing cappuccino to the United States, and proudly displays their original cappuccino machine in their dimly lit yet wonderfully inviting interior. Retro Roadhusband was more than happy to partake in one of their famous cappuccinos (gave it the thumbs up) and I ordered a hot tea for me. I was delighted when my tea arrived, not in a bag, but in a pot, with strainer and all, to catch the loose tea leaves.

Caffe Reggio Tea Service

When RetromanNYC suggested Caffe Reggio to us he let us know that it was his mother’s favorite hang between classes (or sometimes instead of classes!) when she attended NYU. I can see the allure of the place for folks from any era, with the eclectic artwork, surprisingly friendly service and a history of notable customers, beatniks and all. While the cafe is currently non-smoking, I can just imagine a college age gal drinking cappuccino, smoking Gitanes and feeling very continental.

Caffe Reggio Coffee Alcove Waiting at our marble bistro table for our beverages to arrive it was fun to absorb all of the details of the small space, and watch the steady stream of customers coming in from the cold. I was enchanted by the antique lighting and stained glass, tin roof and antiques, all giving off the vibe that they had been there forever. You can’t buy patina like this.

Caffe Reggio Tin Ceiling

If you don’t mind being seen, there are seats at the window, and for warmer weather there is cafe seating outside.

Caffe Reggio Cafe Society
Caffe Reggio also serves soups, sandwiches, pastries, desserts and more- had we not had plans for dinner that evening we would’ve grabbed a bite for sure. Just writing about it makes me want to go back there right now, and join in the cafe society!

Caffe Reggio
119 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012-1202
(212) 475-9557

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As a holiday treat to my mother, sisters and the Retro Roadkids, I ventured to Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago to bring them to a holiday recital on the Great Boston Music Hall Organ, at the Methuen Memorial Music Hall in Methuen, MA. Listening to classic Christmas tunes played on this grand pipe organ, a splendid time was had by all!

The Retro Roadkids

Even Bach got into the holiday spirit!

Bach Goes Christmas

Originally built for the Boston Music Hall which opened in 1852 (now known clunkily as the “Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre”) the organ was inagurated into that space 11 years later, to great public acclaim.

However, much like we see today, times and tastes changed. In 1881 the Boston Symphony Orchestra was founded and drew the audience away from the great organ. With the orchestra’s popularity also came need for additional stage space, and it was deemed that this outmoded relic was too big for the hall’s current needs.

Despite vigorous protests the organ was sold and removed from the hall. Eventually the organ – which had cost over $60,000 to build, was resold for $1500 to Edward Francis Searles of Methuen.

Boston Music Hall Organ Christmas ConcertFinished in 1909, the Serlo Organ Hall in Methuen, MA where the organ now resides was built specifically for this great organ and is known for its wonderful acoustics and italianate decor. It is interesting to note that the organ was used only for the private entertainment of Mr. Searles, and the public was not admitted to the hall during his lifetime (he died in 1920).

Now on the register of historic places, you’d never know what a fabulous treat awaits you behind it’s classic brick facade. I would not have known about it myself except that I had attended a wedding there years ago. It’s a beautiful space for a wedding for sure.

Boston Music Hall Organ Pipes

I knew this was a place that my mother would enjoy, and the RetroRoadkids were amazed with the organ as well. I’m hoping the memories of seeing it and hearing it will last them a lifetime (an auntie can dream!)

RetroRoadboy is AmazedThe sound was just lovely, and while I did take some video of it, you end up hearing more of the woman behind me singing along to the carols than I would prefer. Here’s a video from YouTube that gives you an idea of the grandeur and sound of this great pipe organ:

We were lucky enough to attend this concert before they closed up for the winter (can you imagine how expensive it would be to heat such a place?!) but please keep this fantastic destination in mind and check out their website to learn when they re-open in the spring. It’s truly a hidden gem!

Methuen Memorial Music Hall
92 Broadway
Methuen, MA 01844
(978) 685-0693

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Many of the people who came to the RetroRoadmap / Roadsidefans meet-up in Scranton told me that the tour we took of the historic Lackawanna Train Station – now a Radisson Hotel in Scranton, PA was a highlight of their visit. As this tour was my idea I was pleased that this was such a success, and recommend you stop by the Radisson if you’re ever in Scranton. It’s Beautiful!
Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel FrontThe building itself was constructed in 1908 and while it did go through the decline that many historic rail stations have, I am  happy to report when a classic gem like this avoids the wrecking ball (see my post on Worcester’s Union Station as an example).

I cannot rave more about the prompt and professional service that I received from the staff at the Radisson in Scranton, from my first email exchange with General Manager Michael Kearney to the friendly, informed tour given by Front Office Manager Rae Lynn Barrett. I have recently planned a lot of events via email and have to say that these two definitely left a positive impression on me.

The hotel was in fine form as we arrived, serving an elegant brunch in the main hall with live accompaniment on a grand piano. While we were all technically looking forward to eating in the Glider Diner, each of us commented at one point that had we known the brunch would look and smell so delicious, we would rather eat here. RetroRoadhusband and I have put it on our map for a nice Sunday drive for sure.

Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel Stained Glass InteriorThe stained glass roof above the main hall is reported to be Tiffany glass – and (horror of horrors) the reason that the middle sections are missing is that during a period of decline and closure of the property years ago, construction workers threw the furniture from the floors above THROUGH the wonderfully decorative glass ceiling!!! At least there are some sections left to admire.

When we met up with Rae Lynn I did not know what to expect from the “tour” and thought perhaps she’d just point to a few areas of interest and let us roam around. Our entire group was delighted when we realized we were getting a behind the scenes guided tour of the property, including trips to the old safe, wine bar and even the…MORGUE!

Yes, that’s right, the morgue.

With the blessings of management she guided us downstairs through the bowels of this old building, to a small room with an antique door…Lackawanna Train Station Radisson MORGUE Door

And behind that door…another door!
Lackawanna Train Station Radisson MORGUE!And behind that door….well it was just a small cement lined room. But still, how cool is that, a creepy ancient morgue, that you would never know existed unless you took the tour. Rae Lynn tells that when the property was still a train station they needed a place to store bodies that were waiting to be transferred onto trains that hadn’t arrived yet. The painted warning was added recently for effect :-)

We were then brought up to the 6th floor (added to the station in the 1920’s) to get a glimpse of one of their guest rooms, which was well appointed and nicely decorated. Taking a peek outside the window I was thrilled to see the famous Scranton Electric City sign in the near distance:

Scranton Electric City Sign from Lackawanna Train Station Radisson Hotel WindowRae Lynn knew many facts about the property and her pride in working in such a wonderfully historic property was in evidence. We too were caught up in her enthusiasm for the details she pointed out, such as the green tiled walls that now line the Trax bar, to the decorative marble surrounding the main hall and cozy wine bar.

I was feeling bad for not taking more photos but doing a little internet search I found a WONDERFUL 360 tour you can take, to show you some of what we viewed in real life:

Click here to check out the 360 tour of the Radisson Lackawanna Train Station Hotel

Even if you don’t arrange a private tour like we did, do yourself a favor and poke your head into the Radisson at the Lackawanna Station if ever you’re in Scranton. It’s a marvelous testament to the grandeur of the past, and a thumbs up to a company like the Radisson who are keeping this gem viable for hopefully the next 100 years!

Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel Scranton
700 Lackawanna Avenue
Scranton, PA 18503
(570) 342-8300

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Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf

Drawn to diners and other twentieth-century roadside architecture, photographer John Woolf embarked on a project of capturing images of these buildings—especially those in the Northeast industrial corridor from New Jersey to Maine.  Twenty of these compelling photographs can be seen in the exhibition “Night Road.”

Most of these structures combine signage—both lettered and neon—designed to attract the attention of nocturnal travelers. As Woolf describes, “At night, with a mixture of the road’s various artificial light sources, interior lights shining through highly visible windows, and eye-catching, garish neon signs, these buildings and their surroundings suggest a film-noir movie set photographed in Technicolor.”

Using a digital camera and making multiple exposures for each light source and then combining them together in software, Woolf has tried to recreate the lurid color and dramatic lighting of these roadside structures. Digital photography enables this process, which would not be possible with a traditional film camera.

The popular architectural treasures highlighted in the photos date from an era when commercial buildings were more playful and symbolic than they are today. In the mid-1900s, builders constructed even common structures with a high level of craftsmanship and imagination. Some of these relics remain, and Woolf has captured them before they fade away.

National Heritage Museum
33 Marrett Road (At the intersection of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue)
Lexington, MA 02421
(781) 861-6559

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