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Neon Signs

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NEWS
December 22, 1995 | by Joe Clark, Daily News Staff Writer
Len Davidson has added another jewel to his collection. It's the crown jewel, the one he waited 15 years for. Diamonds, rubies, gold . . . A real beaut. Enough to light up anybody's night. "Sensational, spectacular," he gushes. "I've never seen anything like it in Philadelphia. There'll never be another. " Davidson stakes his reputation on it. The 48-year-old former sociology professor from Brewerytown collects and restores old neon signs. At last count, he had somewhere around 75. About 15 are hanging in what Davidson calls his "Neon Museum," restaurants, diners and bars in and around Center City.
NEWS
July 15, 1999 | By Jack Brown, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
In 20 years of tracking down and restoring the giant neon signs that are part of Philadelphia's commercial heritage, Lenny Davidson had never seen anything quite like the life-size Caterpillar tractor he recently rebuilt. "I didn't know anything like this still existed," he said, gingerly pulling a broken neon tube from the large Caterpillar tractor sign on the roof of the Giles & Ransome dealership in Bensalem. "There is kind of a hierarchy of these classic signs, and this is absolutely the epitome of that technology.
NEWS
October 24, 2004 | By Kristen A. Graham INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The door, pulled off its hinges and propped up against a window at the Notre Dame Motel here, said it as well as anything: For Sale - Everything read the spray-painted door against which a beaming Jeff Wenz leaned. Wenz is one of about 17 Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood motel owners selling up - that is, selling at a profit - this off-season. The result is a series of demolitions that preservationists call the biggest tear-down boom yet on an island once famous for its schlocky but beloved places to stay but now in the thick of a major development wave driving up property values.
NEWS
July 27, 1994 | ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/ DAILY NEWS
Wayne and Helen Johnson shine a pair of old boots that will be stored with some of their more valuable collectibles in the engine compartment of their broken-down car on Parkside Avenue and 40th Street in West Philadelphia. They hope to get the car running again before the city hauls away their stuff. Johnson, who calls himself a recycler, holds up a poster print of Randall Cunningham (right) while his wife Helen looks over a collection of old stoves, neon signs, pots, pans and suits.
NEWS
August 23, 2001 | By Inga Saffron INQUIRER ARCHITECTURE CRITIC
Steven Izenour, 61, a respected Philadelphia architect and writer who helped make Venturi Scott Brown & Associates one of the world's most influential firms, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, less than three months after the Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrated the architects' careers with a retrospective. Mr. Izenour, who lived in the Powelton Village section of Philadelphia, was on vacation with his family in Vermont when he was stricken, said Jaime Kolker, an associate at the firm.
NEWS
January 15, 1998 | by Frank Dougherty, Daily News Staff Writer
The Diner on the Square is history, following a feeding frenzy by buyers so hungry for bargains that they gobbled up all the restaurant's equipment. "It's a shame the auction had to happen, the result of high taxes and high rents that burden a small business," sighed disappointed owner Peter Bruhn. The economic facts of life in the 1990s forced Bruhn earlier this month to close the tile-and-chrome eatery he opened in 1986. But his voice was the only one tinged with disappointment in the shuttered diner yesterday as buyers looking for deals made bids on 118 assorted lots of items in 100 minutes flat.
NEWS
January 13, 2016 | By Inga Saffron, ARCHITECTURE CRITIC
One of the best-loved relics of Philadelphia's recent past, the neon Boot & Saddle sign on South Broad Street, is glowing again. The sign came out with all its lights blazing Saturday night, nearly eight months after it was taken down from the facade of the music club at Ellsworth Street. The stainless steel structure, which is literally shaped like a giant cowboy boot, and attached to the building by a horse saddle, has been completely renovated and outfitted with new neon tubes, said Len Davidson, a neon expert who supervised the repairs.
LIVING
February 13, 2009 | By Karla Klein Albertson FOR THE INQUIRER
Throughout the 20th century, sinuous neon tubing illuminated public signs and commercial architecture. The glowing gas was a proven lure for customers. Today, collectors have begun to preserve and display the best vintage work, while artists explore new ways to use neon. Local collector Len Davidson gave up academia to become a neon bender. While still teaching in Florida, he says, "I got so interested in the neon that one day a week I went to a sign shop. I said, 'I'll apprentice for free if you teach me about neon.
SPORTS
March 14, 1997 | by Mike Kern, Daily News Sports Writer
Temple basketball coach John Chaney made a fashion statement yesterday: He said Jos. A. Bank Clothiers wouldn't know a clotheshorse if it bit them. Chaney and Indiana coach Bobby Knight, who tests sweaters for elasticity daily, were considered "fashionably challenged" by the clothiers who ranked NCAA Tournament coaches. Kentucky's Rick Pitino topped the list. Georgia coach Tubby Smith and Duke's Mike Kryzyzewski were also given high marks. Chaney's shirttails were hung out to dry by the clothiers.
BUSINESS
October 31, 2008 | By Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer Staff Writer
Jim Sheil had just climbed into bed at midnight - tired, but thrilled over the Phillies' win two hours earlier - when he got a call from his store's burglar-alarm service. "They're in your store," Sheil, manager of Robinson Luggage, said he was told. World Series victory euphoria drew thousands of celebrating fans to Center City on Wednesday night. But a minority trashed the area - demolishing bus shelters, overturning planters, tearing down signs, and vandalizing stores, such as Sheil's.
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NEWS
January 14, 2016 | By Inga Saffron, ARCHITECTURE CRITIC
One of the best-loved relics of Philadelphia's recent past, the neon Boot & Saddle sign on South Broad Street, is glowing again. The sign came out with all its lights blazing Saturday night, nearly eight months after it was taken down from the facade of the music club at Ellsworth Street. The stainless-steel structure, which is shaped like a giant cowboy boot, and is attached to the building by steel in the shape of a horse saddle, has been completely renovated and outfitted with new neon tubes, said Len Davidson, a neon expert, who supervised the repairs.
NEWS
May 28, 2015 | By Maria Panaritis, Inquirer Staff Writer
The Loews hotel chain has tinkered for 15 years to keep the neon PSFS sign aglow on Philadelphia's skyline, but officials said Tuesday they believed the time had come to do away with the old and bring in the new. Arguing that the 83-year-old sign has become too costly and burdensome to maintain, Loews representatives asked the Philadelphia Historical Commission for permission to replace the neon tubes and transformers of the signature red sign...
NEWS
March 28, 2015 | By Julia Terruso, Inquirer Staff Writer
City Council on Thursday approved a controversial bill that would allow two huge, animated, three-dimensional billboards in Center City. Councilman Mark Squilla's ordinance permitting the hybrid-movie screen/digital sculptures, dubbed "urban experiential displays," passed, 15-1. A companion bill authorizing location of the boards and specifying the approval process passed 13-3. If approved by the Art Commission, one display, a hand holding up a globe, would sit outside of Reading Terminal Market.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 11, 2014 | By Samantha Melamed, Inquirer Staff Writer
Len Davidson is always up for a little light banter. That is, as long as the light in question isn't LED. "LEDs," he said, "are the enemy. " After all, Davidson has spent 33 years championing LEDs' precursor, neon, as a historian, preservationist, and craftsman. Now, he can count at least one victory in that long battle. It's on display along 12th and Arch Streets, where, he said, "it's like a little neon paradise right now. " What he sees as a growing illuminated corridor begins at 12th and Market, where Hard Rock Cafe's neon-trimmed electric guitar does perpetual pirouettes, and continues north through the neon-happy Reading Terminal Market (Davidson, 66, made or restored about half the signs there, including the huge classic sign marking the entrance)
NEWS
May 5, 2011 | By MARY MAZZONI, mazzonm@phillynews.com 215-854-5880
Fishtown residents who worried about what the SugarHouse Casino would bring to their neighborhood are now being confronted with neon signs that advertise a "cash for gold" business, which they say targets casino-goers desperate for gambling money. Residents are encouraged by last week's cease-operations order that forces the business to remove the signs posted on the storefront on Delaware Avenue near Allen Street. But they fear it may not be enough to stop the business from opening.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 23, 2010 | By VANCE LEHMKUHL, lehmkuv@phillynews.com 215-854-2645
LEN DAVIDSON has a bright idea. You could call it "electric" - or even, in '80s-speak, "tubular. " Yes, Davidson is a neon man, a collector and restorer of classic neon signs and a neon artist himself. He wrote the book on vintage neon, 1999's "Vintage Neon" (Schiffer Press), and is always ready to sing the praises of Philly's great neon signs from the mid-20th century, what he calls "imaginative cartoon drawings in light. " He'll do so in a talk on neon's history . One thing you learn from talking to Davidson: There's neon and there's neon.
LIVING
February 13, 2009 | By Karla Klein Albertson FOR THE INQUIRER
Throughout the 20th century, sinuous neon tubing illuminated public signs and commercial architecture. The glowing gas was a proven lure for customers. Today, collectors have begun to preserve and display the best vintage work, while artists explore new ways to use neon. Local collector Len Davidson gave up academia to become a neon bender. While still teaching in Florida, he says, "I got so interested in the neon that one day a week I went to a sign shop. I said, 'I'll apprentice for free if you teach me about neon.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 8, 2009 | By Rick Nichols, Inquirer Columnist
Among this city's appreciators of the subtleties of the pizza-making arts there are, if you probe discreetly, a sizable number who will concede that for one of the finest examples you have long had to leave town, drive up I-95, cross the Delaware, and thread your way through the ghost streets of humbled Trenton. There on Hudson Street in the shadow of the old Roebling wire cable works is a pine-paneled, rowhouse pizza parlor, dating to 1947 and a hidden mecca ever since. It is called De Lorenzo's, and technically it serves what are called "tomato pies," the primary distinction of which is, well, that the mozzarella is on the bottom, and the crushed tomato is on the top, making its flavor the distinguishing characteristic.
BUSINESS
October 31, 2008 | By Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer Staff Writer
Jim Sheil had just climbed into bed at midnight - tired, but thrilled over the Phillies' win two hours earlier - when he got a call from his store's burglar-alarm service. "They're in your store," Sheil, manager of Robinson Luggage, said he was told. World Series victory euphoria drew thousands of celebrating fans to Center City on Wednesday night. But a minority trashed the area - demolishing bus shelters, overturning planters, tearing down signs, and vandalizing stores, such as Sheil's.
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