It’s a rare treat to spot an abandoned restaurant sign out in the desert on a road trip, or a weathered shop sign while wandering the back streets of an old neighborhood. One’s mind easily wanders to what that old sign has witnessed in its lifetime: what major or seemingly insignificant life events, natural disasters, and societal change it has silently looked down upon. How many lives have been lived underneath (or above) it.
We’ve gathered up some up some timeworn treasures, and now we invite you to let your imagination run wild. Check out these vintage signs that are so unique, you won’t want to stop scrolling.
Art deco treasures like the Colony Hotel dot Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. The Colony Hotel opened in 1935 and has become a symbol of the South Beach neighborhood. Over 900 preserved buildings can be found in Miami’s Art Deco District.
This little drive-in, home to the “Cheeseburger with Cheese,” is located along historic Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona. Both the building and staff are full of character, paying homage to original owner (and renowned prankster) Juan Delgadillo. Evidence of Juan’s spirit remains in the neon sign which welcomes patrons: “Sorry We’re Open.”
This historic bar and restaurant in Old Havana was a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway. One of his most favorite drinks, the frozen daiquiri, was invented here in the early 1930s.
Discovery of gold in the late 1800s brought settlers to the stunning Methow Valley in Washington state, where the charming town of Winthrop has flourished. A western-themed restoration in the early 1970s helped turned this little town into a popular vacation destination, which neighbors the pristine forests of the North Cascades National Park.
On a street corner in Bologna, Italy, Adesso Pasta now thrives in the storefront that formerly housed the F.G. Pasquini fabric company. Luckily (for both tourists and residents alike) the new tenants decided to keep the incredible sign.
This stunning theatre opened in Detroit in 1928 as the flagship location for the Fox Theatres movie palace chain. It was restored in 1988 and is the largest remaining movie palace from the 1920s heyday.
This classic American diner opened over 70 years ago in Babylon village in Long Island, New York. Locals still line up on the weekends for all-day breakfast from the gigantic menu.
Walking down Erie Street in Lowell, Arizona, is like being transported back in time. This little mining town was eventually incorporated into greater Bisbee, Arizona, but remains a throwback to the first half of the 20th century.
This sign belongs to one of the last Hiway House motor hotels still operating today. Originally a chain founded in 1956, Hiway House motels were a fixture in the Southwest during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. This remaining Albuquerque location has featured the same neon sign since it opened in 1958.
Shannon Darnall/The Daily Meal
Classic shoe repair shops, like John’s in New York City, are no longer as prolific as they once were. This old-school sign even predates the necessity of an area code.
The first Mel’s Drive-In was founded in San Francisco in 1947, and the business quickly grew to become a chain of diners and drive-ins in Northern California. Though the franchise was sold and eventually went bankrupt, the business was brought back to life in the 1980s, with multiple locations throughout California today. The original Mel’s, located at 140 South Van Ness in San Francisco, was featured prominently in the George Lucas’ 1973 film “American Grafitti.”
This family-owned jewelry store opened in 1944, and has grown to over seven locations across greater Tulsa.
London’s famed Portobello Market is a colorful mish-mash of antique stalls, specialty shops, bric-a-brac, food and street performers. Visit on a Saturday, the main day of the market, to get the full experience.
A deteriorating marquee marks the site of the former Ranch House Café along a stretch of Route 66 in New Mexico. Tucumcari was once a thriving town during Route 66’s heyday, with over 2,000 hotel rooms at its peak. A campaign of billboards reading “TUCUMCARI TONITE!” once dotted the highway, advertising the town as a popular stopover for cross-country travelers.
This incredible vintage sign marks the spot of a once thriving, then defunct, but now restored gas station and café in the Mojave desert.
This independent, bohemian bookstore opened in Paris in 1951 under the name of “Le Mistral.” Its owner, George Whitman, renamed it “Shakespeare and Company” in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach’s influential bookstore of the same name (which was open from 1919 to 1941 and served as a gathering place for expat writers such as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein), as well as in honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. The shop’s motto is displayed above a doorway within: "Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise."
Opened in 1894 as a social club selling biscotti, Veniero’s morphed into a family-run pasticceria by the 1920s. Antonio Veniero hired the best Sicilian master bakers in his kitchen, and they competed in the 1939 New York City World Fair, beating some of France's top bakers. Upon its 100th anniversary in 1994, this East Village landmark received a proclamation from Governor Mario Cuomo declaring Veniero’s a “true New York immigrant success story.”
This independent motel opened in the 1920s to accommodate tourists visiting the stunning white gypsum dunes of the nearby White Sands National Monument. The motel and its retro 1950s and ‘60s signage remains today.
The first Whiting Brothers gas station was built in 1926 in Saint John, Arizona. With the advent of the American highway system and vehicles becoming increasingly affordable, they quickly flourished across the country. Their signs became a familiar sight along Route 66, with more than 40 Whiting Brothers filling stations stretching along the “Mother Road.” Severe fuel shortages in the 1970s led to an eventual decline of the business, but a few old, faded signs can still be seen along Route 66. If you’re interested in discovering more about America’s Highway, these are the attractions and restaurants you must visit on an epic Route 66 road trip.
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