Look Out for the Apple: A Sign From the Past Pops Up in Downtown Brooklyn

Photo by Susan De Vries

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You have to look up to spot it, but while ambling along Fulton Street a sliver of a vintage sign can be glimpsed peeking out from amidst the surrounding storefronts.

Made visible by the removal of an awning, the bit of signage includes a “W” inside an apple and enough text to make it clear that a cafeteria once occupied the storefront at 447 Fulton Street. The two-story commercial building at the corner of Jay Street dates to 1930 and the certificate of occupancy shows that one of the original first floor tenants was Waldorf System Inc. The circa 1940 tax photo provides a better view of the intact facade of the cafeteria, with entrances on Jay and Fulton streets each adorned with the company’s apple logo.

447 fulton street

Photo by Susan De Vries

447 Fulton Street

The corner in 2007. Photo by Scott Binter for PropertyShark

The first Waldorf restaurant opened circa 1904 in Massachusetts and the company incorporated around 1919, spreading a chain of luncheonettes throughout the east coast. “Cleanliness and service” were the company watchwords, according to a 1920 “Financial World” profile of the company, with food displayed under glass and employees in “spick and span attire.”

Photos in the collection of the Center for Brooklyn History show the Waldorf sign visible until at least 1960, but the 1980s tax photo shows a variety of new businesses in the commercial building and new signs blanketing the first floor.

Today the first floor of the building is occupied by an Ann Taylor Factory Store while the upper floor is vacant after the departure of a dental practice. In addition to the removal of the awning at street level, the large signs on the upper story were also removed, revealing a bit more of the streamlined Deco detailing at the top of the building. Architects John Bray and J. P. Heffernan are credited with the design on the 1930 certificate of occupancy.

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