Home Culture The Stories Behind Old Hoboken Signage

The Stories Behind Old Hoboken Signage

by Lauren Alberti
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Walking around Hoboken — specifically 1st Street near Washington — there are small but telling pieces of history that we may pass by every day without even realizing. Throughout the Mile Square are old signs left behind from yesteryear, giving passersby a glimpse into an older Hoboken, one still filled with mom-and-pop shops and thriving industries. Read on to learn more about the stories behind some of these old Hoboken signs and the history of what businesses once sat beneath them.

Hoboken Furniture | 160 1st Street

hoboken furniture

Nestled right above Choc-O-Pain on 1st Street is an old retro-looking sign that reads “Hoboken Furniture,” but it actually had something written before even that. Originally, according to Patch, this sign used to have “City” written along the top and “Queen” going down the middle, when the City Queen diner was beneath it. City Queen opened right after World War II and was famous for its chili hot dogs and its $1.50 full breakfast and coffee combo. Around 1972 the space was turned into a furniture store, one of many that were in Hoboken at the time. The space has since then become our beloved Choc-O-Pain downtown location, but the sign still hangs above, reminding us of what once was.

Read More: Jersey City’s Oldest Building is Actually From Westfield

Clam Broth House | 92 River Street

clam broth house

Probably one of the most notable pieces of old signage, the Clam Broth House sign features a giant hand pointing down at what is now the corner of Mike’s Wild Moose Saloon and Fat Taco. The spot was first Serventi’s Restaurant, which opened in 1899, and was the main haunt of Hoboken’s dockworkers into the 1900s. Women weren’t allowed inside the restaurant until the 1970s. It’s rumored that the floors used to be filled with clamshells from previous customers and that the bar gave out free clam broth — er, yum? Marlon Brando had visited the restaurant while filming On the Waterfront, and Frank Sinatra’s mother was said to have been a regular.

Grumbacher Art Materials | 400 Washington Street


On the side of the same building that houses Qdoba Mexican Eats, a faint but still prominent painted advertisement can be found on the brick wall. Faded by weather and sun, the sign just barely makes out “Commercial Stationary, Engineering & Drafting Supplies”. The shop was founded by Max Grumbacher in 1905, and provided art supplies for local artists. Grumbacher is said to have handmade his first paintbrush at his kitchen table, and then grew his company into a large local success.

Jefferson Trust Company | 1st + Clinton

What is now a luxury living space on 1st and Clinton Street, the Jefferson Trust Co. was a bank originally built in 1912. It crashed during the Great Depression in the 1920s, and many Hoboken locals lost their entire savings.

Goodman’s | 1st + Washington


Faintly painted across the side of the building on the corner of 1st and Washington Street is an advertisement for Goodman’s Haberdashery, which opened in 1923. The store was owned by Benjamin Goodman, notably part of the thriving Jewish community of shop owners along 1st Street at the time. The store sold upscale men’s clothing, including dress pants, suits, and work clothes for men. Goodman sold the property in 1990.

The Key House | Willow Terrace

Don’t forget to look up every now and then! It’s so easy to miss, yet somehow one of the largest pieces of old Hoboken signage. At 63 Willow Terrace, there’s a giant key hanging from the side of one of the homes. For years, a locksmith lived and operated his business at the storefront below. When the property was renovated in the ‘90s, developers chose to keep the key intact.

Polesies | 1028 Washington Street

Another easy-to-miss piece is the old Polesies sign at 10th and Washington Street. Polesies was a dry goods store, originally opening in 1898 by Max Polesie, a Polish immigrant. The store sold textiles, clothing, and personal hygiene items.

Neumann Leathers | 300 Observer Highway

neumann leathers

At the very edge of Hoboken sits an old warehouse with signage for Neumann Leathers across the sides. Hoboken used to be home to several manufacturing facilities, many of which have been turned into trendy and luxurious loft apartments and condos. The leather company was started in 1863 by Raphael Neumann. For over a century, leather was produced and tanned in the facility.

Rocco Liquor | 600 Clinton Street

rocco liquor

While there is limited information available about this particular business, Rocco Liquor closed around 1997 and the neon lettering was removed from the sign around 2003.

Coca-Cola Luncheon Sign | 1110 Washington Street

coca cola

The beloved Schnackenberg’s aka Schnackie’s opened in 1931 and was an old-school luncheonette where customers could “come in for a Coke” — usually vanilla or cherry Coke. The store closed in 2019, but the iconic Coca-Cola sign still hangs above what is now Alfalfa. The sign reminds us of this family-owned business that graced Hoboken for over 80 years.

Optimo Cigars | 1034 Washington Street

Before the D&V Barber Shop took over this space, it was home to Town Smoke & News for over 30 years, owned by Jatin and Latika Patel, known by their customers as Jay and Lilly. The Optimo Cigar sign is what is known as a “Privilege Sign,” which is an industry term for when a company — usually cigars or soda — provides a sign with their logo on it that the shop can customize, a practice that was popular in the 1930s to 1960s.

Reid’s Ice Cream | 1034 Washington Street

reids pick it

Reid’s Ice Cream was a local east coast creamery, owned by Borden, in business until 1967. Borden bought Reid’s in 1927 for $9 million. The sign hanging over Washington Street indicates that a business previously in that space once sold Reid’s Ice Cream, an item popular enough to bring in business on its own.

Pick-It | 1034 Washington Street

Underneath the Reid’s Ice Cream sign (as seen in the photo above), a very faded “Pick-It” sign still hangs. Pick-It was the main New Jersey lottery game from 1975 to 1987.

See More: How a Car Was Named After the Town of Montclair

Soda/Breyers | 926 Washington Street


Above Asia Sushi on Washington Street is a sign that reads “Soda” and has a Breyers Ice Cream logo underneath it. The logo that is pictured was in use by the brand from 1915 to 2009.

Hoboken is filled to the brim with interesting history, and we are lucky to have physical artifacts that are left behind to remind us of a Hoboken that feels so different, but still has so much in common with the city we know and love today.

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