Say goodbye to these fabulous painted letters.

blank's picture

The couple who own a local hardware store retired and closed up shop. These may be the last really great hand-painted letters in the neighborhood, and won’t be around much longer. Take a good look, and if you happen to be able to identify the style and where I might track down a complete lettering guide, please do.

russellm's picture

Is it gold leaf?

Nick Shinn's picture

James, you will have to open a restaurant where you preserve this kind of thing on the walls.
But seriously, have you made them an offer for the window yet?

I don't think the sign is particularly old.
The lower lettering is after the Americana typeface.

blank's picture

Now that you mention it, they probably are gold leaf, but since I’ve never seen gold leaf on glass anywhere else I can’t say for sure.

blank's picture

It will be a few years before I can open a restaurant; right now all my wealthy friends are using their exotic mortgages as their primary tax write-off. And as much as I would like to keep that window, it’s a bit too large. But is an old building in a historic district, so there’s an off chance the owners/tenants will leave it there to keep the preservation weenies happy.

Oh, I checked my photos and it’s signed and dated 1991.

cuttlefish's picture

Window painting and gold leafing on glass is not a lost art just yet, though it is certainly a lot harder to come by in these days of computer-cut vinyl. Since they're in a historical district, I doubt the old sign will be preserved, but the preservationists may at least require the new business to be marked in a similar technique and style.

Linda Cunningham's picture

The upper line of letters is a swashy take-off of Benguiat, judging by the A and N.

Nice picture, James: where in DC is this place?

Nick Shinn's picture

It looks like a 1970s Letraset face.

blank's picture

It’s downtown, on Connecticut Avenue just north of M street and south of the Jefferson statue.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Ah, to be in DC...

*Sigh.* I gotta get myself down there sometime. I'm not that far away.

Richard Hards's picture

It's Harrington, from The Font Bureau according to the TTF that I have. But it dosn't seem to be listed on their site.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

It’s Harrington...

According to this website (which could be outdated), "Harrington now ships with all Macintosh computers as an installed, default font"...

Linda Cunningham's picture

ROFL: that's too funny. I actually used Harrington in a project earlier this year -- I knew it was familiar. It's still a riff from Benguiat, though, with the A and N. (and that W is so lovely, which is one of the reasons I picked it)

Good thing I never pretend that I'm omniscient, I guess.... ;-)

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

It’s still a riff from Benguiat, though, with the A and N...

Yeah, it's like Nick said... looks like a 1970s Letraset face.

Renko's picture

For those who are sitting behind a PC there is Rossetti by Scriptorium as a reasonable lookalike. Harrington seems to be the Art-&-Craft-Standardface of our time. Just because almost every Macuser can use it. And they do

Richard Hards's picture

My old Letraset catalogue lists it as a Letragraphica face, but doesn't offer any more information.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Harrington. I have it listed as a 1998-font by Dover.
. . .
Bert Vanderveen BNO

Stephen Coles's picture

Also have a look at Richard Beatty's Hermosa.

David Rault's picture

An interesting and topic-related quote from Bernard Maisner, master calligrapher:

"On the subject of signs, one of the saddest things to me about the demise of hand lettering and the rise of computer-generated font/signage is the absolute ugliness of current signage in society. Sign painters were so talented and creative, and their genius truly beautified shops and public streets. Look at photographs of old New York and Paris and small-town America--the signs were gorgeous. Walk up and down the street now, and with all our developed technology, modern signage is profoundly ugly."

check the whole interview there:


blank's picture

Walk up and down the street now, and with all our developed technology, modern signage is profoundly ugly.

That’s the part I don’t get: why is digital signage so horrible so much of the time? Is it that after buying software and printers the shops just can’t afford good type? Or is it that when the signpainters went out of business they were replaced by people who never had a clue to begin with? I suspect it’s a little of both, combined with the “make it bigger“ mentality of average Joe Businessman.

cuttlefish's picture

You know, it's hard to tell for sure without examining the actual window, but those might have been done in Sign Gold, the gold-plated adhesive vinyl. Since the font is so readily identifiable, it is a distinct possibility..

blank's picture

Could be, although there are brushstrokes in the green and inconsistencies in the letters that made me think it was painted. And who would bother to sign and date stick-on letters?

Nick Shinn's picture

I think that digital has been a big boost for signage.
Since the Mac and PC, there seems to have been a "high-touch" reaction against the high-tech of typographic signs, and I've noticed far more really interesting one-off signs that are made out of stuff by hand. At least, in my part of the city. Maybe not in the 'burbs and malls.

As with so many issues, there are no statistics and people see what they want to, to support their preconceptions and prejudices.

Mark Simonson's picture

Sign painters John Downer and Leonard Otillio, who together did a glass gilding workshop a few years ago at TypeCon in Minneapolis, both work out their designs digitally. Both make and utilize their own custom fonts for such work. (Some of John's commercial fonts started out this way.) The art is output to film to make silk screens, which in turn are used to apply the design to glass. Touch up is done with a brush.

Nick Shinn's picture

Stone carver Nick Benson also makes custom digital fonts as the basis for his work.

James Arboghast's picture

gold-plated adhesive vinyl

Some sign cutters here in Oz I hire now and then use a variety of adhesive gold-backed mylar film which rubs down like vinyl or letraset. They cut it with a laser as blade cutting machines tear the thin film.

j a m e s

William Berkson's picture

Here's an article about a man who still rubs gold leaf onto glass for signs in New York City.

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