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History’s Mysteries: Ghost Sign on East 6th Street

Talk about 6 degrees of separation!  A half-    painted over, fading ghost sign (old hand painted advertisement) on a wall of a tenement building at 620 East 6th Street has more random connections than Kevin Bacon.

If you’re curious to find out how an old ad on a wall on East 6th Street is connected to “The Office,” Clint Eastwood, Italian immigrants  in the South Village and nuns in Cincinnati, Ohio keep reading.

Let’s start off with the essentials.  What is left of the sign today –  a signature of Emilio Parodi, a seal that says “Parodi: Seal of Perfection,” and the words Parodi Factory – doesn’t immediately revel what it was meant to sell.   We did a little digging around and this is what we found out.

“The fickle jet set will seize any new fad – and I tried to get it to take up Italian stogies which I claim are chic.  You know those eight inch long, thin, black cigars which look sligtly meancing? My wife got me into it….”

– Earl Wilson, gossip columnist, Oct. 21, 1968

Parodi is a brand of Italian cigars.  The Parodi Cigar Manufacturing Company was started in 1913 in New York City in a building in the Village at 504 West Broadway (in the GVSHP proposed South Village Historic District) by three Italian immigrants – Itala E. Castello of West Hoboken, New Jersey and Quirino V. Parodi and Giovanni Luzzatto of Manhattan.  (If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of West Hoboken that’s because it was merged with Union Hill in 1925 to form Union City, New Jersey.)


The former Parodi Cigar factory in Jersey City

The sign stating, “Parodi Factory,” would suggest that the cigars may have been made in a nearby tenement but that was not the case.  First, laws were passed in the 1880s barring cigar-making in tenements.  Second, the Parodi Company built a factory in Jersey City in 1916, pictureed at left.  And third…well, we’ll explain that point a bit later on in this post.

The “Parodi: Seal of Perfection” was registered as a trademark by the company in 1917.  In 1925 the Jersey City factory was purchased by a competitor, the Suraci State Leaf Company.  The Suracis bought the Parodi Cigar Manufacturing Company outright and relocated all manufacturing to a new factory in 1930. That’s where we get to the connection with “The Office.”

Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company

The new factory was built in Scranton, Pennsylvania less than a mile and a half from the iconic Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company that many of us know from the opening of “The Office.”

Now known as the Avanti Cigar Company and still owned by members of the Suraci family, Parodi Cigars are among teh company’s most popular brands.

Looking at the wall with the Parodi ad you can see the outline of a gabled roof that reveals something about the history of the block.  The sign cuts through the apex of the gable which means it must have painted after whatever structure was there came down.   Which of course makes us wonder what was there and when did it come down. At GVSHP we have spent a great deal of time researching the history of every site in the East Village and here’s what we have come up with.

Next door to the tenement is  P.S. 64 Robert Simon School (not to be confused with its predecessor the old P.S. 64, Charas/El Bohio Cultural Center at 605 East 9th Street) which was built between 1951 and 1954 as J.H.S. 71.  Dozens of tenements, business and institutions were demolished on  East 6th East 5th and East 4th Streets and Avenue A between 1938 and 1952, to make way for the school.  (That’s how we know the cigars could not have been manufactured here – the sign must have been painted after the gabled building came down, post-1938)

The gabled building (likley built before 1850) was one of many buildings that came to be owned by the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis.  The Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis is an order of nuns founded in Germany in the 1840s who administered to the poor and the sick.   Their first house in America was established in 1858 in Cincinnati, Ohio and the order expanded to New York City in 1865 where they founded a hospital to treat the poor on East 5th  Street.

St. Francis Hospital

“The medical Board of  St. Francis’s hospital, situated  at 603 to 617 Fifth Street  and under the charge of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, in  their annual report  justly calls attention to the excellent work of the hospital for the past year… During the year there were 2,634 patients treated, and 220 remained  in  the hospital on Jan. l.  Of the number treated, 1,366 left the institution  cured.” – New York Times April 1, 1889


The hospital on East 5th Street, pictured above was demolished in 1951.


Oh, and the Cint Eastwood connection … did you think we forgot?

It’s rumored that Clint smoked Parodi’s in many of his spaghetti westerns.

If you liked this post you may want b einterested in some of our December programs about the Manhattan grid plan in Greenwich Village and the Evolution of East 7th Street. 







5 responses to “History’s Mysteries: Ghost Sign on East 6th Street

  1. Greetings.

    I am writing regarding the faded sign on Sixth Street just off Avenue B on the Lower East Side. I believe that the sign is not an authentic original sign. I believe (but cannot prove!) that it was painted there (as were many other signs using Italian products) during the filming of “The Godfather, Par II” back in the early 1970’s. The reason I believe this to be the case is that I went to the school adjacent to the sign, JHS 71, Robert E. Simon from 1967 to 68 and have no recollection of the sign at all. You would think that (especially being Italian myself!) that I would have noticed the sign walking as I walked into the building every day for two years.

    Also, note that the sign fits perfectly into the space. That means that it was made AFTER the JHS was built. I don’t think Parodi would spend money on a sign like that in a neighborhood that was, at that time, primarily Jewish, Polish, Ukranian, and NOT Italian.

    However, I am open to being wrong. It’s happened before. Too many times that I care to think!

    Please let me know if you can verify either way.


    Joe Ciolino

  2. That sign was indeed made for the filming of the godfather. I lived in that area at the time. and they put up many signs in italian. most are gone now, with the buildings themselves.

  3. BTW the bar on 8st and ave B, SW corner is the bar where they were choking a gangster in the godfather and a cop walks in and they have a shootout in the street next to the saint bridges school, which is opposite on the NE corner.

  4. Very interesting to come across this old post. I lived in that building in the early 70s and still clearly remember the transformation of the block and surrounding area for the filming of Godfather II. I was always pretty sure (but like others have no proof) that the sign was painted for the film as part of the set. I also used to think that ‘Parodi’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to ‘parody’. It’s nice to see that there is some real history behind it even though it was a reproduction or an homage.

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