April 6, 2009

Iconic Sign Removed Due to Instability

Print More

The Johnny’s Big Red Bar and Grill sign on 202-204 Dryden in Collegetown is no longer shining neon red. It was removed towards the end of March and, contrary to popular belief, will not be restored again.
“The façade of the building where it was anchored was apparently unsafe and unstable. Some of it had actually fallen down on the street,” said Mike Schnurle, assistant fire chief of the Ithaca Fire Department.
The sign has been iconic to Collegetown — authors Richard Farina and Thomas Pynchon mentioned Johnny’s in their works and musicians Harry Chapin ’64 and Peter Yarrow ’59 both performed there. In terms of more local lore, the restaurant was opened by John Petrillose, the father of the founder of the Hot Truck, Bob Petrillose. Bob started out cooking in Johnny’s and then went on to open the hot truck, which he initially named “Johnny’s.” [img_assist|nid=36590|title=Before|desc=Johnny’s Big Red Grill sign as seen on March 5, 2008.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0][img_assist|nid=36591|title=After|desc=A view of the structure after the removal of the sign.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The building is owned by the Ithaca Renting Company. Joe Price ’95 of the Ithaca Renting Company confirmed initial reports by the website Dear Uncle Ezra that the sign will not be restored. He also said that in the process of removing the sign to renovate the façade, they realized that the sign had become fairly rotten inside and could not be put back up. Price added that the company would be putting up a different sign instead.
The old sign now belongs to a private collector. According to Price it had been up since around the late 1950s. The grill has been closed for several years and the space is now broken up into several smaller stores, including the Little Thai House and the Asian Noodle House.