Old New York In Photos #83 – Macy’s & Surroundings 1905

Around Macy’s Herald Square – The Greatest Store In The World 1905

This high definition photograph of Macy’s department store was taken by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1905. Macy’s led the march of modern department stores uptown, moving from their Sixth Avenue and 14th Street location where they had been since the 1858. The “Greatest Store in the World,” opened at the Herald Square location on Saturday, November 8, 1902.

We are looking west from the Sixth Avenue elevated station along Broadway with 34th Street on the left and 35th Street on the right.

Above is the color postcard that was created from this photograph.

Let’s take a close-up view of Macy’s and the surrounding area from our photograph. Click to enlarge any photo.

In the immediate foreground on the extreme right is a small portion of the New York Herald Building with a large owl, wings spread, perched at the corner.

James Gordon Bennett, and later James Jr., owners of the Herald, had a thing for owls. The Herald building was adorned with many of them. Mechanical owls attached to the clock had their eyes illuminated and would light up when the Herald clock struck the hour.

The Herald Building is long gone, but Herald Square retains its name and two of the original owls are still in Herald Square. They are part of a monument to  James Gordon Bennett and the newspaper he founded. And yes the owls eyes still light up.

Looking past the Herald Building down 35th Street is the loading bay of Macy’s. Delivery trucks of all type congregate here, including an ice wagon.

The statue on 35th Street is of William Earl Dodge (1805-1883), millionaire, humanitarian, philanthropist and for many years, President of the Chamber of Commerce.

The statue was commissioned through private donations and unveiled in 1885. Dodge’s statue stood on that spot until it was moved in 1941 to behind the main branch of the New York Public library in Bryant Park.

Along Broadway people go about their business including city workers near a manhole.

In front of Macy’s several horse drawn wagons move up and down Broadway. A milk wagon full of canisters needs two horses to pull its heavy load.

The driver and conductor stand at each end of trolley car number 2895 of the Metropolitan Streetcar Railway Company as it  makes its way south down Broadway via the Columbus Avenue route.

The Broadway and Columbus Ave. line ran from South Ferry as far north as 146th Street.  The surface lines were divided into two systems — the Metropolitan and the Third Avenue Systems

The amazing thing about the Surface Street Car System of Manhattan was each of these systems allowed extensive free transfer privileges between its own lines. The Third Avenue system also transferred with the Manhattan (Elevated) Railway system at all connecting and intersecting stations for three cents extra. The free transfer arrangements, which were practically identical on the two systems, were designed to permit a passenger to go from any part of the Borough to any other part in the same general direction for a single fare. Fares on all lines, was five cents, and children under four years of age were free.

This corner entrance to Macy’s at 35th Street is still there. Of course it has been greatly altered. The sconces and the street lamppost are not just utilitarian objects, but well designed works of art.

A man passes the display window near the main entrance of Macy’s. The display is simple: mannequins adorned with the style of the day, in this case women’s shirtwaists. The canopy gives those who stop to look a nice spot of shade.

According to Macy’s clock it is 10:15 a.m., and at main entrance of Macy’ three smartly dressed women have just emerged from the store.

If you click to enlarge this photograph further you will notice a couple of things. A five pointed star, the symbol of founder Rowland Hussey Macy (1822-1877) is prominently featured. Before becoming a retailer, R.H. Macy was a whaler. Macy was once lost at sea and a star guided him safely back to shore. Macy had a star tattoo to remind him of his good fortune, and the star was adopted as the corporate logo in 1858.

Atop the clock a large star appears. Each of the four ornate glass windows above the canopy has stars. The windows tilt to open to let in air. But Macy’s was primarily ventilated by great fans which sucked in air from ducts attached to the roof, then cooled or heated depending upon the season, and then distributed throughout vents on each of the floors .

On the second floor to the right of the entrance is the lone figure of a man by a window, the only evidence from outside, of human activity inside the huge store.

On the fourth floor on an elongated balcony with fancy lightposts, the R.H. Macy name is affixed to the fence.

On the left on top of the building at the corner of 34th Street is a large billboard advertising Turkish Trophies Cigarettes. 10 cents for 10 cigarettes featuring “all Turkish tobacco.”

Finally the building on the corner of 34th Street and Broadway has an interesting story. The building is what is known as a holdout – where the owner of a building or plot of land will not sell to developers who are trying to assemble a large contiguous parcel.

The original owner of the corner plot, Reverend Duane Pell originally was going to sell to the Macy concern for $250,000, an astounding sum for such a small parcel. Instead Pell sold his parcel in 1901 to Henry Siegel of the Siegel-Cooper Department store who had plans to leverage this plot for a grand trade of land belonging to Macy’s 14th street holdings.

Unfortunately for Siegel, Macy’s would not agree to Siegel’s terms and Macy’s ended up building around the holdout plot. Siegel put up the five story building seen here. It originally housed Lucio’s Jewelry store featuring pearls, rubies and diamonds. The rest of the building was “to let.”

Macy’s later leased space in the building and hid most of structure behind huge wrap-around billboards. Old New Yorker’s might remember in the 1960s and 70s the corner store contained  one of the busiest of the Nedick’s hot dog stores with its famous orange drink. The orange drink contained no orange, just orange flavored and colored sugar water, but it sure tasted great!

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3 thoughts on “Old New York In Photos #83 – Macy’s & Surroundings 1905

  1. Steve Wize

    This is surreal. When I see scenes like this in a movie, it’s just so fake. When I see pictures of real life it gives me goosebumps.

    Reply
  2. Grazina

    Since Lucio’s pearls, rubies, and diamonds “defy detection”, I’m betting it’s a costume jewelry shop. Paste baubles.

    Reply

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