The 14th Street Store of Henry Siegel – 14th St. & 6th Ave c. 1905
These two photographs were taken by the Detroit Photographic Co. on the same day, likely minutes apart. They show Henry Siegel’s 14th Street Store (1904-1914) and the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad looking towards the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 14th Street.
There is much to see, especially when zooming in on the details by clicking to enlarge the photos.
Besides the orientation of landscape versus portrait there are slight but noticeable differences in the two photos.
On top of the southbound station, a man is painting the roof with two cans of paint, one in front of him, the other behind him. In the other photo the painter is not in frame, but both cans of paint are near one another.
On the fourth floor of the store, two women appear to be watching the photographer as he set up to take his picture. The window openings are in the exact same position as the other photo, but the women are gone.
Further up on the sixth floor a woman and a man are busy standing in what looks to be an office with many ledgers and account books. In the other photo they are both seated.
The slim structure at 56 W. 14th Street was originally built in 1897 as Macy’s Annex. It served as one of 11 connected buildings along 13th and 14th Streets near and on Sixth Avenue that housed Macy’s Department Store.
After moving to Herald Square in 1902, Macy’s leased out the Annex and Henry Siegel adjoined this building to his new 14th Street Store .
Next door at 54 West 14th Street immediately we see L. Shaw, a store that sold Human Hair Goods.
Henry Siegel and His Department Stores
When the ten story 14th Street Store designed by Cady, Berg & See opened on April 30, 1904 thousands of people shopped and marveled and its offerings. Over 5,000 people visited the store’s huge dining room. The store had 25 passenger elevators and its own power plant that provided electricity for the entire building.
Henry Siegel (1852-1930) started his merchandising career in Washington D.C. as a $3.50 a week clerk. With co-owner Frank Cooper, Siegel opened Siegel, Cooper & Co. Department Store in Chicago in 1887. The store was wildly successful. In 1896. Siegel came to New York and built the huge Siegel, Cooper store on the east side of 6th Avenue between 18th and 19th Street. With 18 acres of floor space it was nicknamed “The Big Store” and when it opened had over 4,000 employees.
Siegel sold his majority interest in Siegel, Cooper to Joseph B. Greenhut in September 1901. Two weeks later Siegel bought Simpson, Crawford & Simpson on the west side of Sixth Avenue between 19th and 20th Street for $4 million.
Siegel’s next big deal was the construction and opening of the subject of our photograph, the 14th Street Store. The major difference of the 14th Street Store from Siegel’s previous stores was its slightly lower end goods and prices.
During the first decade of the new century Siegel controlled Simpson, Crawford & Simpson Siegel-Cooper in Chicago, The Henry Siegel Co. in Boston and The 14th Street Store.
Financial improprieties proved to be the ruin of Henry Siegel. During the Christmas season of 1913 Siegel spread himself too thin.
Siegel “borrowed” from the private bank he ran at the 14th Street store which contained deposits from employees and former customers . Siegel’s control of his other stores allowed for some creative accounting. Siegel had juggled the books to show great profits, when in fact their had been losses at each of his businesses. The businesses soon went into receivership.
Siegel was tried, found guilty and sent to prison for ten months. Upon his release from prison in 1916, Siegel made a few attempts to regain his merchant prince standing, but none of his other business ventures succeeded. Siegel died virtually broke in 1930 at a Lakewood N.J. hospital.