Posts Tagged ‘Macy’s’

The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

October 29, 2012

If you think the streets around Penn Station are crowded with out-of-towners now, imagine how jammed they must have been in the 1940s.

Back then, this was the “Penn Zone,” according to this vintage postcard, a stretch of Midtown brimming with massive hotels and must-see sites for tourists.


Some are still here, of course, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s (number 8). But the original Penn Station (2) bit the dust in 1963, and the Hotel McAlpin (4) is now called Herald Towers and is a rental apartment building.

Gimbel’s (10) and Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a Radisson.

The tiny holdout building in the middle of Macy’s

March 3, 2011

For decades it’s been hidden behind billboards or wrapped in a giant faux shopping bag. Many shoppers never even notice it.

But old photos reveal a five-story building (right, in 1906), sticking out like a sore thumb in front of the world’s most iconic department store.

Although Macy’s leases ad space on it, the five-story building has never been owned by the store and is one of the most famous “holdouts” in New York real estate history.

It all started around 1900, when Macy’s, then located on West 14th Street, began picking up land in Herald Square for its huge new shopping mecca.

Macy’s had a verbal agreement to buy a plot at the corner of 34th and Broadway. But an agent acting on behalf of rival department store Siegel-Cooper scored the plot instead.

Reportedly the agent wanted Macy’s to give Siegel-Cooper its 14th Street store in exchange for the land at 34th Street.

But Macy’s wouldn’t have it. The store was built around the plot.

In 1903, Siegel-Cooper put up the five-story building there today.

[Above, how Macy's covered up the building in 1936 and in the 1960s]

Herald Square in the 1950s and today

April 21, 2010

“One of the most popular shopping centers in the world” proclaims the back of this 1950s-era postcard.

It’s a nice look back at what would still be considered Herald Square’s department store glory days, before its decline into a more low-rent district.

There’s Gimbels, defunct since the 1980s, and Macy’s next door. Far off  on the right is the sign for the Hotel McAlpin, the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1912.

On the right is the Hotel Martinique. Once a stately place to rent a room when Herald Square was the city’s theater district, it would become a disgusting welfare hotel in the 1970s and 1980s.

Herald Square today is spruced up, with a Bloomberg-era pedestrian plaza in front of the cleaned up Radisson Martinique.

Gimbels’ old building is covered in glass. Macy’s remains, of course, as does the McAlpin, now apartments.

Where Macy’s got its modest start

July 1, 2009

$11.06. That amount was reportedly what Rowland Hussey Macy earned on the first day his new dry-goods store opened for business in a small building on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth Street in 1858.

MacysBut after that slow start, the R.H. Macy store began grossing tens of thousands of dollars a year. It became a full-fledged department store in 1877 and eventually occupied many storefronts along West 14th Street (like the one in the photo at left).

Fourteenth Street was a more upscale shopping district at the end of the 19th century. But even then, department store moguls could see that the future of retail was farther uptown. 

So in 1902, Macy’s packed it up and relocated to a colossal new store at Herald Square on 34th Street—its current quarters today.

This weekend, Macy’s is sponsoring its 33rd annual Fireworks Spectacular, this time over the Hudson River. Macy’s pledged the first show as a tribute to America’s Bicentennial, and it quickly morphed into an Independence Day tradition.


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