When Clinton Street was “Millinery Row”

Manhattan’s Clinton Street is going into its second decade as kind of the restaurant row of the Lower East Side. 

But a hundred years ago, before its slide into a dingy drug bazaar, it courted a different industry: hat makers. Clinton Street of the early 20th century was known as “Millinery Row.”

As many as 16 stores were packed into each block from Houston to Grand Street, according to Valentine’s City of New York Guidebook, published in 1920.

“Every evening the East Side girl promenades with the throngs up and down Millinery Row, indulging in an orgy of window shopping, just like her sister on Fifth Avenue,” the book states.

“The millinery shops here are as thick as berries on a bush . . . so close to each other that it seems like a continuous show window.”

Photo: Millinery on the ground floor; hat and bonnet frames on the second level; Clinton and Broome Streets, 1914

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6 Responses to “When Clinton Street was “Millinery Row””

  1. remark Says:

    A friend that is now 80 and born and raised down here says that Clinton St was also wedding dress row..I have no pictures or other info though….

  2. NoOrma Shephard Says:

    Ahh…the good old days!

  3. Rita Margolis Says:

    Looking for information on history of Adam Hats America’s Famous Hatter

  4. mary robak Says:

    Glad to see you have helped chronicle the old world of millinery. I, too, find the history of millinery enticing. Anything anyone out in cyberspace knowledgeable about Chicago millinery? The Chicago History Museum Research Center has much of Benjamin Greenfield, and a smattering on Gage millinery, but there is so much more to know. Wabash and State street were the mecca of millinery after the Chicago Fire and rebuild. In the old days it was Bes Ben, then Raymond Hudd keeping things going. Currently one atelier, Loreta Corsetti has a wonderful downtown Chicago location. But there is hope. The graduates in millinery from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are the up and coming. Perhaps soon the USA center for millinery will be Chicago, as it was in 1920, or so a Fort Dearborn publication deemed it.

  5. Susan Thompson Says:

    Was very excited to see this recently. My grandmother, Jessie West McNeille was a milliner in NYC in the early 1900s. Unfortunately I do not know much more than that. She lived in Bayonne, NJ, just across from the city. She also had an aunt or great aunt in the millinery business.
    My sister used to talk with her about her hat designing and make little hats with her stash of goodies from her earlier career. None of that remains, except my sister and her memories. We would love to know more about the era and places of this phenomenon.

  6. Katrina Says:

    my Great Grandmother was to of owned a Millinery Shop in the 1920’s from what I have been told. Would love more information from anyone that would be willing to help. Evangeline Wilcox Lawson Patton was her name. I am in Colorado and it is hard finding information in regards to her shop.

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