The elegant buildings now home to chain stores

It’s the story of New York City’s retail life.

The original tenant of a beautiful storefront or commercial building bites the dust.

The now historic storefront remains—but the new tenant is nothing like the well-heeled old one.

Consider 597 Fifth Avenue, at 48th Street (left, in a NYPL photo), a glass and iron beauty with three stories and a commanding grand staircase.

It was home to Scribners bookstore from 1913 to 1989.

Today it’s a Sephora, the beauty porn chain store.

I’m surprised Duane Reade didn’t take over this gorgeous space on Eighth Avenue and 14th Street, the longtime headquarters of New York Savings Bank (from a 1940s Life magazine piece, clearly at Christmastime).

It served as a rug store in the 1990s and then put in a brief run as a Balducci’s before CVS moved in.

Those superhigh ceilings and marble walls make it a very imposing place to pick up cold meds and soda.

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8 Responses to “The elegant buildings now home to chain stores”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    In the late 60s I worked at Scribner’s Bookstore on 5th Avenue. The very top floor was used by us stock boys to keep boxes of books for later sales. None of the necktie supervisors ever came up there and it became our favorite spot to smoke some dope. Ah, those days…

  2. Alex Baugh Says:

    Scribner’s was so wonderful, it is heartbreaking to see it now. But that is true of the other garish stores that took over beautiful spaces.

  3. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    The old Scribner’s bookstore (constructed in 1914) was also its publishing headquarters, with a great literary history. In that same year, the company turned to its young advertising manager, Max Perkins, to fill a void in the editorial department, launching the career of the 20th Century’s greatest editor. One his first moves was to push Scribner’s to publish a novel by a 24-year-old mid-Westerner named F. Scott Fitzgerald. Readers gobbled up over 30,000 copies of “This Side of Paradise” within the first two months of publication. He also did editing for Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway and James Jones. What gives this building an added bonus in its literary landmark stature is what happened between Ernest Hemingway and another Scribner’s editor, Max Eastman. In a published letter, Eastman had questioned Hemingway’s masculinity. (Why he did that is another story.) Hemingway promptly strode into Eastman’s office and, after a few words, smacked the editor around. Sensitive guy, that Hemingway.

  4. Ryan D Paul (@ryandpaul) Says:

    I frequently walk by the old New York Savings Bank building since I live nearby. I’ve always wondered what it used to be before it became a CVS.

    It’s definitely a very beautiful, and almost a bit too stately and formal, space for a chain drug store.

    One building that I always walk by and wonder about its history and origins is the Siegal Cooper Dry Goods building that now houses a Bed Bath & Beyond, TJ Maxx, and Marshal’s on 19th st & 6th Ave. It’s a HUGE and fairly elaborate building.

  5. wise, peggy Says:

    well i worked at Scribners from 1977-78. We used to go to St Patricks Cathedral to smoke pot

  6. The most beautiful Duane Reade in New York City | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Check out some other old city buildings whose original tenants departed—and now are occupied by very different businesses. […]

  7. RD Wolff Says:

    Don’t forget the McKim Mead & White Cable Building at 611-621 Broadway was originally the powerhouse for the Broadway cable car line.
    There were four 1,000 HP Corliss steam engines and 12 boilers in the basement.

    Offices for the RR company were on the 8th floor, the rest of the building was for rental income. There was a balcony on the 8th floor Broadway site that one could step out onto, it appears in the very old photos I have and then vanished, so too did a couple of stone columns in the portico which were taken out. There was also a large clock with Roman numerals where the oval window is today.
    The old restrooms on the 8th floor were lined with marble, marble and porcellain sinks, and oak woodwork.

  8. What remains of Jefferson Market’s police court | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] buildings. A once-stately Spring Street bank is now a Duane Reade. The shelves of a elegant Fifth Avenue bookstore now carry lipstick and nail polish sold by a makeup […]

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