All that remains of the Flatiron Novelty District

noveltyshackmansignIs this cast-iron plaque outside a trendy clothing store on Fifth Avenue and 16th Street really all that’s left of Manhattan’s once-thriving Novelty District?

I think it must be. B. Shackman & Co. began selling cheap toys, costumes, and gag gifts in 1898—one of several novelty stores that popped up in the early 20th century between Union and Madison Squares.

Jeremiah has a treasure of photos of the store from 1980, before the space was taken over by Anthropologie in the 1990s.


An entire neighborhood devoted to party favors, decorations, jokes, games, and magic tricks? It made it into the 1980s, but it couldn’t possibly survive in a more luxurious city and a digital commerce world.

The Novelty District went the way of Flatiron’s former Photo District and Chelsea’s Fur District and Sewing Machine District. The Flower District on Sixth Avenue in the 20s might be next.


Gordon Novelty, with its 1930s storefront lettering and facade painted in explosive blue, was the last holdout of the Novelty District, located on Broadway and 22nd Street. [Second photo in 2007; third in 2010, from Greenwich Village Daily Photo.]

The place went down in 2007, Jeremiah reported.

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10 Responses to “All that remains of the Flatiron Novelty District”

  1. Keith Goldstein Says:

    I’ve forgotten all about these shops.

  2. Greg Says:

    What about Abracadabra 19 W. 21st St? They are still in business.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    They are? They were originally on Christopher!

  4. Andrew Porter Says:

    Shackman used to advertise in a trade magazine I was ad production manager of in the 1970s, “Toy & Hobby World.” Both no longer with us. For that matter, the Toy Center at 1107 Broadway is now condos.

  5. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Yes, I miss the Toy Center.

  6. Tom B Says:

    Remember in “BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, Holly and Fred went into a store to steal something and came out with a cat and dog mask. Do you think it was one these Novelty stores?

  7. Alexei Says:

    I used to stop by B. Shackman & Co. when I was in the area, always an interesting experience.

  8. Zoe Says:

    I used to love these places. I miss them. They were great for little toys & cards & party favours at the winter holidays.

    They seemed so archaic already in the 80s when I shopped at them. A holdover from another time.

  9. The end of the Stanton Street gravestone district | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] was the garment district, the novelty district, the meatpacking district, and even a pickle district, where 80 merchants on a six-block stretch of […]

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