Posts Tagged ‘Fifth Avenue 1900’

The Gilded Age excess of Manhattan’s first mall

June 6, 2016

Did the modern shopping mall get its start thanks to this Beaux Arts beauty?

Well, maybe. This pioneering temple of commerce stood at Fifth Avenue and 46th Street for just a decade, from 1901 to 1911.

Windsorarcade1905

But what a building the Windsor Arcade was, a three-story gem that epitomized Gilded Age excess, from the sculptures and columns decorating the facade to the carriage drive leading to the center courtyard to the ornate details inside its shops.

Windsorarcade19052An arcade was a place that contained several stores, and the Windsor Arcade is thought to be the first modern-style shopping mall in New York City, writes Marcia Reiss in Lost New York.

“Considered one of the most beautiful retail buildings ever constructed in the city, it was modeled on the enclosed streets of small shops in London and Paris,” states Reiss.

The Windsor was “the only modern arcade in the city; this enterprise is not a department store but a gathering together under one roof of leading retail merchants in their respective lines,” according to one magazine in 1907.

Windsorhotel1898Among the stores inside were Steinway & Sons Pianos, art galleries, a milliner, china and glass sellers, and a photo portrait studio—all catering to the city’s well-off, who took part in the relatively new indulgence of shopping for fun and pleasure.

For such an ostentatious commercial venture, however, the Windsor Arcade has a tragic past.

It rose from the ashes of the Windsor Hotel (above left, in 1898), the site of a horrific fire on March 17, 1899 that killed dozens of people, many who had gathered in front of the opulent hotel to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Windsorarcade1902

By 1911, the city’s first mall was on its way out, replaced by office buildings by the 1920s.

The owner had only put up the arcade as kind of a place holder until he had a more profitable use for the property, which happened to be in a very fashionable stretch of the city.

[Top photo: 1905, MCNY; second photo: 1905, MCNY; third photo: Windsor Hotel, 1898, MCNY; fourth photo: 1902, MCNY]

Genteel Fifth Avenue at the turn of the century

November 26, 2012

Could this really be Fifth Avenue in the 50s, today one of the most expensive stretches of retail in the world?

The street sign appears to read 52nd Street. That means the two mansions on the left belong to the Vanderbilt family, as does the French chateau-like mansion next door.

That’s the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church at 55th Street rising in the center of the postcard.

A view of a smaller-scale Fifth Avenue in 1900

September 20, 2012

I’m not sure when this postcard was made, but the postmark is stamped 1906; I think it has to be a bit earlier.

It’s a view of the corner of Fifth and 57th Street, then a luxe address lined with mansions and now a luxe address lined with much taller hotels and grander apartment houses (and a few surviving mansions).

The mansion on the right was owned by the very wealthy Mary Mason Jones. The building in the middle of the block is the former Savoy Hotel, later the site of the Savoy Plaza Hotel and now home to the GM Building, which houses the Apple Store and FAO Schwartz.


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