Posts Tagged ‘R.H. Macy’

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]

The Webster Apartments: for women only

March 12, 2009

At the beginning of the 20th century, it definitely wasn’t acceptable for single females to rent an apartment of their own. Which is why women’s residences sprang up all over Manhattan.

thewebsterpostcard

 One was the Webster Apartments at 419 West 34th Street. The founders, Charles and Josiah Webster, were cousins of R.H. Macy; they left their fortune to the creation of a home for unmarried working women. 

“The apartments are to operated without profit, meals at nominal prices are to be served, and a library and other conveniences are to be provided,” The New York Times wrote in 1916, when Charles Webster’s will was made public.

The residence opened in 1923. A room and two meals a day on a lower floor ran $8.50 a week; upper floor rooms plus meals went for $12 weekly. The Webster also provided sewing machines, an infirmary, a roof garden, and a library, with books “selected by a trained librarian,” the Times noted.

 It all sounds quaint and unnecessary in today’s world. But The Webster is still going strong almost a century later, providing living quarters to hundreds of women at a time. 

Other women’s residences are also still thriving. There’s the Jeanne d’Arc Home in Chelsea.

In the defunct female hotel category, check out the Barbizon and the Trowmart.