New York walking tour Ladies Mile
Roland Hussey Macy introduced the first in-store Santa Claus to the world in 1870. Like his friend PT Barnum, was a colorful character and natural showman. After signing onto a Nantucket whaler in 1837 he sold supplies in California, speculated in Wisconsin land all without success. His small dry goods store opened in 1858, and by the time of his death in 1877 was truly a department store. China and glassware were subcontracted to Isidore and Nathan Strauss who took over Macy's in 1888. Williams and Radlauer, Historic Shops & Restaurants of New York
In Ladies' Mile heyday, over a dozen huge emporia lined the avenue ... but were thrown into shadow until 1939, when the el was razed. After that, the stores could be seen in all their glory ... which faded rapidly as the years went by as the buildings slowly decayed. They were in sad shape indeed until, gradually and slowly at first, they began to be restored in the late 1980s until today, Sixth Avenue is as busy and bustling a shopping street as it ever was. http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/deepsix/deepsix.html
1858 Roland Hussey Macy arrives in New York to open up his "fancy dry goods store" at 204-206 Sixth Avenue and 14th St. ... 1902 Macy's moves uptown to Herald Square and 34th St. http://www.macys.com/store/about/history/index.jsp
New York Walking tour Union Square
Union Square is not named for any association with trade or labor unions, which were pretty much unknown when Union Square first opened in 1832. It takes its name from a confluence of two major roads, Broadway and the Bowery Road (which subsequently became 4th Avenue). Previously known as Union Place from 1808, it was built up and made a public park 24 years later. http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/madisonunionstats/whoguys3.html http://forgotten-ny.com/tag/union-square/
Union Square has a rich political history: 250,000 gathered to support Union during Civil War (1861), largest crowd ever assembled in North America up to that point. Here was the first U.S. labor day parade (1882); Emma Goldman's arrest for telling unemployed to steal bread (1893); funeral march for Triangle Shirtwaist Fire victims (1911); protests against Sacco & Vanzetti's execution (1927) and the Rosenbergs' (1953). http://www.nysonglines.com/university.htm
The unusual collection of first-generation skyscrapers surrounding Union Square reminds us that New York played an important role in the development of this new architectural form. Many critics now believe that Chicago's role in the development of the skyscraper has been overemphasized at the expense of New York's, and we in New York can take civic pride in Henry-Russell Hitchcock's decision that the first two buildings to justify the name of skyscraper were designed and built in New York in 1873 by George B. Post and by Richard Morris Hunt. (Both architects, by the way, had offices in the neighborhood in the 1890s -- Post on Union Square in the Century Building, Hunt on Madison Square in the Metropolitan Life Building.) Those two earliest skyscrapers, built in lower Manhattan, have been destroyed, but such features of their design as arcaded windows can be seen in buildings around Union Square -- for example, in R. H. Robertson's Lincoln Building (1885) and William Hume's Spingler Building (1896). ...
The Romanesque Revival
skyscraper with the extraordinary attic on the northeast corner of 18th Street
is the McIntyre Building by R. H. Robertson, 1890. Montgomery Schuyler was an
admirer of Robertson's work, which he described as "unscrupulously
picturesque." He called the McIntyre "one of the most effective bits of our
street architecture. . . with the long colonnaded attic and the picturesque
corner tower. . ." The Bank of the Metropolis, 31 Union Square West. The Union
(or Decker) Building, 33 Union Square West .
Bronze plaques (dated 2002) around Union Square give some details of history.
Union Square as a theatrical district had its beginning in 1854, when the Academy of Music was audaciously opened as the home of grand opera on the north side of 14th Street near Irving Place ...seven years later, when James Wallack built his theatre at 13th Street and Broadway, his friends considered him a madman for moving so far uptown from the Bowery...Subsequently Tony Pastor's opened on 14th Street near Third Avenue, next to the old head-quarters of Tammany Hall. WPA Guide to New York City, 1939
The Metropolitan Life Building has an interesting collection of paintings, started by the New York City Chamber of Commerce prior to the American Revolution, focusing on the late 19th century (recently acquired by Credit Suisse First Boston). Portraits include William Vanderbilt.
The intersection of Broadway, 5th Avenue and 23rd St. was "the most dangerous crossing in the world with cable or electric cars, stages hansoms and trucks" Jenkins, Greatest Street in the World, 1911
Madison Square was the home field of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club.
West 31st Street
On the same West 31st. St. block is the Herald Square Hotel, 19 West 31st St., built in 1883 and for a number of years the office of Life magazine (with framed covers of Life on the corridors of all 9 floors). Would be fun to stay there sometime. http://www.heraldsquarehotel.com
The north side of West 31st. Street (heading west) is now filled by Penn Station, the newest Madison Square Garden, and a large Post Office. The south side has a lot of parking, and the street seems to terminate in the Lincoln Tunnel. I saw several blocks of furriers, leather handbag shops, specialty dry cleaners, Korean shops, and caught glimpses of the Empire State Building (long after EJ Phillips' time) in June 2003.
Bowne & Co Stationers South St Seaport 211 Water Street, between Fulton and Beekman Streets. www.southstreetseaport.org/category-s/1878.htm
Time to update this walking tour.
Last revised Dec 2, 2012
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