R. H. Macy and Company Store
151 West 34th Street |
Manhattan, New York City
|Architect||De Lemos & Cordes|
|NRHP reference #||78001873|
|Added to NRHP||June 2, 1978|
|Designated NHL||June 2, 1978|
Macy's Herald Square (originally named the R. H. Macy and Company Store) is the flagship of the Macy's department store chain; it is located on Herald Square in Manhattan, New York City. The building's 2.5 million square feet , which includes 1.25 million square feet of retail space, makes it the largest department store in the United States and the second largest in the world. As of 2017, the store has stood at the site for 115 years.
Macy's was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy, who between 1843 and 1855 opened four retail dry goods stores, including the original Macy's store in downtown Haverhill, Massachusetts, established in 1851 to serve the mill industry employees of the area. They all failed, but he learned from his mistakes. He moved to New York City in 1858 and established a new store named "R.H Macy Dry Goods" at Sixth Avenue on the corner of 14th Street. On the company's first day of business on October 28, 1858, sales totaled $11.08, equivalent to $312.83 today. From the very beginning, Macy's logo has included a star in one form or another, echoing a red star-shaped tattoo that Macy got as a teenager when he worked on a Nantucket whaling ship.
As the business grew, Macy's expanded into neighboring buildings, opening more department stores, and used publicity devices such as a store Santa Claus, themed exhibits, and illuminated window displays to draw in customers. The store later moved to 18th Street and Broadway, on the "Ladies' Mile", the elite shopping district of the time, where it remained for nearly forty years.
In 1875, Macy took on two partners, Robert M. Valentine (1850-1879), a nephew; and Abiel T. La Forge (1842-1878) of Wisconsin, who was the husband of a cousin. Macy died just two years later in 1877 from Bright's disease, The following year La Forge died and Valentine died in 1879. Ownership of the company was passed down through the Macy family until 1895, when the company, now called "R. H. Macy & Co.", was acquired by Isidor Straus and his brother Nathan Straus, who had previously held a license to sell china and other goods in the Macy's store.
In 1902, the flagship store moved uptown to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway, so far north of the other main dry goods emporia that it had to offer a steam wagonette to transport customers from 14th Street to 34th Street. Although the Herald Square store initially consisted of just one building, it expanded through new construction, eventually occupying almost the entire block bounded by Seventh Avenue on the west, Broadway on the east, 34th Street on the south and 35th Street on the north, with the exception of a small pre-existing building on the corner of 35th Street and Seventh Avenue and another on the corner of 34th Street and Broadway. Robert H. Smith purchased this latter 5-story building in 1900 for $375,000 – an incredible sum at the time – with the idea of getting in the way of Macy's becoming the largest store in the world: it is largely supposed that Smith, who was a neighbor of the Macy's store on 14th Street, was acting on behalf of Siegel-Cooper, which had built what they thought was the world's largest store on Sixth Avenue in 1896. Macy's ignored the tactic, and simply built around the building, which now carries Macy's "shopping bag" sign by lease arrangement. That building earned the name Million Dollar Corner when it was finally sold for a then record $1,000,000 on December 6, 1911.
The original Broadway store, designed by architects De Lemos & Cordes and built in 1901-02 by the Fuller Company. It has a Palladian facade, but has been updated in many details. Other additions to the west were completed in 1924 and 1928, and the Seventh Avenue building in 1931, all designed by architect Robert D. Kohn, the newer buildings becoming increasingly Art Deco in style. The store boasts several wooden escalators still in operation.
In 2012, Macy's began the first full renovation of the iconic Herald Square flagship store at a reported cost of $400 million. Studio V Architecture, a New York-based firm, was the overall master plan architect of the project, with Kevin Kennon Architects providing the exterior and entry way designs. The firms' design raised controversy over the nature of contemporary design and authentic restoration.
The renovations completed in November 2015 but continues to modify the store to suit changing customer tastes and maximize return on the real estate. Also in 2016, the company explored adding one or two towers to the building to house hotel or office space, in 2017 it considered turning the structure's roof into a park.
In August 2014, Macy's agreed to a $650,000 penalty proposed by the New York Attorney General to settle a number of claims of racial profiling and false detention involving nearly two dozen African-American, Latino and other customers at the Herald Square store, who had lodged complaints in February 2013. As part of the deal, the retail group agreed to introduce policies to ensure all customers were treated equally regardless of race or ethnicity.
Every year, Macy's is noted for its elaborate animated holiday and Christmas window displays in many locations across the U.S., but most notably at the Herald Square location. Each year presents a different theme shown in six windows on the Broadway side of the building. Each window includes animated displays with complex scenery, attracting thousands of people to view them. Since 2012, the windows have been designed, fabricated and animated by Standard Transmission Productions, located in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
In 2007, Macy's launched a curated public art exhibition at the Herald Square flagship using its windows as a means to display pieces from several fashion designers including Misaki Kawai, Anna Sui and John F. Simon Jr.. The exhibit was titled Art Under Glass and was viewable to the public during the summer of 2007 through that year's fashion week.
The will of Robert M. Valentine, late partner in the firm of R. H. Macy Co., was offered for probate yesterday in the Surrogate's office.
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