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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW ZEALAND FOREST, c. 1950

Macy's: 1931

Macy's: 1931

New York circa 1931. "R.H. Macy & Co. Building, Broadway & 34th Street." The original "big box" retailer. Irving Underhill photo. View full size.

 

Demonic Coffee

Martinson's coffee drinkers get one free exorcism per purchase. Whats up with the crazy eyes?

Air Rights

The notch in the corner of the building was needed so as to not infringe the "air rights" of the hard nosed owner of the corner store. The signs may hang in the air rights, but they are aren't attached there.

"Air rights" are part of any land you own: they extend from the ground upward "forever." It's not uncommon for building owners to sell or lease air rights to others for sundry building projects.

Corner building

I'm the great grandnephew of Robert Smith, who came to own the corner building and tried to use it as leverage in various negotiations with the Strauss family of Macy's.

He eventually sold the building in 1911 to a group who has not sold it to Macy's at this point. Here's an old New York Times article about the issue.

Robert Smith made a self-published memoir, but alas I don't have a scanner here to include the pages about this issue.

Good Like Nedicks

The Nedicks storefront seen on the 34th Street side of the Macys building was one of a chain of Hot Dog stands scattered throughout the whole city. They served an almost tasteless sausage on a bun complemented by an even worse orange drink. In the post WW2 years they sponsored the NY Knicks basketball games on radio.The play by play guy was the former Track & Field Star, Marty Glickman, who would call the games. Glickman would say after any Knick basket "Good like Nedicks". It became a schoolyard chant.

Macy's without a Macy

R. H. Macy died in 1877. After passing through several family hands, R. H. Macy and Company was acquired by German immigrant brothers Isidor and Nathan Straus in 1895. They built this flagship Herald Square store, which opened in 1902. Isidor and his devoted wife Ida perished in the early morning April 15, 1912, sinking of the RMS Titanic. Nathan was also co-owner of another large NYC department store, Abraham & Straus.

Those Eyes

Anyone notice those "evil" eyes on that coffee billboard?

Not only runproof, but durable

From The Evening World, Friday, December 6, 1912.

The alcove store at the very corner.

You might notice the alcove store at the very corner. This land owner refused to budge and Macy's giant department store was built up around it where it exists today. I don't know the circumstances of Macy's using its upper levels for dramatic signage.

Just a half block downtown was Gimbel's, Macy's primary competitor. Gimbel's department store was replaced in the 80's with an update as the A+S mall. (Abraham and Straus). Didn't the founder go down in the Titanic?

Small-box rival

The notch in the corner of Macy's is or was the Siegel-Cooper Dry Goods Store, which bought the corner lot in an attempt to squelch their larger rival's plans. No luck: Macy's went ahead anyway. "Holdouts!" a 1984 book by Andrew Alpern and Seymour Durst, tells the story well.

 
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