Everyone knows the iconic Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street and Broadway. But before moving to 34th Street, Macy’s operated out of a series of buildings on West 14th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. As part of Landmarks50, the celebration of this year’s 50th Anniversary of the NYC Landmarks Law, we are taking a look at some of the many and varied individual landmarks in our neighborhood. Read more of our Landmarks50 entries here.
R. H. Macy & Co. was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy in 1858. The original Macy’s stood on the southeast corner of 14th Street and 6th Avenue. As the company succeeded over the next few decades, claiming to have “pioneered such revolutionary business practices as the one-price system, in which the same item was sold to every customer at one price, and quoting specific prices for goods in newspaper advertising. Known for its creative merchandising, Macy’s was the first to introduce such products as the tea bag, the Idaho baked potato and colored bath towels.” it expanded into neighboring buildings on West 14th Street.
After Macy’s passing in 1877, the company remained in family hands until 1895, when brothers Isadore and Nathan Straus took over the company.
In 1898, the Straus brothers built a new Macy’s Annex at 56 West 14th Street. This tall (nine stories) and narrow (25 feet) building is ornately designed in the Neo-Classical style popular at the time. Landmarked in 2011, the building is now home to a Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Macy’s moved to 34th Street in 1902. It is not clear if any retail took place in the 14th Street Macy’s Annex, or whether it was just used for offices, storage, or rented out. According to the designation report, “The former Macy 14th Street Annex, owned by the Straus family until 1939 and internally connected to the 13th Street Annex through the 20th century, housed a variety of firms over subsequent decades.”
The Macy’s logo has always featured a red star, which allegedly comes from a tattoo that Macy got as a teenager when he worked on a Nantucket whaling ship. 56 West 14th Street is still ornately decorated, and if you look closely you can still see the Macy’s logo and stars on the building facade.
Read more about the history of 56 West 14th Street and Macy’s in the West Village here. Visit our website to learn more about the history of our neighborhood’s landmarked properties by reviewing their designation reports.