Born in 1818, John Thomas Metcalf graduated from West Point in 1838 and served in the military for two years before studying medicine. Having gotten his degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1843, he spent two years in Paris and Edinburgh furthering his education. Upon returning, according to the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, "he quickly took and held, and that without much apparent effort, a place in the very front rank of medical practitioners in the city of New York."
In January 1895 Dr. John T. Metcalfe hired the architectural firm of James M. Macgregor & Son to convert his former home for business. The stoop was removed and a new iron storefront was installed, and the upper floors renovated to apartments.
In passing through Thirtieth Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway...I was struck by the appearance of a new store painted white, that had goods uniquely displayed in a window in a way which would remind one of a Paris milliner's. The styles were swell and elegant, and something out of the ordinary, even nicer than those on Fifth Avenue.