Monday, June 14, 2021

The Lost Lord & Taylor Store - Broadway and Grand Street

from the collection of the Fashion Institute of Technology

Born in Yorkshire, England, Samuel Lord opened a small dry goods store on Catherine Street in 1826.  When his wife's cousin, George Washington Taylor, joined the business in 1834, the store was renamed Lord & Taylor.

As trade continually inched further uptown and Grand Street became the fashionable dry goods thoroughfare, Lord & Taylor erected a new store at Grand and Chrystie Streets in 1853.  The success of the business was such that within six years a second, opulent store was built several blocks to the west, at 461-467 Broadway, on the northwest corner of Grand Street.

Faced in gleaming white Eastchester marble, the five-story structure was designed by Griffith Thomas, remembered by the American Institute of Architects in 1908 as "the most fashionable architect of his generation."  Its Renaissance Revival design (described as "Florentine" at the time) featured arcades of show windows along street level, arched openings capped by flat lintels or triangular pediments on the upper floors, and a dignified balustrade atop the cornice.  Stealing the show was the immense fanlight above the main entrance.  The cost of construction was placed at $180,000 and the price of the land at $200,000--bringing the total cost of the new emporium to $12 million in today's money.

The store opened on August 29, 1859.   That morning The New York Times wrote, "The store of Mssrs. Lord & Taylor, at the corner of Grand-street and one of the finest, if not the very finest, on this grandest of thoroughfares.  It is five stories high, built of white marble, and looks more like an Italian palace than a place for the sale of broadcloth."  Miller's Guide to New-York called it "one of the most conspicuous architectural ornaments of Broadway."

Inside, Corinthian columns stood in rows within the "immense salesrooms."  The staircases were, according to The New York Times, were "of palatial width and of massive oak."  The article added, "The most notable ornament in the building is the huge gas chandelier that lights up the staircase.  It was made by Tiffany at a cost of $500, and is original and unique of its kind."

from the collection of the New York Public Library

The topmost floors held manufacturing space.  Vacant at the time of the store's opening, they became a hive of activity in the spring of 1860.  On April 17 Lord & Taylor announced the opening of a separate department, "to be devoted exclusively to ladies', children's, and infants' wearing apparel."  The notice explained that "leading artists" formerly employed by John N. Genin of Genin's Bazaar had been acquired and "a large and desirable assortment of ladies' and children's ready-made undergarments may be found at all times."

All other garments worn by the upper class were custom made.  In addition to the ready-made underwear, the new department took orders for "mourning apparel, bridal trousseau, traveling outfits, robes de chambre."

A row of back-to-back advertisements in the New-York Daily Tribune that same day gave a glimpse into the variety of goods available in the store.  Women looking for fabrics for their dressmakers could browse over 27 cases of the "latest novelties" just received from Paris.  Another ad touted "fashionable mantillas" in the "latest Paris Forms, in every variety of material and trimming, manufactured in the best manner, expressly for our retail sales."  There were also French and Scotch embroideries, lace goods "of every description," 5,000 pairs of lace curtains as well as "upholstery goods, curtain materials, cornices, window-shades, tassels, bands, loops and fixtures."

But the northward march of commerce never ceased.  Only a decade after moving into its marble palace, Lord & Taylor began construction on an equally lavish emporium at Broadway and 20th Street, which opened with enormous fanfare in 1870.  

The architect of the new store, James H. Giles, recreated the massive fanlight over the entrance.  from the collection of the New York Public Library

In 1876 the clothing maker J. W. Goddard & Son moved into the former Lord & Taylor building.  Founded on January 1, 1847 by Joseph Warren Goddard, the firm had moved several times already, but, according to the Dry Goods Guide, "the house had filled its last domicile to overflowing and pushed on upward to the large stores 461-467 Broadway, the old Lord & Taylor building."  The company's continued success made even this building too small and in 1880 it moved slightly northward to 516 Broadway.

The marble palace where Manhattan's carriage trade had shopped continued to house clothing manufacturers.   L. Levenson & Co. was in the building by the spring of 1879, joined by the London & Liverpool Clothing Co. by 1883.  The Don Clothing Company replaced L. Levenson & Co. in the building around 1890.

L. Levenson & Co. imprinted a sketch of the building on its bills of sale.  from the John H. Yardley Collection of Architectural Letterheads of the Columbia University Libraries. 

By the last years of the 1880's Max Stadler & Co. operated its men's furnishings store from the ground level.  On November 8, 1888 it advertised its "Great Clearing Sale of $500,000 Worth of Men's Fine Overcoats and Suits."  On sale were 15,000 overcoats, 9,800 suits, 5,000 children's suits as well as "men's fine derby hats."

The front of Max Stadler & Co.'s trade card seemingly has nothing to do with its business.  The back, however, provided a long list of apparel and prices.

The three firms joined forces in the fall of 1890.  An announcement in The Evening World on October 31, reported that London & Liverpool, Don Company, and Max Stadler & Co. had consolidated.  A massive sale was held which was advertised as "A Wholesale Slaughter of Clothing."

Interestingly, four months later the combined venture was gone and Mack & Co., merchant tailors had moved into the retail space.  An announcement on February 20, 1891 read:

Mack & Co. Clothiers, beg to inform the public that they will open the large and palatial stores at 461, 463, 465 and 467 Broadway to-morrow (Saturday) Feb. 21. 

Our opening Display will consist of the new fashions in London-made Overcoats for early Springwear, Trousers and medium weight Suits.
Our Juvenile Department will be fully equipped.

Upstairs garment-related factories like the American Silk Label Mfg. Co. continued to operate.  By the first years of the 20th century other types of tenants were moving in, like the National Discount Co.  The firm acted as "financial underwriters for merchants and manufacturers, and for the negotiation of commercial paper."  And in 1909 the Toback Lock Company operated here. 

The following year a demolition permit was filed with the Department of Buildings, but for some reason those plans were not carried forward.  Small businesses continued to come and go--the Globe Shirt Company was here in 1916, clothing manufacturer Aaron Schwetsky in 1920, and The Sand Company in 1922.  Where wealthy women had once shopped for mantillas and lace goods, The Sand Company now marketed its "Steel Cat," guaranteed to "quickly rid your place of mice."

The magnificent marble commercial emporium was demolished in 1960 to make way for a parking lot.  Today a glass and steel business building and residential tower, completed in 2005, occupies the site.

photo by Monacelli Press

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  1. What an elegant commercial structure. Looks like your second photo captured an equally imposing building located across the street at the south-west corner.

    1. That is the 1861 Devlin Building. It still stands.

  2. Thanks for the link. I should have known you had already covered that amazing building too!