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R.H. Macy's Department Store

Photocredit; Urban Compass

A New York City Thanksgiving would not be complete without The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first parade was held on Thanksgiving Day in 1924, and today, more than 44 million people watch the parade either in person or on television every year. However, little attention is paid to it's historic backdrop - the Macy’s building itself – a New York City tradition and landmark in its own right.

Originally known as the R. H. Macy and Company Store, the Harold Square store is the flagship of all Macy's department stores. The building's 2.2 million square feet has made it the world's largest department store since 1924, however, the first section of the building was actually erected more than 115 years ago. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

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. While all these stores failed, Macy was not deterred. When he moved to New York City in 1858, he established a new store named "R.H Macy Dry Goods" on Sixth Avenue at the corner of 14th Street. From the very beginning, Macy's logo has included a star in one form or another, reminiscent of a red star-shaped tattoo he had gotten as a teenager while working on a Nantucket whaling ship.

As the business grew, Macy's expanded into neighboring buildings, opening more and more departments, 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, to join one of the most elite shopping districts of the time, and remained there for nearly forty years.

In 1902, long after Macy’s death in 1877, the store was purchased from his family by the Strauss brothers, old associates of Macy, who decided to move the flagship store uptown to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway. Although it initially consisted of just one building, it expanded through seemingly ongoing construction, and eventually came to occupy almost the entire block to the east of Seventh Avenue and the west of Broadway, between W. 34th & 35th Streets by 1931. The original Broadway store was designed by architects De Lemos & Cordes. It has a Palladian facade, but has been updated many times over the years. Additions were added to the west in 1924 and 1928, and the Seventh Avenue building was added in 1931, all designed by architect Robert D. Kohn. The store still boasts much of its original structures and features, including several wooden escalators that remain in operation today.

Photo Credit: NBC
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