New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, July 17, 2008


One must be careful in making condemnations of contemporary culture and claims regarding the degradation of society and romanticizing the past. There is no dearth of criticism regarding the "malling" of New York City and the invasion of big box retailers into the NYC marketplace. And certainly many of the criticisms are valid.
At first glance, when looking at this magnificent Beaux Arts building at 632 Avenue of the Americas, my first reaction was how inappropriate it was that this building would house Bed, Bath and Beyond, Filene's Basement, and TJ Maxx.
A little research will reveal that this stretch of 6th Avenue (from 18th to 23 Street), replete with enormous architecturally wonderful buildings, was once known as the Ladies' Mile and that the beautiful structures lining this avenue were originally built as department stores.
The most opulent was the Siegel-Cooper, originally designed by DeLemos & Cordes and built in 1896 as a discount department store for Siegel, Cooper & Co who were based in Chicago. The New York store became a mecca for shoppers.
There was a fountain in the center of the lobby which became a meeting place in New York. Jets of water cascaded over multicolored lights onto a marble and brass statue of The Republic.
So the large stores on the former Ladies" Mile should can be seen more as a reincarnation than invasion. I am reminded of various interpretations on nostalgia which I have heard - that the past always seems better than than the present, because we only remember the good parts ...


Hilda said...

I agree with your last line wholeheartedly!

And I also think that this is still a grand-looking building, no matter that it was, and still is, a shopping center. ;)

Terry B said...

And another way to look at it is they're using the existing building instead of knocking it down to put up a new box. Here in Chicago, there's a McDonald's retrofitted beautifully into the first two floors of a smallish late 1800s office and retail building downtown. every time I see it, I applaud the burger behemoth for doing such a lovely job with it.

• Eliane • said...

I aggree with Terry but I have to say it is way less disturbing when the brand is just not "in your face". Here, they sort of blend in and I like your take on reincarnation. But I have in mind a lovely place in Gand (Belgium) where there is a Mac Do' on a corner - it's jewel of a place with medieval buildings all around and all that catches your eye is that one building with its ripped off first floor with that yellow eye-sore. We did a terrible job at protecting our landmarks.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but thankfully, this building is not just a memory, it is also one of the "good parts."

I am a former New Yorker. I miss the juxtaposition of elaborate Beaux Arts buildings with more modern, "mundane" elements, which can be particularly dramatic in New York.

Thanks so much for posting this photo! Karin

Brisbane hotels said...

Though Beaux-Arts architecture of the twentieth century might on its surface appear out of touch with the modern age, steel-frame construction and other modern innovations in engineering techniques and materials were often embraced, as in the 1914–1916 construction of the Carolands Chateau south of San Francisco (which was built with a consciousness of the devastating 1906 earthquake). The noted Spanish structural engineer, Rafael Guastavino (1842–1908), famous for his vaultings, known as Guastavino tile work, designed vaults in dozens of Beaux-Arts buildings in the Boston, New York and elsewhere. Beaux-Arts architecture also brought a civic face to the railroad. (Chicago's Union Station and Detroit's Michigan Central Station are famous American examples of this style.) Two of the best American examples of the Beaux-Arts tradition stand within a few blocks of each other: Grand Central Terminal and the New York Public Library.