Shopping Ladies' Mile in the Second Gilded Age: A Self-Guided Walk and Map

Ladies' Mile, the term for the historic shopping district of New York City's Gilded Age in the late 19th century, continues as an important neighborhood for shopping. The boundaries of the designated historic district stretch roughly from W. 15th to W. 23rd Street, the area northwest of Union Square up to Madison Square. The previous post on New York City Holiday Shopping in the Gilded Age seemed to invite this obvious follow-up post and self-guided walk.

the former Lord & Taylor Dry Goods Store,
Broadway and 20th St. southwest corner

Many of the Beaux-Arts style store palaces built for New York's wealthy class of the former century are now repurposed for contemporary needs. These blocks on Broadway are particularly rich with the fancier French 19th century architectural styles, but check out the extraordinary current locations for stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond (620 Sixth Avenue) and Home Depot (40 W. 23rd St.)

Comparing the past to the present, in general, Ladies' Mile fashion shopping has given way to home improvements. ABC Carpet & Home (Broadway and E. 19th St.) and Restoration Hardware (Broadway and E. 22nd St.) are within the district. During the 19th century, when the wealthiest families lived along these blocks of Fifth Avenue, Ladies' Mile was a place to see and be seen. Today, the emphasis is more utilitarian. 

That's not to say that Ladies' Mile is no longer fashionable as a place to step out. Dining is particularly strong in this neighborhood, with established restaurants, bakeries, and bars.

originally Arnold Constable Dry Goods Store,
now ABC Carpet & Home, Broadway side near E. 19th St.

A suggested self-guided walk begins at the northwest corner of Union Square, the current location for the Andy Warhol Monument. Andy was an excellent shopper himself. In the fashion of the 19th century flâneur, stroll leisurely northward up to Madison Square. (Top hats and parasols would look nice.) Turn west at the Flatiron Building and walk over to 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas). Then turn south along 6th Avenue to the intersection of W. 16th. Complete the loop by walking back to Union Square, but be sure to veer into the inheritor of the district to check out some stores and watering holes. No rushing allowed, not even during the holidays.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.

1 comment:

Lissa said...

Until six months ago, I worked at Broadway and 32nd and walked to Union Square along Broadway a few times each week. The Lord and Taylor building at 20th is my favorite on the stretch.