Herald Square to Fifth Avenue: Holiday Windows and the Pleasures of the Side Street

Macy's at night. Flagship store at Herald Square. W/ PEANUTS. 2015.

If planning a excursion to see New York's holiday windows, consider grouping a few together and visiting them at separate times. An example: 1) Bergdorf Goodman (5th Ave & 58th St.) to Saks Fifth Avenue (5th Ave between E. 50th St. and E. 49th St.); 2) Barney's (Madison Ave at 61st St.) to Bloomingdale's (Lexington Ave between E. 59th St. and E. 59th St.; and 3) Macy's (Herald Square) to Lord & Taylor (5th Ave & W. 38th St.). While their relative proximity allows for one big (and really exhausting) holiday window extravaganza, taking time to explore the stores and side streets in leisurely fashion may make for more peace and more joy.

Macy's, 7th Avenue side and E. 34th St. showing proximity to the Empire State Building

A walk from Macy's to Lord & Taylor touches on parts of the Garment District and an area of Fifth Avenue that was more fashionable in times past than in the present. For example, the building that now houses the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue was the longtime home of B. Altman's, a legendary department store.

CUNY Graduate Center, formerly B. Altman's 

With origins on the Lower East Side, Altman's made gradual relocations up Manhattan, with a splashy move in 1906 from Ladies' Mile to an Italian Renaissance-styled building on Fifth Avenue and E 34th Street. To the west of Fifth Avenue, the R. H. Macy and Company Store made a similar move north to 34th Street in 1902.

Historic view of Herald Square from 1907. LOC. 

In this historic view of Herald Square from 1907 (above), at the place where Broadway intersects with 6th Ave, 34th Street veers off to the left. A sign for Macy's can be seen at the very top of the picture a quarter of the way from the left. The store currently occupies the whole block. On the right is the old elevated rail. In the middle distance is the New York Herald Building, built in 1908 and designed by Stanford White. The building was demolished in 1921. (Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/pan.6a11895/)

A slice of old New York on W. 35th Street.

To get a sense of everyday life in this part of Manhattan, walk a few blocks of W. 35th Street. In the hours following the end of the work day, the bars along here can become crowded. Look for a virtual parade of Irish bars - Jack Doyle's, John Sullivan's, Brendan's, O'Reilly's, and The Playwright Irish Pub, among them. All are especially festive at holiday time, offering a good reason enough to postpone additional window shopping for another day.

Oh, yes, the windows. Just a tease.

At Macy's, from the "Yes, Virginia" series:

And at Lord & Taylor, visions of chocolate:

Videos and images by Walking Off the Big Apple from 2015. Historic photo from Library of Congress.

And a map. As you can see, a bit much for one excursion.

• Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows, 2015 Edition: Glam and Rock (5th Avenue windows)
• Read about the history of NYC's famous department stores at the post, The Flagships of New York: The Great Department Stores.

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