As Lord & Taylor’s flagship closes, we look back at department stores of the past

With news of Lord & Taylor selling its Fifth Avenue flagship store to WeWork — closing after 104 years in business there — it’s clear that the future of the department store is uncertain.

There are only a handful left in the city, and even fewer in their original locations. But there was a time when they dominated a section of Manhattan.

Ladies’ Mile, a historic district from 15th to 24th streets and from Park Avenue South to Sixth Avenue, was home to the city’s most famous department stores and upscale retailers from about 1860 through the end of World War I.

Ladies’ Mile was so dubbed because its where women routinely shopped. The area had a feeling of opulence and because it was so popular, it was safe for women to go shopping unaccompanied by men for the first time, according to Jack Taylor, the president of “The Drive to Protect the Ladies’ Mile District.”

Shops like B. Altman, Arnold Constable, Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co. and others were found here. They were where you got your gadgets, your suits, your beauty products and your children’s toys, plus they offered a more upscale shopping experience than mom and pop shops did.

Now, these fronts contain niche stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, The Container Store, Old Navy, Trader Joe’s and the Burlington Coat Factory.

Although it’s not within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, Macy’s has famously remained at its flagship location all these years — since 1901.

So as we say “goodbye” to Lord & Taylor’s historic halls, we remember the city’s iconic stores from yesteryear below.

Shaye Weaver