Smack in the middle of Bloomingdale’s, along 60th Street, is this remnant of the former urban fabric, built in the French 2nd Empire style. If you know the history of Bloomingdale’s, it began as a simple storefront shop on 3rd Avenue between 56th and 57th called “Bloomingdale’s Great East Side Bazaar,” specializing in European fashions. In 1886, the store moved to its present location on 3rd Avenue between 59th and 60th Street, but growing demand necessitated more expansion and the rest of the block was bought over the next 15 years.
Close-up of the mansard roof and neo-Classical ornamentation:
The Bloomingdale Brothers sign remains on the facade:
This vintage photograph below gives an idea of what 60th Street looked like. It seems that this side has always been utilized as a loading dock (albeit with horse and carriage back then). You can see the two French style buildings about halfway down the block. The rest of the block, moving towards Lexington Avenue, were demolished to make way for the recognizable storefront we see today.
Image via PdxHistory
Was there a reason why these two buildings were kept and the rest demolished? Knowing the fascination with European style, perhaps the Bloomingdale brothers thought it said something about the store and the goods it carried. Or maybe it was just convenient to keep this section intact.
It’s hard to tell–even Bloomingdale’s itself has a rather inconsistent history of itself. The official timeline on the Bloomingdale’s website makes it seem like the store moved directly from the Lower East Side to 59th Street in 1886, whereas their Great East Side Bazaar existed for 14 years just a few blocks from the present location. In a reverse move, this official press release skips the 1886 move and says “In 1929, Bloomingdale’s moved to its present location on 59th Street. The store continued to rapidly expand and a short two years later, with the completion of the glamorous Art Deco edifice facing Lexington Avenue, Bloomingdale’s covered the entire city block.”
Revisionary history of department store origins isn’t anything new–think of the parallel to Selfridge’s, made apparent in the BBC drama. We’ll be digging further into the history of the original buildings, so stay tuned!
Another fun fact: the skybridge you see at Bloomingdale’s is rented from the city of New York and is accessible to the public. Read more about it in our roundup of NYC skybridges.