fao schwarz vintage-NYC-Untapped Cities8The F.A.O. Schwarz Piano, immortalized in the 1988 film ‘Big’ starring Tom Hanks.

New York City lost a treasure yesterday. F.A.O. Schwarz on Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, once the premier toy store in the country, was dropped from its lease with its parent company, Toys R’ Us, last month. It closed its flagship store on July 15th.

smithsonianmag fao scharz vintage-NYC-Untapped CitiesThe showing room floor of the Fifth Avenue Store. Image via smithsonianmag

rocketgent fao schwarz cintage-NYC-Untapped CitiesThe original New York store on the right. Image via rocketgent

fao schwarz vintage-NYC-Untapped Cities6The store’s signature stuffed animals. Image via mcny

The store and its original company was founded in 1862 by its namesake Frederick August Otto Schwarz, who called it the ‘Toy Bazaar,’ when it opened in Baltimore. Locations soon spread to Philadelphia and Boston, culminating in the New York location on 765 Broadway. Over the next few decades, it grew into what The New York Times called “the largest dealer in toys in this city.” Schwarz added his name to advertisements for the store in 1889. In 1931, it moved to its current location on Fifth Avenue, after which it went through a series of ownerships when the Schwarz family sold its last shares in the company.

fao schwarz vintage-NYC-Untapped Cities5Image via mcny

fao schwarz catalog vintage-NYC-Untapped CitiesImage via rocketgent

By 2000, the store brand had 40 locations across the country. Unfortunately, a steady decline in the popularity of the store’s signature items like stuffed animals and the rise of high-tech games and electronics, F.A.O. Schwartz couldn’t compete. It has been closing stores for the past decade, but the closing of its flagship, which stood for 29 years at the bottom of the General Motors Building, is the biggest blow of all.

This is the end of one of the city’s hallmarks. The company remains hopeful that it will find another location to open a new store, but has not made any plans as of yet. To anyone lucky enough to have visited the Fifth Avenue location before the dawn of iPads and video games, remember it well.

Next, see vintage photos of the evolution of Times Square from 1898 onward. Get in touch with the author @jinwoochong.

 FAO Schwarz

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