8. 280 Broadway’s Many Firsts

From New York Illustrated (published 1877 but appears to be early 1850s)

The “first department store in the United States;” that is 280 Broadway’s best known claim to fame, but not its only one. Designed by architects Joseph Trench and John B. Snook to resemble an Italian palazzo, it is considered the country’s first Italianate style commercial building and an architectural catalyst for a wave of palatial commercial buildings along Broadway.

With its white marble walls, plate glass windows, and ornamented interior, its impact was immediate and enduring. Even before it opened newspapers called it a marble palace, which became its unofficial name. More accolades followed. An 1854 magazine description was typical in its adoring tone: “it rises out of the sea of green foliage in the park, a white marble cliff, sharply drawn against the sky.”