29 November 2011

Macy's Wooden Escalators Gone, but May Return


A recent visit to Macy's Herald Square brought back the hurtful reminder that most (all?) of the wooden treads on the ancient, historic wooden escalators have been replaced in recent years by standard metal trades. Apparently, a series of accidents resulted in the old wooden treads being ripped out. The sides of the Otis escalators remain wooden, but the crowning beauty of the contraptions was really the treads. The wood was warm; the metal is cold. I went up several floors looking for ones that were still wood, but didn't find any. Maybe they lurk at the top of the building.

But when I went home to do some research on the subject, I was delighted and surprised to find a story in the Nov. 1 edition of the New York Times that reported that Macy's is planning an extension, multi-year renovation of its flagship store, to begin this spring. Included in the redo will be the "preservation of 42 of 43 historic wooden escalators in the current store – a unique and distinguishing feature of Macy’s Herald Square." So they're coming back, I guess!


Among the other welcome improvement: "Restoring the first floor “great hall”... The original great hall’s ceiling height will be restored"; and "The ornate “Memorial Entrance” on 34th Street will be restored and reopened. Windows along Broadway, 34th Street and Seventh Avenue, which have been covered up over the years, will be reopened. Windows on the upper floors also will be uncovered to allow more natural light into the building. Sidewalks will be replaced, with Macy’s-branded paved “welcome mats” added at every entrance. Awnings and canopies reminiscent of the original building will be added. New exterior lighting will highlight the building’s elegant architectural details."



For those who wonder what the old wooden escalators looked like, here's a video I took back in 2008.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was just at Macy's a couple weeks ago and they still have the wooden escalators on the upper floors.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Cool. Thought they might.

Ed said...

I took my wife, who has lived in New York for less than a year, to Macy's and we rode the wooden escalators. There are still a few left. I remember riding one to the basement, my memory might be playing tricks, but we definitely did ride one.

Macy's on Herald Square is now packed every time I go there, despite the recession. They seem to have adopted the "random sales in random parts of the store all the time" strategy, which means a diligent shopper can find some really good bargains there. This probably gets them a more downscale crowd, like us, but keeps the store full and the merchandise moving.

I also took my wife to the original Marshall Field's, now a Macy's, on a trip to Chicago, and you can see how nice an old department store can look if its restored properly.

upstate Johnny G said...

Hey Brooks,
If I recall correctly the original Macy's (or at least a very early version of it) is still standing near the current flagship store. I remember it being very narrow, but with a pretty nice facade and very vacant the last time I saw it. I understand some of the guides on the double decker tourist buses point it out as part of the tour.

IrishNYC said...

I loved those wooden escalators, even as a kid. I hadn't been there in a few years, and had a chance last year when I took my 1 year old to see Santa (because only that Macy's has the real Santa!) but alas, with a stroller, visiting my favorite escalators was impossible. I plan to go there again this week for some Santa time, and I'll be looking for the remaining wooden escalators since the kiddo is a bit more mobile now and I can fold up the stroller and take her for a ride on a piece of wooden history.

On a related note, I miss the gorgeous train displays of my youth that filled the wait for Santa.

IrishNYC said...

There are definitely wooden escalators going from 8 to 9 at Macy's as of yesterday, 12/14. I needed to take the elevator so I couldn't investigate more than that.

Herald Towers said...

Wood has a tendency to break down after a while, especially if the escalators get much use. It is nice though that Macy's in Herald Square will be restoring some of these old wooden escalators. It's nice to save a bit of the past.

Lovella said...

Really? it is ancient? woow! so proud that we had wooden floor and stairs design

Sean m menor said...

Actually the majority of the wooden escalator's with wooden treads still exist, the corridor where you were are the only wooden ones with the metal treads except for the two top floors which still have the wood treads, all the other wooden escalators in the store still have the wooden treads, this coming from my trip 2 weeks ago so in 2014 they are still in existance!!