I happened to stop by Macy’s Herald Square flagship last night. I’d been in once, but never thought about it beyond the ground floor. As I wandered up and up trying to find what I needed (pillows), I discovered wooden escalators! I’ve never seen anything like them. 

Of course I had to look into the history…. 

The Otis Elevator Co first installed the wooden escalators in Macy’s in 1901. They were the first commercial escalators in the world. The flat steps were replaced by wooden cleated treads in 1920 and most of the fleet was replaced by modern machines in the 20th century. The remaining wooden escalator were supposed to be removed completely in the last decade (due to quite a few lost fingers and whatnot). I saw only two sets, both in the top floors of the 10.5 story building. 

Macy’s has been in Herald Square for 115 years. When they moved there from 14th Street, it was considered so “far north” that they provided a steam wagonette to transport customers the 20 blocks uptown. 

A “friend” of top competitor Siegel-Cooper bought the last remaining building on the block to prevent Macy’s from becoming the largest store in the world; Macy’s responded by just building around it. They soon bought the 5-story building – aka “Million Dollar Corner.” (pictured below)

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Love NYC history stories like that! 

With Macy’s starting the year by closing 68 stores, it’s no surprise they may be acquired. But the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade owned by Canadians?! How odd. I had no idea Hudson’s Bay already owns Lord & Taylor, Saks, and Gilt. 

More: NYT – Latest Miracle on 34th Street: Macy’s Keeps Wooden Escalators / Wikipedia – Macy’s Herald Square / Wikipedia – Million Dollar Corner