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Macy's Department Store

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Kaufmann's Department Store
1898, Charles Bickel; 1913 addition, Janssen and Abbott. 400 5th Ave.
  • 1984 photograph
  • Terracotta detail

Opened in 1871 as a tailoring shop on the South Side by four immigrant brothers who had graduated from peddling, Kaufmann's Department Store found itself by 1885 at the best corner downtown, Smithfield Street and 5th Avenue, where it erected a replica of the Statue of Liberty. The building that stands now as the south half of the block-long Macy's store (since 2007), at Smithfield and Forbes Avenue, is a wing added in 1898 that combines Classical Revival, Romanesque Revival, and Chicago School motifs. In 1913, Edgar Kaufmann, of the second generation, tore down the original 1885 store on the north half of the block and commissioned its replacement: this delicate thirteen-story, white terra-cotta extension from Benno Janssen. In those same years, the store began leasing the wooded property southeast of Pittsburgh that would later host Kaufmann's weekend house, Fallingwater.

Kaufmann's brilliance as a retailer derived in large part from his commercial exploitation of architectural and technical innovation. Janssen and Cocken's ground floor redecoration of the store in 1930 (Kaufmann had demurred on a more radical Art Deco remake from New York's Joseph Urban) used state-of the-art technology and contemporary design to create what architectural critics and retailing connoisseurs in the 1930s called the most beautiful store in the world. Along with his commission of Fallingwater from Frank Lloyd Wright in 1934, Kaufmann employed him to design his tenth-floor private office within the store. This was acclaimed as perhaps the most noble achievement ever rendered out of plywood, but following Kaufmann's death in 1955, the office was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1974. The ground floor has not fared well, though Art Deco elements survive.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.
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Data

Timeline

  • 1898

    Built
  • 1913

    Addition
  • 1930

    Interior remodel

What's Nearby

Citation

Lu Donnelly et al., "Macy's Department Store", [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/PA-01-AL22.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 55-56.

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