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Lord & Taylor—a century old “Ladies’ Paradise” for luxury and leisure loses its flagship store

Lord & Taylor, Fifth Avenue, New York City

A"monument to the "nonproductive consumption of time" is replaced by an icon of the new startup economy

The Gilded Age in the United States generally referred to the post-Civil War period from the 1870s to the turn of the 20th century, when vast industrial fortunes led to lavish lifestyles for those relatively families. Newport, Rhode Island came to be seen as the most fashionable resort for many wealthy industrialists, with such “summer cottages” as The Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, The Elms, and others. Eventually, as Henry Flagler extended the railroad down the Atlantic coast of Florida, St. Augustine became a winter destination with the opening in 1888 of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College), before the winter resorts farther south at Palm Beach, Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys became popular.

The US economy during this period not only produced vast industrial fortunes; it also led to rapid wage growth for workers (the highest wage growth in the nation’s history) as well as significant economic inequality. Taken together, larger cities gained growing populations of people with disposable income. One effect of this can be measured by the rise of department stores from the mid-19th century on.

In New York City, stores such as the Marble Palace on Broadway (1846) were followed by the establishment of stores whose names are still known today, including Macy’s and Lord & Taylor. Department stores were designed to provide for the increasingly luxurious lifestyles for their predominantly female clientele. By the 1880s, the retail shopping district relocated uptown to an area that became known as “Ladies’ Mile,” eventually settling on Fifth Avenue, near where numerous Gilded Age mansions also were constructed.

Most of Manhattan’s Gilded Age mansions have been demolished, but the flagship stores of these iconic department stores remained. Lord & Taylor’s building (built 1914), at Fifth Avenue and 38th Streets, recently was sold to the WeWork, a new economy business that caters to start-up ventures, marking an end to more than a century of the retail giant’s presence in the neighborhood. Several writers look at this economic milestone from different perspectives.


Lord & Taylor, WeWork, and the Death of Leisure

By Ginia Bellafante

The New York Times

October 27, 2017

Lord & Taylor Building, Icon of New York Retail, Will Become WeWork Headquarters

By Michael J. de la Merced and Michael Corkery

The New York Times

October 24, 2017

We went to one of New York's most famous department stores after it sold to an office startup and saw the retail apocalypse playing out firsthand

By Mark Matousek

Business Insider

October 26, 2017

WeWork Buys Lord & Taylor’s Historic Fifth Avenue Flagship Store

By Tim Nelson

Architectural Digest

October 24, 2017

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