Wanamaker’s – Department Store Archeology Philadelphia, PA
Posted on: January 20, 2010
Even though the Wanamaker’s Department Store building in downtown Philadelphia PA has been taken over by Macy’s, if you look closely you can still see signs that this place used to be the grande dame of department stores in her day. Here are a few snapshots of some of the retail archeological finds I saw on our quick trip into Center City before Christmas.
(I’ve actually never seen the organ without it being obscured by the giant Christmas Tree, but here’s a shot to show you how cool and old fashioned it is (thanks to Wikipedia for the use of this image))
As a quick refresher, Wanamaker’s was the first department store in Philadelphia and one of the first department stores in the country. The current building harkens from 1910 and originally had 9 of its 12 floors designated for retail. Now only a handful of them are shopping destinations, but the building still houses the fabulous Wanamaker Organ, which gives a hint to the fabulosity that the store once had.
When you’re walking in through some of the vestibules off of the street you can still see the intricate mosaic work and the stylized JW signature emblazoned in the center.
The fluorescent lighting and my photos don’t do them justice, but the colors are just wonderful in a very art nouveau palette.
There are a number of these “stairways to nowhere” around the store. This one was located in the young mens department and perfectly contrast the elegance of years gone by with the hyper casual lifestyle of today (sigh.)
I’m not sure what era this light fixture is from, but by the look of it’s wonderful sculptural glass shade and formidable metalwork, I’d say it’s not of this era, or last half decade easily!
Another staircase to nowhere. That curving brass bannister and faded burgundy carpet just screams “This used to be a tres elegant place!”
I bet those cherubs had a much nicer shade back in the day, but I guess I should just be glad they haven’t been replaced by halogen torchieres.
So if you’re in Center City Philadelphia and want to go on a retail archeological dig, and envision what this place would’ve been like in her heyday, pencil in a visit to Wanamaker’s – and show me what I missed!