Monday, July 7, 2008

Department Store Building of the Week, Vol. 10

And we complete our look at old downtown Newark with this view of New Jersey's largest department store, L. Bamberger & Co. at 131 Market St. Louis Bamberger of Baltimore bought the Hill & Craig store in 1892 with his (in succession) brothers-in-law, Louis Frank and Felix Fuld. The big store was built in 1912.

In the 1920s it became part of Macy's back in an era when Macy's did not change store names; the LaSalle & Koch Co. in Toledo and the Davison-Paxon Co. in Atlanta similarly kept their names, but added the red star to their logos. (When Macy's expanded again in the 1940s, the George Innes Dry Goods Co. in Wichita and O'Connor, Moffat & Co. in San Francisco were subsumed in the First Macyization.) Bam's kept its own name until 1986. This store was closed in 1992.

Although Bamberger's had a resort branch in Asbury Park in the 1930s, it was not until the 1950s that it became New Jersey's statewide store. First came the downtown branches in Morristown and Plainfield. In the mid-1950s, Bamberger's opened a store in Princeton, which is certainly in the orbit of New York but essentially at its southern edge; and it was a shopping center store, not downtown. (This may have been the brainchild of John Williams, who was at the time president of Bamberger's and who lived in Princeton.) Then Bam's rode the shopping center boom to Menlo Park in Middlesex County, Monmouth Mall in Monmouth County, Garden State Plaza in Passaic County (correction: Bergen County) -- and on and on, out to malls in Rockaway and Wayne and beyond. Around the same time the name of the store was changed from "L. Bamberger & Co." to "Bamberger's New Jersey."

In the 1960s when Philadelphia's Strawbridge & Clothier was looking to build the nation's first enclosed mall in Cherry Hill, it wanted a second anchor store but did not want it to be one of its Philadelphia rivals. It turned to Bamberger's, which used the opportunity to invade South Jersey. There are very few department stores that became statewide institutions -- Younker Bros. in Iowa, Burdine's in Florida (or at least South Florida), maybe The Bon Marche in Washington. Bamberger's is on that short list.

Bamberger's became a farm team for Macy's New York in the 1960s. Gerald Goldstein and Ed Finkelstein, the architects of Macy's repositioning in the 1970s and 1980s, were posted to Bam's in the 1960s.

Bam's had one other effect on New Jersey; Louis Bamberger, who never married, and the Fuld family were among its great philanthropists. Among their benefactions was the Institute for Advanced Study, which housed Albert Einstein. And while I don't know of a direct connection between the Helene Fuld Health Trust and Bamberger's, since the trust was started by Helene Fuld and her brother, L. Felix Fuld, in honor of her mother, and Felix Fuld's second wife was Caroline Bamberger Frank, it seems possible that they were Felix Fuld's children with his first wife. If you add that to the contributions of Louis Bamberger, it is amazing what this one family did.

Here are some other photos of Bamberger's.


Doug said...

Ah. Good old Bam's. Spent too many hours there and in Stern's in my youth tagging along behind my mom (and hating that I was 6 feet and had to wear those stupid wool pants from the men's department).

One minor correction. Garden State Plaza, at Routes 4 and 17, is in Paramus, Bergen County.

Anonymous said...

Good Job! :)

Anonymous said...

Louis Bamberger loved New Jersey and was an amazing philanthropist - he also gave the building for the Newark Museum, Newark Public Library and Newark Beth Israel Hospital. I miss Bam's!

Anonymous said...

When Macy's purchased John Taylor Dry Goods Co. in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1947, they changed the store's name to Macy's. When they purchased Wichita's Innes Co. in, as I recall, 1956 (from Des Moines' Younker's, which had purchased it from the Innes family in 1952) the name remained Innes until 1968 when it became Macy's-Innes, then simply Macy's in 1969. For years the logo said, underneath Innes, "a Macy store."