Sunday, October 12, 2008

Department Store Building of the Week, No. 17

Actually, two buildings, but if you lived in Trenton from the 1940s through the 1970s they were one store. The one at the left, 131-33 E. State St., was originally H.M. Voorhees & Bro., a store that appeared around 1900 and was run by, of course, H.M. Voorhees and his brother. The one on the right, 127-29 E., was Nevius Bros., to which reference has been made with P.J. Young's in New Brunswick.

Nevius Bros. started as a small-town department store in Flemington. Two offspring, Albert and George Nevius, operated branches. Albert went to Trenton, which included Flemington in its orbit; George went to run the operation in Somerville, which was closed after the firm bought P.J. Young's.

I'm not sure of the exact date, it was between 1938 and 1946, but Nevius Bros. purchased the adjacent Voorhees store, which then became known as Nevius-Voorhees even though the Voorheeses were completely out of it. It then became the headquarters of the Nevius empire, which at its height also included a store on Nassau Street in Princeton. In geographic reach, at least, it was the dominant department store operation in central New Jersey, with stores in Middlesex, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties, but central New Jersey was squeezed between New York and Philadelphia and the Nevius family could not compete with the onrush of Wanamakers, Bamberger's, Lord & Taylor, Stern's, what have you.

Nevius-Voorhees advertised as the upscale department store in Trenton, as opposed to the larger S.P. Dunham & Co., which was the all-things-to-all people store. Trenton also had Yard's, a part of the Hydeman store family that also operated Kennard's in Wilmington, Del., and Wiest's in York, Pa., as well as a branch of Lit Bros., the Philadelphia store, and Hurley's, the large Camden-based outfit that largely sold downscale furniture on credit, but had other department-store lines as well at some of its locations. Hurley's would be better known to many people as Hurley-Liebman's, after it was bought by the Joseph Liebman Co., a similar operation in Philadelphia. I think the Hurley's building may still be there, but all the rest are gone. Dunham's lasted into the late 1980s or early 1990s.

This picture shows, on the building at the right, the words "Nevius - Voorhees" on the building, above the door. Don't know if they're still there.


Mala Wright said...

That building Nevius-Voorhees building is used as an office for state workers in Trenton.

Anonymous said...

My mother shopped at this store when I was about 5 or 6 and she used to take me when she shopped. I remember coming down a staircase and I think there was the millinery department at the bottom it. Beautiful store!