Friday, February 11, 2011

Department Store Building of the... Let's go to Pottstown

It's rare to find a store that closed a couple of decades ago but still has most of its sign on the building.  One example is the New York Store at 244 High St. in Pottstown, Pa. The store was founded in the early 1920s by Samuel Hoffman and in many of its early years was formally known as the New York Cut Price Department Store. When discounters started to eat department stores' lunch and they tried to react by moving more upscale, it went back to being the New York Store and adjusted its advertising accordingly.

Like a number of Pennsylvania stores -- Leh's in Allentown being the largest -- the store was run as a partnership of the descendants of the founder rather than being organized into a stock corporation. Nathan, Jack, Morris, Pincus, Edward, Harry and Estelle all were involved at one time or another, as was the widow, Rose. The store closed in 1986 and was redeveloped into the New York Plaza, which accounts for the sign's remaining in place with the word "Plaza" replacing "Store." As of this writing, the building appears to be for sale. Only $1.3 million and a former downtown department store can be yours!

You can tell from this photo -- including the false-front aspect of the "modern" storefront at right -- the number of buildings and additions this not-very-large store meandered through. I'm sure modern store executives found the sort of odd layouts most old department stores had -- alleys running through the first floor, steps and ramps to even off the floors in different buildings, strange corridors and passageways leading to obscure departments -- as something to get rid of with pleasure in their new mall stores. I always found them part of the fascination, such as at Pogue's in Cincinnati, with its two buildings connected by a bridge going through the vaulted lobby of an art deco office tower. But then, most shoppers looked at department stores simply as stores and not for aesthetics.


Joe Zlomek, The Sanatoga Post said...

Mr. Sullivan:

Really enjoyed this, and capitalized on it too. Thanks from greater Pottstown ...


Joe Zlomek, Managing Editor
The Sanatoga Post

Unknown said...

If you like old stuff go around back and look at the brick walls still painted wit hadvertisements from way back. Peabody and Sherman would love to take their machine back here and see what this was like in the 1800's..

Enjoyed the article..

EJ Cox
Sanatoga, PA