Macys Beats Gimbels... Again!

When wandering the streets, running errands, or otherwise going about life, it is nearly impossible to forget that I am in New York City.  Sure, this may change as I continue to live here and I may grow jaded and become complacent, but I truly hope this never happens.  I mean, this is the place I've read about for my entire life, and come to see as the center of the American Universe.  So many movies, tv shows, and books use it as the setting for their stories, even in a somewhat incidental way, that nearly every nook and cranny has been memorialized and made even more special by being embedded with a well-loved modern "legend" of my life.  Macy's Department Store is certainly one of those places.  Nearly every American must have a metaphorical filing cabinet for visions and images of Macy's, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, with an entire drawer for the film Miracle On 34th Street, where we can easily pull out memories of Maureen O'Hara's patrician beauty, or find a precocious Natalie Wood watching astounded as Santa Clause sings in Dutch with a little girl who had, prior to that moment been feeling lost and alone in the world.

And yet, when I headed to Macy's for the first time yesterday, I didn't really think of it as anything to get excited about.  But then, as I got closer to Herald Square I started to realize how long it had been here, since the 1880's, and that it hadn't moved it's location since it's opening.  And as I headed up to the sixth floor to browse through the bedding, I encountered something pretty magical, something no one had mentioned to me before... the wooden elevators of Macy's, which have been around since 1920, and have survived major renovations.  

Photo by Benjamin Norman for The NY Times

These escalators, their solid construction, the polished wood (mostly oak) and their meditative rumble up the floors of the 1 million square feet of shopping space, are like a time machine.  You can't help but think of all the people who have stood on them in the nearly one hundred years they've been around.  And it was comforting to do a bit of research later and discover that they are revered by the store as iconic to the Macy's brand, and that those elevators are not going anywhere.  They will continue to make an impression on shoppers (no matter how subtle that impression may be) another beautiful detail in our every day lives.

And these escalators would be enough, but there is more.  I think it bears repeating that the store just went through a major renovation in which no detail was overlooked.  And yet, these escalated remained.  As did, the elevators.

I had to return to Macy's the next day, as I had purchased the wrong sized sheets and needed to make an exchange.  Well, since I didn't feel like riding the escalators six floors, I headed to the elevators, and found that much of the hardware has been left intact.  The photo above shows the elevator as it is today, missing only the switch that the elevator attendant would have flipped.  It's pretty astounding that Macy's keeps these details as they are, and respects its history as much as it seems to.  Of course, me being me, this fact has won me forever as a devoted Macys customer.  (That and their super amazing sales).