Since its move to Fifth Avenue in 1928, Lord & Taylor long maintained a presence in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers as a beloved shopping destination, in particular where mothers and daughters would buy their special occasion dresses and savor the moment over lunch in the store’s Birdcage or Soup Bar. The Christmas windows have always been one of the city’s main holiday attractions, showcasing fairy tales, Americana and animated animals, and less commercial than uptown competitors.
Steeped in tradition, Lord & Taylor was the first department store to concentrate on emerging American designers, and since 1980, the flagship has played the “Star-Spangled Banner” every morning as the doors swung open.
Below, excerpts from the official timeline and other milestones documenting the history of America’s first department store.
1826: English immigrants Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor open a dry goods store on Catherine Street in lower Manhattan and name it after themselves.
1852: George Washington Taylor, the junior partner of Lord & Taylor, retires.
1853: Lord & Taylor relocates to Grand and Chrystie Streets on the Lower East Side and becomes the first store in the city with a glass-domed rotunda illuminating the interior.
1860: Lord & Taylor moves to Grand Street and Broadway.
1863: A shop opens for mourning apparel for widows of Civil War soldiers.
1866: Samuel Lord retires.
1872: The store moves again to a new cast-iron building at Broadway and 20th Street and becomes the first store with an elevator.
1904: Edward Hatch, owner since 1885, incorporates the business, takes it public and enables employees to become shareholders.
1909: Edward Hatch dies.
1910: United Dry Goods buys Hatch’s stake.
1914: On Feb. 24, the Fifth Avenue flagship opens. It’s an ornate Italian Renaissance building designed by Starrett & van Vleck with elaborate dining rooms, a concert hall with a pipe organ, separate men’s and women’s rooftop lunchrooms, a doctor and dentist’s offices and a gym.
1928: L&T launches the Exhibition of Modern French Decorative Art showcasing European furnishings and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
1932: Dorothy Shaver creates “The American Look” program promoting American designers, shifting the epicenter of fashion to New York.
1937: Lord & Taylor establishes the Rose Award recognizing creative and humanitarian achievement.
1938: During an unseasonably warm November, the store clears its windows of merchandise and simulates a blizzard by blowing bleached cornflakes and playing howling wind sounds, considered one of the first animated department store window displays.
1938: Lord & Taylor introduces the Soup Bar for quick and inexpensive lunches.
1940: With Paris occupied during World War II, Lord & Taylor becomes the first major retailer to feature emerging American designers including Bonnie Cashin and Claire McCardell.
1941: L&T becomes the first department store to open a branch, in Manhasset, N.Y.
1945: Dorothy Shaver named president of Lord & Taylor, becoming the first woman to lead a major retailer.
1946: The American Beauty Rose becomes the official symbol.
1963: L&T becomes the first department store to open a dog boutique.
1980: The flagship starts playing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
1986: May Department Stores Co. buys Lord & Taylor, starts homogenizing the merchandise and develops an expansion strategy.
2003: L&T decides to shed 32 locations and focus on the Northeast as part of president Jane Elfers’ strategy to bring the sheen back to the business.
2005: Federated Department Stores inherits Lord & Taylor through its acquisition of May.
2006: Federated sells L&T to NRDC Equity Partners, now called Hudson’s Bay Co.
2007: New York grants Lord & Taylor landmark status.
2012: Lord & Taylor opens its first new full-line store in more than a decade, in Salem, N.H.
2012: Lord & Taylor sponsors “Project Runway.”
2017: HBC discloses deal to sell the flagship to WeWork for $850 million, which should close in the second half of 2018. HBC says it will downsize the flagship; WeWork will build its New York headquarters and a complex of shops, restaurants and other experiences on the site.
2018: Lord & Taylor opens an online shop on walmart.com.
2018: Lord & Taylor names Vanessa LeFebvre president, succeeding Liz Rodbell.
2018: HBC abandons plans to downsize Fifth Avenue flagship and says it will close entirely. Up to 10 L&T stores are seen closing through 2019.