B. Altman Dry Goods Store
621 6th Avenue, D. and J. Jardine [c.1877] William H. Hume [1887]; Buchman & Fox [1909]

Built by the Altman family, the presence of this popular "palace of trade" on 18th Street signalled the decline of Soho as the city's main retail district. In 1906, B. Altman's followed the northward expansion of New York's residential area to Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. An important American entrepreneur, Benjamin Altman was also a trendsetter in women's fashion. He sold fine fabrics for custom-made dresses while at the same time he showed off the new possibilities of the sewing machine with ready-to-wear goods. An innovative employer and salesman, he provided a number of amenities for his employees and introduced home delivery to a receptive, more affluent consumer base. Expanded from a small building adjacent to 19th Street, the block-long store was clad in cast iron along its Sixth Avenue side with exposed brick along its three secondary facades. With its thin pilasters and colonnettes and its intricate cornices, this cast-iron facade is articulated in the light and delicate Neo-Grec style. Wide ground floor storefront windows were decorated with sculptures and clothing displays in order to attract customers. Riding by the store on the Sixth Avenue Elevated Subway (the 'El' for short), consumers' attention would have been drawn to the ornate second story-view.