Lord & Taylor's Historical Flagship Store in NYC

The History & Story Behind One of NYC's Flagships
In its last year of full operation

The D&D Daily is excited to announce that the "Live in NYC" 2018 Loss Prevention News Network broadcast will be streamed right from the Lord & Taylor Flagship store's theater room. Come check us out Monday, January 15 where we will be live-streaming a brand new series of interviews with senior LP/AP Leaders and solution providers.


In honor of this exciting experience, we've put together a series of articles featuring the history, loss prevention experiences, and interesting facts of this iconic New York landmark.

Founded by the English merchant Samuel Lord in 1826, Lord & Taylor's department store was once a favored retailer of high society. When its Fifth Avenue building opened in February 1914, it drew 75,000 visitors.

1909: Record sale price for future Lord & Taylor home
Lord and Taylor Opens on Fifth Avenue - Remains There for 103 Years

By the turn of the twentieth century, commerce was invading residential Fifth Avenue above 34th Street.

The first wave of major retailers included specialty stores such as Black, Starr & Frost, jewelers; Knox, the hat company; Tiffany & Co. and Gorham Manufacturing Co., jewelry, china, silver, and glass and Franklin Simon, ladies wear. B. Altman & Co., the first of the large department stores to move there, opened on Fifth Avenue in 1906.

Frank and John Burton paid approximately $950,000, or $265 per square foot - a Fifth Avenue record at the time - for the northwest corner at 38th Street.

In 1912, Lord & Taylor signed a 21-year, $500,000-a-year-lease with the Burtons in order to relocate from its Broadway and 20th Street location. In 1914, Lord & Taylor moved into the 10-story building at 424 Fifth Avenue, which it still occupies.

First Female President in Retail Industry & 3 Others Women Followed Her Path

Dorothy Shaver was the first woman to serve as the president of a major retail store when she was elected to that position in 1945 and her legacy lives on in the store's distinctive hand written logo and American Beauty Rose emblem.

It was also under her leadership that Lord & Taylor began its expansion into the suburbs with six branches, including the stores in Manhasset (1941) and Westchester County (1948), Millburn, NJ (1949), and the first of the stores outside the metropolitan area in West Hartford, CT (1953) and Philadelphia, PA (1955). A seventh store in Washington, D.C. opened in 1959 after her death.


Starting in June 2000, Jane Elfers served as Lord & Taylor's second female president. She was replaced in October 2008 by former Neiman Marcus executive, Brendan Hoffman. According to HBC executive chairman, Richard Baker, her contract had expired.[20] A third female president, Bonnie Brooks, took over in 2011, and a fourth female president, Liz Rodbell, took over in 2013.

The store continued to expand, building new branches and updating the selling floors of the Fifth Avenue flagship store. Currently, Lord & Taylor consists of 50 "flagship" and "destination" locations, four L&T outlets, and the Lord & Taylor website which ships internationally.

On August 7, 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed designation as a Landmark of the Lord & Taylor Building and the proposed designation of the related Landmark Site.

Purchased by WeWork in Oct. 2017 for $850M

Hudson's Bay said that it was selling off the flagship store to WeWork, a seven-year-old start-up whose office-sharing model is helping to reinvent the concept of work space.

Lord & Taylor will rent out about a quarter of the building, where it will operate a pared-down department store. The redesign is expected to come after Christmas of 2018. nyc.gov, hbcheritage.ca, nytimes.com, therealdeal.com, wikipedia.com

Interesting Information About Lord & Taylor's Flagship Location

● 1,400 people employed during the store's peak time, now there's less than 800 

● The store does $135 million annually in sales, presently, but $175 million at its peak 

● The store sees 2,500 to 3,000 customers daily during the regular season, but after Black Friday that number doubles on a daily basis

Ghost Sightings on the 9th Floor...
Sources say, back in the 90's when the Home and China Departments were located on the 9th floor, several personnel reported the sighting of ghostly figures in the Bedding Department after closing. Each night, at closing, Security was asked to secure the floor, pulling a metal gate across the escalator area. Lights were turned off, and with no outside lighting, it would get very dark inside the store. On a number of occasions, security personnel would comment to each other that they witnessed ghostly, 'friendly' figures moving around!

...Or just Pranks?
● The overnight guards would occasionally report hearing strange sounds at night but most of those were just the creeks and groans of an old building. Sometimes it was the more tenured guards playing pranks on the new hires. We occasionally caught some of the guards stealing so we never told them when an investigator was sneaking in or out of the building. I'm sure some of the unexplained sounds the guards might have heard were investigators who were being a little careless.

● One evening after store closing, another investigator and myself were conducting a routine overnight surveillance. I was concealed in an HVAC duct system that overlooked areas of the 2nd floor, when I observed a security officer on building rounds stop walking as if he had heard something (it was probably my partner who was nearby surveying an area where a bank of fitting rooms were located). The security officer left the area and about 5 minutes later, he returned with a fire axe in hand and went from fitting room to fitting room trying to find the source of the noise! My partner remained quiet and was not discovered. We later relocated to another floor and continued our assignment.

Catching Shoplifters and Thieves
● I think we averaged between 5-10 shoplifter apprehensions every day and 150 or more employee apprehensions each year. We had holding rooms for shoplifters near the guard station in the basement on the 39th street side of the building.

● The third floor had "Better Dresses" and was one of the most active floors for shoplifting. We always had one or two detectives scheduled there.

● The first floor had cosmetics, fine jewelry, and accessories. We always had a red blazer inside each of the three doors to prevent grab and runs. They still happened occasionally and when they did we could often catch up to the person at a subway station or at Port Authority. 

● The tenth floor was the men's department and it was very active for shoplifters also. We had a salesman there who was terrific at spotting a shoplifter. He received more awards than anyone else in the building.

● One day we had received information that a stock guy working on the second floor was stealing coats. We were told that he would gather the coats together, open up one of the windows in the stock room, and throw them out to a guy waiting below. Both suspects were apprehended.

● When pocket calculators first became available, they were a lot more expensive than they are today ($150). Someone had said their calculators were stolen from their desks, and complained to the employee relations department who helped refund the costs of the stolen item. When so many complaints came through that other calculators had gone missing, they couldn't keep refunding for the stolen goods, so they went to the LP team for help. An investigator sat in a cardboard box under the desk, watching for the thief, and when he saw the stock guy stealing the calculators he was apprehended.

● There was a period of time in NYC where bank robberies were happening almost every day. They'd deployed teams of detectives to conduct surveillance at various banks in the city. There was a man who came into the men's department and put lots of polo shirts in a shopping bag and walked out. Store detectives went to apprehend him, and a struggle ensued across the street from the store. All of a sudden a van pulled up and men armed with guns jumped out and surrounded the suspect! It turns out that they were NYC police detectives who had just finished a bank surveillance detail and were heading back to the precinct. They helped apprehend the suspect but it was a very confusing, and scary time for everyone involved!

Lord & Taylor's LP Department
● The LP office was on the balcony above the first floor on the 38th street side of the building.

● We had 15 plainclothes store detectives (at least 6 on whenever the store was open), 15 uniformed security guards, and 10-12 "red blazers."

● During the Christmas season we had to have both uniformed and plainclothes people on the sidewalk in front of the store to manage crowd control as people lined up to look at the Christmas windows. The plainclothes detectives watched for purse snatchers and pick-pockets.

● There were many places to hide in the building, particularly in the basement which was primarily used for merchandise storage. Every night we had to clear the building looking for people trying to hide. We had guards in the building 24/7. They used an old Detex clock to do rounds. We had keys positioned throughout the building and the guard had to go to those places and insert the key into the clock, which would record the time they were there.

● All LP executives were expected to wear a suit and tie anytime they were in the building. A sport coat and tie was unacceptable. I learned this the hard way. I came into the store to shop on one of the rare Saturdays I had off. I was dressed casually in a sport jacket and tie. My boss saw me coming down the escalator to the first floor and called me into a nearby office where I got my first tongue-lashing. He pointed out to me (correctly) that the store employees did not know which Saturdays I was off and seeing me in a sport jacket and tie hurt the department's reputation for professionalism. I never entered the store again unless I was in a suit and tie.

About the Building
● Even today there is only one single receiving door to receive all the goods and supplies for this massive building. At that same door location, back in the day, the goods were delivered by horse and wagon. What was "cutting edge technology" then, however, was the horse and wagons were lead on to a wheel, three at a time, at which point the receiving wheel was turned to unload one horse and wagon at a time but always had the "next horse and wagon up" on the wheel to same time and improve efficiency. I believe that wheel, although not in use anymore, is still in the receiving dock today.

● During 9/11 the building served as a refuse to many employees, for many days, as the City recovered from the attacks. Following 9/11, when the Big Blackout occurred in 2003, the building, with the assistance of its loyal employees, evacuated thousands, 100%, of their customers in less than 20 minutes! The building was designed with an excellent evacuation plan, also back in the day, that worked far better than the designers ever imagined. Or did they? Lives were saved with that design. Well done L&T!

● The elevators all had "operators" who took people up and down. We made them our allies. Not only did they call us when they heard or saw suspicious activity on the elevator but when we needed to get to a floor fast they would take us skipping as many floors as needed. They usually only ran an express elevator to the 10th floor but if one of us got on and said "express to 7" they knew to take us right there. 

● One of the elevators, not used by the public or employees, held fire equipment such as extinguishers, hoses, firefighter turnout coats, helmets, boots, gloves, breathing apparatus , bomb blanket, axes, pokers, etc., and whenever a smoke call was issued, someone would use the elevator to bring equipment to the floor of the call so whatever equipment was needed would be available.

● Lord & Taylor had established a tradition of allowing customers who arrived before 10 am to sit on chairs that were set up each morning just inside the store near the main entrance. Every morning, a security officer was assigned to unlock the Fifth Avenue main entrance doors a half hour before the store opened for business. The officer would remain at this post until the store opened. As part of the tradition, the waiting customers were served coffee or tea by a waitress with a cart who was dispatched from the Bird Cage Restaurant which was located on the 5th floor. A few minutes before store opening, the National Anthem was played over the public address system, the customers would stand and the employees through the building would stop what they were doing and stand until the song was finished and the store was officially opened for business.

● The executive offices were on the 9th floor. A receptionist controlled access to the hall lined with offices. The entire time I was there we had a requirement that at least one armed LP executive had to be in the building whenever the building was open. This was not common knowledge even among the LP staff. It was all very discreet. In the 5 years I was there I never had a reason to pull my weapon or tell anyone I was armed. 

● The display department started working on the Christmas windows in late summer. They were built on elevators that were raised into the windows for an unveiling at the beginning of the season. The area where they were created was off limits to most employees as they tried to keep the theme and details secret. It was a fabulous tradition to see the Christmas windows filled with excruciating details and moving parts. No merchandise was allowed in the Christmas windows.

● The employee cafeteria was on the 11th floor but some of us often ate at the hotdog cart at the corner of 39th street and 5th Avenue. From that vantage point we could see two of the three entrances and watch for known shoplifters or those exiting with an armload of stolen leather coats. An awful lot of shoplifters got out the door, looked back and saw no one coming, and thought they were getting away clean, only to run into one of us on the street.

The Top 10 Secrets of Lord & Taylor on 5th Avenue in NYC

10. The Lavish Facilities Once Inside Lord & Taylor, including Gymnasium and Concert Hall

9. Lord & Taylor Is an Entirely Fireproof Store

8. Lord & Taylor's Windows Sink to the Basement

7. A Critical Battle of the Revolutionary War Took Place Near the Site of Lord & Taylor

6. Lord & Taylor Was the First Retail Store to Relocate onto 5th Avenue

5. The 10th Floor of Lord & Taylor Was Once Reserved for 'Men's Interests'


4. Lord & Taylor is being Renovated into the WeWork Headquarters

3. Lord & Taylor's Various Sections Sold Toy & Dolls, Art Goods, Plants and More

2. There Was Once a Children's Barbershop Inside Lord & Taylor

1. House Physicians and Graduate Nurses at Lord & Taylor Tended to Employees  

The Lord & Taylor flagship store just won't be the same after its purchase by WeWork, so as we say goodbye to a New York historic landmark, we thought it would be a great way to honor this famous building and shoot our Live in New York 2018 event in their Theater Room.

We hope that you can come and watch this exciting live broadcast and help us pay tribute to this century-old New York City icon.

The D&D Daily would like to thank the following people for contributing information for this piece:

John Velke, currently SVP Risk Management for Total Wine & More; 1980-1985: Lord & Taylor - Loss Prevention Manager - NYC

Craig Cunningham, currently Executive Director for Universal Surveillance Systems; 1989-2004: Lord & Taylor - Director of Investigation, Divisional Vice President of Loss Prevention and Vice President of Loss Prevention

Arnold Milliken, former Lord & Taylor Director from 2015 - 2017; 1991-2015: Lord & Taylor - District Manager, Regional Manager Loss Prevention, Regional Director Asset Protection

Alexander Sparaco, currently President of Baker St. Associates; 1971 - 1987: Lord & Taylor - Security Officer (Seasonal and PT), Investigator, Investigations Supervisor, Security Manager, Assistant Director of Flagship and Distribution Center, Divisional Manager of Security

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