B. Altman & Co.'s neo-Renaissance palazzo
anchored the east end of 34th St.,
and Fifth Avenue, too.
The store's Fifth Ave. side was built in 1906,
replacing an older facility in lower Manhattan,
as the store moved northward.
In 1914, B. Altman & Co. reached its ultimate form with
the addition of a 12-story building to the rear that
doubled the size of the store.
|B. Altman & Co.'s Fifth Avenue store|
was housed in a neo-classical palace of
a building designed by architects
Trowbridge and Hollingsworth.
|The Madison Avenue extension|
of 1914 differed slightly
from the original building
|The Main Floor of the Fifth Avenue Store was quiet,|
stately and spacious.
The charming eighth-floor Charleston Gardens restaurant
featured a real plantation facade and three other walls
of murals simulating an outdoor garden.
361 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street)
New York, New York 10018
MUrray Hill 9-7000
The Collectibles (127) • Sportswear One (106) • Blouse Bazaar (141) • Handbags (21) • Gloves (22) • Belts (14) • Revlon (55) • The Perfumery (19) • Toiletries (19) • Neckwear (14) • Hat Bar (34) • Fine Jewelry (38) • Watches (38) • Gems (127) • Better Jewelry (127) • Sunglasses (4) • Hosiery (25) • Ribbons (13) • Handkerchiefs (24) • Umbrellas (28) • Small Leather Goods (88) • Robes (26) • 1001 Notions (17) • Gift Shop (43) • Camera Shop (38) • Candy (51) • Luggage (41) • Stationery (20)
Altman’s Men’s Store Studio I (9) • Men’s Tailored Sportswear (41) • Men’s Sport Shirts (49) • Men’s Shoes (39) • Men’s Raincoats (41) • Men's Hats (32) • Men’s Sportswear (104) • Men’s Outerwear (112) • Men’s Clothing (41) • Men’s Ties (66) • Men’s Furnishings (27) • Men’s Sleepwear (26) • Men’s Slippers (39) • Men’s Gloves (26) • Men’s Socks (26) • Men’s Accessories (32)
Shoe Salon (53) • Shoes on Two (53) • Aigner Studio (53) • Slipper Bar (128) • Junior Lingerie (115) • Robes (72) • Sleepwear (48) • Lingerie (46) • Loungewear (72) • Slimwear (45) • Studio II (48) • The Pampered Pet • Shops for Girls 4-6x (61) • Shops for Girls (57) • Children’s Lingerie (50) • Infants Apparel (57) • Toddlers Apparel (49) • Boy’s Shop 4-7 (118) • Infants Furniture (138) • Children’s Shoes (74) • Young Juniors (133) • Charles of the Ritz Beauty Salon
Studio III (147) • Geoffrey Beene Shop (147) • Dana Shop (145) • Versace Shop (147) • The Designers (70) • Designer Jeans (83) • Better Sportswear (146) • Meadowbrook Shop (143) • Opulent Dress • Fur Salon (13) • Sweaters and Skirts (30) • Sport Dresses (78) • Sports Separates (83) • Millinery (34) • Beach Shop (122) • Active Sportswear (126) • Skiwear (122) • Young Expressions Sportswear (113) • Young Expressions Dresses (114) • Young Expressions Coats (69) • Americana Dresses • Americana Coats (63) • Leather and Suede Shop (89) • Raincoats (89) • Blouse Bazaar (141)
Glassware (31) • Dinnerware (60) • Chinaware (60) • Silver Shop (35) (120) • Art Porcelain for Collectors (16) • Waterford Gallery (131) • Wedgwood Gallery (60) • Figurines (16) • Boehm Gallery (16) • Gift Shop (87) (108) • Table Linens (84) • Sheets (86) • Blankets (85) • Bedspreads (10) • Pillows (65) • Towels (33) • Bath Shop (134) • Curtains (81)
Book Shop (97) • Trim the Tree Shop (137) • Basket Shop (136) • The Buffet Shop • Pot and Plant Shop • The Kitchen (105) • Housewares (29) • Cutlery • Electricals (12) • Buffet Shop (105) • Art Needlework (65) • Fashions-by-the-Yard (11) • Handcraft Gallery (136) • Fireplace Shop (136) • Crewel-by-the-Yard (82) • Candles (93) • Lamps (93) • Broadloom (92) • Oriental Rugs (91) • Area Rugs (77) • American Express Travel Service
Casual Dresses (54) • Forenoon Shop (160) • Moderate Sportswear (140) • Women’s Moderate Dresses (68) • Women’s Moderate Sportswear (121) • Murray Hill Shop (62) • Murray Hill Coats (90) • Today’s Separates (192) • Miss Altman Dresses • Success Shop • Spare Parts for Young Men (3) • Boy’s Shop 8-20 (58) • Young Colony Dresses (2) • Young Colony Sportswear (6) (64) • Young Colony Coats (5) • Young Colony Shoes (15) • Junior VIP Sportswear (130) • The Shop for Pappagallo (142)
Williamsburg Craft Shop (710) • Hitchcock Gallery (96) • Upholstered Furniture (98) • Living Room Furniture (101) • Furniture (100) • Tables (99) • Mattresses (75) • Recliners (132) • Sofa Beds (132) • Dining Room Furniture (52) • Bed Room Furniture (96) • American Gallery • Charleston Town House
Music Center (88) • Electronics (88) • Records (88) • TV (88) • Toy Fair (56) • World of Games (56) • Sporting Goods • Art Gallery (116) • Collector's Gallery (102) • Delicacies (51) • Charleston Garden Restaurant
(850,000 sq. ft.)
St. David's Square
The Fashion Center
176,000 sq. ft.
There are many reasons why New York City’s patrician B. Altman & Co. store stands out as unique, even among the fine department stores that have graced the streets of the Gotham city. Altman’s began the retail march up Fifth Avenue from lower Manhattan in 1906. The store’s cachet and exclusivity were maintained by its palatial Fifth Avenue home, and a small number of suburban branches, one of which even carried the store’s reputation as far as suburban Philadelphia. The Charleston Gardens, its beloved eighth floor restaurant was unique, even among the most noted of department store Tea Rooms. Uniquely, and practically unbeknownst to shoppers was, however, the store’s defining historical aspect: It was the source of income for the eponymous foundation that was created by its benevolent and thoughtful founder, Benjamin Altman.
The son of German-Jewish immigrants Philip and Cecilia Friedsam, of Memmelsdorf, Bavaria, Altman was born in New York City on June 12th, 1840. Five years earlier, his parents came from Europe, like so many others, in search of a better life in the New World. The Friedsams operated a dry goods store on the lower east-side, and the 12-year old Benjamin began working there in 1853. Eventually, Altman opened his own business at 39 Third Avenue, and nine years later, flush with success, no doubt owing to his astute business practices, he moved the store moved to Sixth Avenue and 18th Street. B. Altman & Co.’s store on the so-called “Ladies’ Mile” was of such proportion and beauty that it became known as the “Palace of Trade.”
|B. Altman & Co. in 1877|
|B. Altman & Co. "Palace of Trade"|
in later years.
The dawn of the twentieth century brought great prosperity and development to New York City which was reflected in the great railroad terminals built to connect Manhattan island with the rest of the country, not to mention local outlying areas which themselves were prime for development. In 1904, ground was broken for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s colossal Pennsylvania Station at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, while rival New York Central System began developing plans for a new terminal at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in 1903. The Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station developments spurred economic development in midtown Manhattan and the retail world began its move uptown. R.H. Macy & Co. relocated to 34th and Broadway in 1901.
In addition, as early as 1893, ultra-wealthy socialite Mrs. William B. Astor moved her home thirty blocks north, on Central Park, and her old mansion was raised to accommodate the construction of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel (which was later demolished and replaced by the Empire State building).
Benjamin Altman subsequently (one should say “wisely”) purchased a lot at 34th Street on New York’s prestigious 5th Avenue, which was then a street of mansions which had been built by the previous generation of the wealthy class in the city. By the time Altman made his purchase, a majority of these mansions were re-purposed to accommodate the small businesses that transformed the Avenue’s character.
Altman’s choice of Trowbridge and Livingston as architects was fortuitous given the fact that the merchant would be the first retailer to leave lower Manhattan for Fifth Avenue. The firm’s work on many deluxe townhouses and mansions in New York City, as well as large-scale structures like the St. Regis Hotel and J.P. Morgan’s Wall Street offices made it an ideal candidate to integrate a large department store into the established character of B. Altman & Co.’s new neighborhood.
The building that they produced was built in sections; the first to go up were 7 bays along Fifth Avenue at 35th street between 1905 and 1906. The Fifth Avenue frontage was completed when Altman purchased the holdout piece of property at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. Trowbridge and Livingston completed the dignified Beaux-Arts style building in 1913 with a 13-store addition to the rear along the block’s Madison Avenue frontage. The overall design gives the illusion that the million-square foot department store is in reality a neo-Florentine palazzo.
|The unfinished building in 1906|
The resultant building is a refined composition of limestone façades, enhanced by a colonnade of two-story windows set between engaged Doric columns. The Fifth Avenue main entrance features a projected colonnade of fluted Ionic columns, and this entrance, like the others, is enriched by curving metal canopies at street level. True to the style chosen for it, the bulk of the building is broken into the previously-described base, a shaft of rectangular windows set in plain limestone, and an exuberant capital consisting of two floors of windows topped with roman arches and surmounted by a deep and vigorously detailed cornice. The Madison Avenue addition of 1914 fit the overall composition, but added more variety in both its details and additional height.
Benjamin Altman did not live to see the completion of the store over the whole block bounded by Fifth Avenue, 34th Street, Madison Avenue and 35th Street. He acquired the whole block on which his store sat by 1910, but he passed away on October 7th, 1913, at his home at 620 Fifth Avenue. He had suffered from heart and kidney ailments for some time, but only retired to his bed on the day before his death, according to his obituary in the New York Times. He was eulogized in a funeral at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue in New York City, at which not only the cream of New York society, but thousands of B. Altman & Co. employees were present.
Altman was devoted in life to his two passions, namely, the department store that bore his name, and to art collecting. As a result of the latter, he amassed a magnificent collection of artwork, including paintings (of which 75 were pieces created by Old Masters), Persian rugs, Renaissance tapestries, Chinese porcelains, crystals and jades valued, at the time, at $15,000,000.00. In fact his estate, which included the B. Altman & Co. store business, was estimated at the time of his death at $45,000,000.00. Intensely private, he devoted his time to his business and to his art collection.
|Benjamin Altman's private art collection|
in his Fifth Avenue home.
His will illustrated core values well. In life he lived as a quiet bachelor and left no heirs though he did provide handsomely for the children of his sister Sofia Altman Fleishman and those of his late brother Morris. One of the two main provisions of the will were the establishment of the Benjamin Altman Foundation, charged with promoting “the social, physical, and economic welfare of the employees of B. Altman & Company, and for the benefit of charitable and educational institutions in the City of New York.” The department store business was owned by the foundation and provided a source of income for it.
The other major gift is known as the Benjamin Altman Bequest to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The wealth and status of Altman’s collection was such that it was widely considered to have, at the time, elevated the status of the museum to one of the world’s greatest. Surprisingly, Altman’s will specified requirements that the collection be displayed in its entirety in their own rooms and clearly denoted as a gift from him, somewhat unusual for such a retiring man in life.
After Altman’s death, the store was run by his cousin Col, Michael Friedsam, himself an avid art collecto rand philanthropist, who joined the organization in 1870 and became a partner in B. Altman & Co. in 1900. After Friedsam’s death in 1931, 42-year old John S. Burke, vice president of the firm, was elected president by the Altman board of directors. Col. Friedsam's will not only left his substantial art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Brooklyn Museum, but also provided funds for the Central Park Carousel and the Prospect Park Carousel in Brooklyn, both of which delight children to this day. Burke carried on the policies and charitable acts of his predecessors and escalated the store’s branch expansion during his tenure, which lasted until his retirement in 1955. His funeral in 1972 was held at St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York City.
In 1955, John Burke Jr. assumed the office of chief
executive, a post he held until the store business was sold off in 1986. Throughout the tenure of the two Burkes,
Altman’s maintained its status as a refined and luxurious shopping destination
with fine customer service and friendly, doting sales personnel. In 1938, the delightful Charleston Gardens
restaurant was opened on the store’s eighth floor, recreating the atmosphere of
a garden at night beside an ante-bellum mansion. Branch development began in 1929 when B.
Altman & Co. opened a small store in White Plains, New York, which was
subsequently enlarged and ultimately replaced with a new store in 1949. Branches carried the cachet of B. Altman
& Co., arguably New York’s traditional department store, to suburban
Manhasset in 1951, Short Hills, New Jersey in 1956, Radnor, Pennsylvania in
1965, and Paramus, New Jersey in 1967. The
opening of the Short Hills store resulted in the closing of a 1930 branch store
in the central shopping district of East Orange, New Jersey, which was subsequently
bought by Newark’s Kresge department store.
|Altman's branch stores in the|
|B. Altman & Co. on Fifth Avenue at 34th Street.|
Another change of ownership two years later preceded the store’s sale to L. J. Hooker, an Australian developer intent on developing retail properties in the USA. Hooker (which also bought Bonwit Teller, Sakowitz and Parisian store chains) had no experience in the running of American businesses, and its one shopping center development in America was the poorly planned, and badly located Forest Fair Mall in Cincinnati. Though it planned to take the Altman name to Buffalo, Syracuse and Cincinnati, the whole debacle of the Hooker period meant bankruptcy in 1989 and the ultimate end of B. Altman & Co. in early 1990.
I fondly remember Altmans; my mother worked part-time in the childrens dept. on the 2nd floor. I was on its 17 Fashion Board in the late fifties while in high school and loved wearing clothes and walking around the store modeling them. Altmans was like a family; Mr. Burke (then President) knew everyone and always said hello to you. I loved the Charleston Gardens where we had fashion shows for teenagers on Saturday morning complete with brunch. And Altmans even had a 13th floor used mostly for stock but not know by many people. M. RedechaReplyDelete
Would the employee thrift shop have been located on the 13th floor? My Aunt Cassie Rutledge worked there.Delete
Very nice, I really like info about each floor. Actually I'm looking for information about B. Altman tables, I have few in my house and don't know where to start. Can you guys help me or give an advice? A. RomeroReplyDelete
I worked at Altman's from 1969 until 1975 in the home textiles division, progressing from an executive trainee to a buyer. Whenever I see the British TV show, "Are you being served," it makes me think of B. Altman and Co.ReplyDelete
R U Ed Walsh ?Delete
I believe I met you when the southern textile mills honored you for your efforts in resisting the flow of inferior textile products from China
Shopping at B. Altman & Co. was magnificient.ReplyDelete
I agree wholeheartedly, that Altman's was magnificent. When just out of college, I took a bargain $35 dollar fare on North Central Airlines to New York with my mom, aunt and cousin. I bought a trench coat from B. Altman & Co. It was beautifully made and served me well for many years. It was most emphatically not made in China, but in Poland, a rarity in the days of East-European communism. I will never forget the older gentleman who sold it to me, with a thick foreign accent, and impeccably dressed. He was doted on me as a young man, and gave me the impression that he wouldn't let me leave the store unless the coat fit properly, and I, as well, understood how to wear it. When I asked if I could pay with a check, he replied with a question, "And why not?"ReplyDelete
Beyond that, however, the store was a beautiful palace of a place, with merchandise laid out as if it was waiting for you just to come in and buy it. I felt they had a knack for having just about the best of anything in stock, and must have known their customer well, to prospered independently for so long.
I was employed by B. Altman from 1978-86 both in sales and later in management. I have many pleasant memories of the store and the level of service that seems to be a thing of the past today. B. Altman was where I developed my taste for neckties. I still have more than a few things in my home from that store including a Karastan oriental pattern rug in my living roomReplyDelete
as it been 21 years already?
As a young man working on Park Avenue and 45th street in the mid-1960's, I took a now 217 year old letter to be framed at B. Altman, probably on the Eight Floor. They did an enduring job, with acid free, archival paper and the proper glass and frame. The letter was written by Stephen Decatur, the father of the more famous Stephen Decatur Jr of " Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!" As an ex Navy Officer, I treasure the letter and my experience at B. Altman on Fifth Avenue.ReplyDelete
Altman's also had opened a short-lived store at Willow Grove Park in suburban Philadelphia in 1982. When Willow Grove opened, it had (as I recall) Bloomingdale's, A&S and Altman's. I guess Altman's thought that their long standing presence on the Main Line would stimulate traffic at the new store. (The Court at King of Prussia, which had opened shortly before, had Bamberger's, Bloomingdale's and A&S.) This Altman store didn't last long; neither did the 2 A&S stores (which were snapped up by Strawbridge & Clothier).ReplyDelete
I too bought a rain coat at Altman's at the St David's store not long before it closed. Last I knew it was a Marshall's/Filene's Basement kind of place in the front (lower level) and a grocery store in the back (upper level).ReplyDelete
I miss Altman's, they had the best store restaurant in the cityReplyDelete
I grew up to the rhythm of Manhattan during the 60's. My most cherished memory was Altman's windows at Christmas.ReplyDelete
The Manhasset store in the 1970's and 1980's was rather run down (even with the new extension); however, the quality of the goods and service made up for it. There was no service better. The only other great store was the Lord & Taylor down the road (first suburban dept store) with a very run down building but great goods and the best service. We always had the same sales associates and they knew us by name. In the 1980's L & T remodeled and then it went down hill fast.ReplyDelete
I have an Altman's coffee table and am trying to find out how much it is worth. I can't find any B Altman's furniture for sale on the internet. Any ideas?ReplyDelete
R U sure the coffee table is a B Altman brand table? Altman's sold various brands in their furniture dept. I have a boston rocker from Altman's (Not sure but I think the brand was Williamburg...but I could be wrong). Regardless, I am not sure Altman's had its own brand. They did have a great furniture selection.ReplyDelete
I have a Twin Canopy Bed with a tag on it that SaysReplyDelete
B. Altmans & Co.
I got it for moving a movie star to our state. My husband has cancer and I need to sell now. Someone please help me if you know how I can do this. I do have a picture 970-618-4760
For those of you trying to learn more about the value of an Altmans piece of furniture try calling Mary at 914.946.9641. She may be able to help you.ReplyDelete
Former Altman's employees family.
I recall some of the furniture at Altman's. Impecable reproductions of period pieces and beautiful dining room sets.ReplyDelete
Least we forget, during the Christmas season, the Fifth Avenue store changed their lamp shades on the counters to red! What a beautiful sight to see. The perfect classy seasonal statement. BTW I am pretty sure that Benjamin Altman died without heirs and left his business to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For years they (or whoever ran things for them) controlled the Altman's stores. In the 80's the court's ruled again this practice (why I have no idea)and well we see what happened. A real estate developer Compo????? bought it, ran it into the ground and now no Altman's. Well not to worry, if it had survived it would now be Macy's!ReplyDelete
I used to work part time at the Manhasset store. It was open Thursday evening and I worked then and on Saturdays in 1964/65. I was a college student. I worked as a salesgirl in whatever department they put me in that day and if someone wanted something gift wrapped, we had to go in the back room and wrap it also. I remember one time a rack of dresses were delivered and they were intended to go to Abraham and Strauss and got mixed up with the Altman delivery, they were tagged and priced. When they were exchanged for the same dress but different rack and price tags for B Altman, the price on them then were much higher. It was a more expensive store but the whole idea was more service and pampering of the customer and that's what the B Altman customer wanted. I met another college student there and we had great fun together. She was a free spirit and was on break from going to University of Miami. All these years later I can not remember her name but can picture her face. We had great fun on our lunch breaks on saturdays. EvelynReplyDelete
Thank you, Evelyn, for this insight into the world of Altman's. I had the pleasure to shop there once, and it impressed me as a great and very gracious store.ReplyDelete
This is very true, the prices were higher at both Altman's and Lord & Taylor while the same items were less at A&S and Macy's. But customers all came to Altman's and Lord & Taylor because of the service.ReplyDelete
For years there was a lovely woman who worked in the housewares dept at the Manhasset Altman's. She also worked in the book dept. I can't remember her name, but she was Polish (with a Polish accent) and she could answer any question about any book. I was once looking at plastic outdoor "patio glasses".... she took me by the arm...said "no" and walked to to very nice glass glasses. She told me they were less money, and were the proper way to drink a beverage...even out on the patio...and what if they fall and break? Well remember they are less expensive.....and can be replaced. That was the perfect service at Altman's.
Today customers are looking for a deal!They expect price breaks and refunds for over pricing. People today will not pay for that old fashion service. I wonder if Evelyn knows this nice lady? I wonder if Evelyn ever served me in the store. What a small world!
And how pleasant for me, that this small world comes together on a site I created about a topic I find fascinating.ReplyDelete
Above you'll find my story of a Polish salesman at Altman's, whom I will never forget, and your story about the glasses reminds me of my family - both here and in Poland - who will only drink tea in a glass (it tastes better), and when they take you by the arm and let you into their world, it can be a special thing.
Thanks for sharing your stories.
When I got my driver's license the first place I drove to was the Altman's on the Miricle Mile in Manhasset. I bought my Mom a Mother's Day gift.ReplyDelete
why do you think B altman and co failed?ReplyDelete
what do you think they could have done to prevent this form happening?
What was going on externally that may have influenced its downfall?
Put simply, it was taken over in a leveraged-buyout, and the buyer went bankrupt because of crushing debt, taking down Altman's and the other stores he owned. My personal belief is that if the store maintained the principles and "style" that made it unique, it had a better chance to survive. Externally, I believe a new generation didn't care about shipping at stores like Altman's; they just wanted a lot of things and were content to go to a warehouse to get them.ReplyDelete
My opinions are just that; I never had to run a multi-million dollar business in a difficult economic climate, and I certainly don't know it all. However, many of us miss the chance to shop at such a historic and beautiful store.
The reason Altman's was sold was because the owners were legally not permitted to continue ownership (MMA?)... then of course the new owner simply used it for the real estate and had huge debt, etc. People who shopped in Altman's never shopped at warehouse stores...today they shop at Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor and miss the old days (as we all do)!ReplyDelete
Hi, I love reading all these wonderful comments about B. Altmans. It was owned by a non-profit organization, the Altman Foundation. The US Government ruled that the store had to be sold due to being owned by a non-profit organization. Why the government ruling I have no idea. In any event, rather than a retailer purchasing the stores, a real estate company purchased the stores for the real estate. As we all know, the flagship store was a whole city block across the street from the empire state building thus prime real estate. Very sad that the building was sold and is no longer a store. What a magnificient store B. Altman & Co. was. - Leslie GatesReplyDelete
thank you Leslie............that is exactly what happened. Today the flagship store is operated as a brance of the NYC Public Library. Altman's is missed by one and all.ReplyDelete
I have pictures of my Great Aunt's who modeled for B Altman's in the 1920's. One picture is of one of them modeling at the Hotel Commodore in 1923.ReplyDelete
I worked for B. Altman & Co. from 1970-1978. I started working on Thursday nights and Saturdays in sales, moved on to suburban assistant buyer and then to assistant buyer. I worked on the third and fifth floors. I enjoyed every minute of it. I took away from there an excellent work ethic. It was all about giving our customers the best service possible. I have very fond memories of the Christmas windows and the Charleston Gardens Restaurant. My sister and mom would come in to the city from Long Island and we would enjoy a great day of shopping . I still have my blue name tagReplyDelete
Great site! Just discovered that an ancestor's first husband worked for Altman's selling furs...around 1920's & 30's. Is there a source for finding employees or photos of employees around this time? Also, did Altman's also sell merchandise on cruise ships? He is listed on several manifests out of Bermuda. Thanks so much for the site!ReplyDelete
I have a wonderful B. Altman & Co. "The Deerfield Collection" full-sized bedroom set that was my mother's. We were going to sell it, but now that I discovered this site, I am less inclined to do so!! My mother loved to shop in the B. Altman in Manhasset and also shopped in the flagship store when she was a younger, single woman. She also loved Lord & Taylor and Bonwits. She was quite fashionable, an Elizabeth Taylor/Ava Gardner type. We still have some of her clothing from that era including the Jackie O style coats and dresses. I could post a pic of the furniture if there is a way to do it. (email@example.com)ReplyDelete
ps for those who like 50s/60s furnishings and clothing, the show Mad Men on AMC (now being repeated on sundays at 6 am from the first season - my DVR is set!), is a spot-on recreation of life and things we wore/used back then.
I worked at Altman's from 1971 until 1981 first as an Executive Trainee, then Senior Assistant Buyer and finally as Buyer of Robes and Loungewear from 1976-81. The store had wonderful customer service and great selection of merchandise. I still have my fur coat (pre-PETA) that is now about 30 years old. Lunch at the Charleston Garden was amazing.ReplyDelete
Adding to some comments above, Benjamin Altman left the store to a NP foundation that had a finite life. It was sold to a Canadian Real Estate Developer who wanted the Manhattan Real Estate Gem - a full city block and had no clue on how to run a store.
I remember B. Altman having early hanging globe light fixtures on it's upper floors. It's main floor also had wood panels going halfway up it's walls. A still elegant store even into the 1980's....MartinReplyDelete
hi from Ireland...ReplyDelete
what a great site....my uncle lived in New York when he left the Navy and worked in Altman's for many years ........are there any photo's of employees does anyone know...
An interesting book from the early days of B. Altman & Co. online:ReplyDelete
B Altman & Company will live in our memories forever!ReplyDelete
When I arrived in NYC in 1985, I applied for a job there. Maybe it's still on file.ReplyDelete
Altman's offered the greatest walk-in feeling of any store -- from the crystal chandeliers to the potted plants. It offered good prices on high-quality merchandise and was simply a joy to see. I went to its closing death-rattle sale with sadness. The library which is using its edifice is great but much less fun.
Does anyone know what the value of a 1920's-30's B Altman fur would be worth or who I should consult?I usually am good with this type of thing. I love the vintage B Altman items I run across many I keep for me :) -I purchased this for resale from the estate of a NYC opera singer. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I worked @ B Altman, while a student in HS..for the Christmas season..they kept very few of us after The Holiday, I was one of them.ReplyDelete
I gift wrapped gifts purchased at the store, that were to be mailed. Because of my work ethic, I was asked if I wanted to stay, I did. I loved working there. To this day, I attribute my greatly admired gift wrapping skills, to my work experience at B Altman's. I was saddened to see that the store had closed, after I moved out of NY NY. Thx for posting this..brings back wonderful memories.
I worked in Altmans on 34th Street from 1975 to 1980 as a college student at Columbia. In the summer of 1977 I went to work for the Manhasset store as my parents moved to Long Island from the city. That year (summer) I met my wife. Catherine worked in the Mens department in Manhasset. We have been married for 31 years and have two sons. I LOVED working in NYC. For those of us who worked there---- remember the 915? Our bedroom set, china and so much of our furniture is from Altmans. My greatest acquisition of course was my wife. Altmans was a wonderful store. I met so many prominent individuals, heads of state. Most important were the people I worked with. Wonderful genteel people- with the quiet elegance of a bygone New York era.ReplyDelete
I worked at Altmans circa 1974/75 in mens' shoes.It was great dept store. I miss it tremendously.ReplyDelete
i worked in b. altmans during high school in nyc. my mother was an assistant buyer in the toy department. several of my friends also worked for b. altman on saturdays during the school year. it was probably during the 1960's. i would love to see some pictures of the store during that time.ReplyDelete
As I was wrapping presents this Christmas I found a metallic wrapping paper for Christmas from B Altman's priced at $2.60. It looks great and modern.ReplyDelete
I worked there 1981- 1985 in Manhattan, N.Y on 34 St & 5th Ave. I worked the Bath dept. Mrs. C was the Sopv. Pat Z. Worked there too. I would also fill in at the Bridal Reg. yes I was sometime Ms Besty Abbott...loll.ReplyDelete
I was able to put myself thru college working here.....
Great memories. I loved working there.....
I was there when that leveraged buy out happened. I was running the Charleston Gardens. I remember the ladies who lunched were always proper with matching coat & hat, gloves and brooch. Everything had to stay the way it always was.ReplyDelete
Anonymous asked about the "Polish woman in the book dept at Manhasset" - you are probably referring to Helen Petracek, who was as knowledgeable as any librarian...I had the pleasure of working with her one Christmas season in the mid 70s...my mother and I were regulars there until it closed November 1989.ReplyDelete
I have a samll but tall side table mark B Altrman & Co. It looks to be a early 1900's style but I can find no Alterman furniture for sale on the Internet. Once trying to look it up it has been facinating reading about this store. Anybody have any views on this table.ReplyDelete
I HAVE 2 FOYER TABLES I PURCHASED AT B. ALTMAN. THEY ARE AS HANDSOME TODAY AS THE DAY I PURCHASED THEM. B. ALTMAN WAS A SHOPPING EXPERIENCE- LOU CARUSOReplyDelete
Does anyone know of anyway to access pictures of the interior of the New York store? I worked in NY all during college I posted previously about working one summer in Altmans Manhasset and meeting my wife there. I would love to see pictures of the interior of the NY storeReplyDelete
I shopped in the Manhasset store in the early eighties as a kid.ReplyDelete
I never understood why they had no escalators, two sets of elevators.
The woman on the PA, system was great. "the B.Altman co. will be closing in ten minutes". They had the best candy department, loved the non-pariels chocolate. It's now a Crate & Barrel, when I go in there I can see a small hint of the store.
I have a tabletop salad dressing set from that restaurant...6 small bottles, in a brass holder. Wacky stuff like "Buccaneer Dressing". They have the most wonderful labels, and I got this set in near perfect condition at a yard sale...always wondered about that restaurant...ReplyDelete
I have a very old chair that has a tag near bottom of chair that says Made in France for B. Altman & Co. Cant find any furniture or reference on Internet. Chair is extremely beautiful. cloth needs repairing. Anyone with knowledge pls email me: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank YouReplyDelete
As is the case with so many long-gone stores, I had the pleasure of seeing the renovated flagship in the last year of operation and was astonished by the glamor revealed after the awful 60's/70's "improvements" were stripped away (my previous unimpressed vision of the building). I remember gawking at the number of fur coats being worn and the sparkling floors, framed oil artwork, and plaster detailing on the first couple of floors. By that time the new-ish owners ran out of money to support the gorgeous institution. Too bad they never got around to fixing up the pathetic St. David's branch that never seemed to get repaired or repainted. Glad to have that last experience in NYC.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much.... yes mrs. Petracek... she was a wonderful woman...knew her books and knew everything else on the floor.... she worked in the book dept and also worked in housewares (but books were her love)... excellent service from an excellent woman.
I have very fond memories from my youth when I would meet my grandmother at B. Altman & Co. and we would have a delightful lunch at Charleston Gardens. It was my grandmother's favorite store. I was so sad to see it close.ReplyDelete
Do you happen to know anyone who would be interested in an original 1920's B. Altman beaded near mint condition Flappers Dress?ReplyDelete
I worked in the Human Resources Department and was the Editor of the very last editon of the B Altman & Co. newsletter. It was an amazing company to work for. It was so sad ater 125 years of successful operation that an Australain real estate developer ran it to the ground in one year. I have the best memories of my years working there and the wonderful people I met.ReplyDelete
I would be very interested int he 1920's falpper dress. You can email me at LIDOCK@aol.com. I tried to reply but the site is not respondingReplyDelete
i have some old b. altman steak knives stainless steel made in franch with brass and bakelite handles.anyone have a clue?I Can,t find a such thing at all on the internet? george.ReplyDelete
My mother was a long time employee of B'Altman's. Does everyone remember the "9-15"? An employee discount second to none! Could it be true we collected clothes and got them at cost? Me and my sisters were always on the best dressed lists! on a "shop girls" salary!ReplyDelete
Does anyone have the recipe for the Honey Bread that could be bought at the bakery at B'Altman's? Bakery the best in NY.ReplyDelete
My father was the store manager of both the Short Hills store (1956-1965) and the store manager of the Paramus store from (1966-approx. 1983). I worked as an assistant buyer in the 5th avenue store back in the late 1970's. Our family grew up with these stores, and our many friends and associates of B.Altman are forever missed.ReplyDelete
I actually sold a Steiff teddy bear to Andy Warhol - while working as an assistant buyer of toys in the 5th Avenue store in the 1970's. He told me it was going to be a birthday present for Bianca Jagger, Mick's first wife. Andy Warhol was a very polite and cordial person to speak with. He certainly was easy to spot!!ReplyDelete
I still have a copy of my Altman credit card.ReplyDelete
I worked at Altman's throughout the 1950's.As I recall the brand name BALTA appeared on shoes imported from England and Italy.The store had a tennis court on the roof for executives.The employees were totally devoted to the company and the company responded in kind.We had a prayer breakfast every May attended by Cardinal Spellman.ReplyDelete
Altman's was the victim of the 80's urge to merge especially from companies that have no idea how to operate a department store. Austrailan real estate developer LJ Hooker built a few malls in bad locations and foolishly thought that the stores they purchsed Altman's, Bonwit Teller and I think Parisians would be profitable. They were crushed in debt and sadly the end of these fine retailers. The 80's was not a kind decade for Department Stores, Campeau takeover of Allied and Federated Department Stores and the end of Carter Hawley Hale.ReplyDelete
Can anyone help?ReplyDelete
We have a wonderful Box retailed by Altman & Co New York, dated around 1909-1911. It is a Silver Gilt Vanity Box of the highest quality made in London by Betjeman & Sons. Any factual evidence of its original owner will be kindly rewarded.
I picked up a beautiful claw armoire on the side of the road back of it has a stamp B. Altman & Co. I loved reading up about how wonderful the owners were to their employees...too bad things have changed so...is this worth muchReplyDelete
I miss the store too. I still have a plaid flannel shirt in the back of my closet in San Francisco from there. Occasionally I will see there label on an old coat or a bar of lanolin soap or an old box fro there and I get choked up.ReplyDelete
I miss B.Altman and Company Store. I worked as a Fitting Room Checker and in the Security Offices with Mr Brandi,Mrs Connie Curcio Secretary, Ms Rosa Rodriguez,Mr Thomas Giolito and Mr ED Gebhard. And with Ms Ana Torres and Mrs Helena as the Checker Supervisor. B.Altman's Store was a Family Store very helpful,courteaous a friendly Store. At Christmas the Show case was very magnificant. The last Christmas was the Williamsburg Colony Beautiful arranged.I love B.Altman and Company Store especially the Designer Clothe. I have a fee into my closet also my Mother and Sister. I miss there so muchReplyDelete
My mother, Eve Campo, worked in the Manhasset branch of B. Altman in the '60s and bought baby clothes for her granddaughter with her employee discount. I found this site researching a toddler's formal hat and coat set with three labels: Small World B. Altman, Mode Enfant, and Hockanum Fabric. Unfortunately, the fine wool has a number of moth holes, but I am looking into French weaving to repair it. I also bought the silk tulle for my wedding veil on the fifth floor of the NYC store. This page brought back many fond memories. icr[at sign]sbcglobal.netReplyDelete
Wow. What happen to all these Wonderful PeopleReplyDelete
It was May 1970 and my girlfriend Mary was working in the store and I met her on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th. She was quite fashionable, as was the store and I remember it well. Sadly, I never saw her again after that day in Spring!ReplyDelete
I currently work there as the B.M. of the NYPL, still a great building.The sole engineer (employee)left from the days of B Altman finally retired last year,his name is Marty.He used to tell me grand stories of what it was like here years ago, when it was the store and how good they were to their employees.Days gone by indeed.ReplyDelete
In reply to June 2011 comments - you have some of the facts correct. B.Altman was run by a foundation, and it was forced to sell because it hadn't turned a profit in over 10 yrs, and couldn't pay it's taxes. The store was purchased by private investors, who did turn a profit. Unfortunately, one partner sold to Hooker & Co, who forced out the other partners & ran the stores into the ground. It was a fantastic place, that in this day & age, we will never see the likes of again. Everyone now loves " big box" and not finery.ReplyDelete
I worked in B. Altman's while in High School during the Christmas season in 1955. They kept me on after the holidays. I worked in the shipping department and eventually trained the new girls on how to pack merchandise for shipping. After I graduated, I worked as a full-time employee and also worked on the selling floors doing special gift wrapping. I also remember the great buys we got in 915. My closest friend was Mary Chimenti. I wish I knew how to reach her now, but don't know her married name. We both worked in shipping. Vincent Palermo was head of the shipping department. I also met my husband Phil Giuliani while working there. I left B. Altman's when I had my child. My maiden name is Rosemarie Tardibuono. If anyone knows Mary Chimenti, I would love to get in touch with her.ReplyDelete
I am so glad to find this site. My grandmother Isabella Klein worked in the engraved stationery department for almost 50 years at the Fifth Avenue store. Altmans was indeed a family store to us and almost everything in our home came from Altmans. I lived in a two family house with my grandparents upstairs so I saw my grandmother daily. If I ever needed anything clothing-wise, makeup-wise or accessory-wise, she brought it home for me. Since we lived on Long Island and Thursday nights were Altmans late nights, my grandfather drove into Manhattan to bring my grandmother and a few of her colleagues home. I usually accompanied him and luckily got to do a little shopping before the store closed.ReplyDelete
Altmans was a huge part of my life and seeing it close broke my heart.
I grew up in Lansing, Michigan. While in college at Michigan State I worked at a travel agency and was receiving travel benefits. I knew "Bloomingdales" was one of New York's big splashy stores, and just before I embarked on my first trip to New York in 1976, I was mentioning the fact to the owner/buyer of one of Lansing's better gift stores who was a client at the agency where I worked. She emphatically informed me that "No, no, no, Bloomingdales is not that great. In fact the very best quality department store in New York City is B ALTMAN & Co" And with that, (though I did still go to Bloomies) I also got down to Altman's, where I bought a nifty sport shirt with the label of an unknown name at that time, called "Polo by Ralph Lauren..."ReplyDelete
Lost my whole comment when the screen went to Google Blogspot!! Try again...This is a wonderful site; departmentstoremuseum and blog. I found it searching for records of the Furniture Department at Altman's. My Mother furnished our apartment, later house, in 1956 from Altman's (and maybe 1 other store). She chose Grosfeld House Furniture, then made in Brooklyn. Mostly traditional designs with a Modern twist. I have been researching two chairs I have left; Regency style sort of. The label mentions "horsehair" as the padding in the back rest; caning on the seat and "latex foam" in the seat cushion. A combination from Thomas Edison creating/discovering "latex rubber" and horsehair leftover from the 19th century! Anyway, I am seeking any paperwork, catalogues, purchase orders from Altmans. Is there any other retiress besides "Mary" (mentioned in 2011 here) who might be helpful? I think the Style 3 is 4362 on the two arm chairs.ReplyDelete
I absolutely love all these posts about my favorite store of all time....I had the privilege of being hired there one Christmas over 30 years ago and I never go long without a cherished memory. I began in the Delicacies Dept. and worked in several areas after that, as I was kept on. I can still remember the plush ladies' lounges and the incomparable Charleston Garden lunches........Oh, please, does anyone have pictures, as those were the days when we did NOT have a cell phone or a digital camera as part of our clothing! I would so love to see pictures of the store as it once was, and my search online has proved unfruitful............SheilaReplyDelete
I am in possession of a beautiful wooden jewelry box with glass top circa 1900 or before, depicting a 17th century man woman and spaniel dog. Clock on wall is at 11:30. (Im thinking p.m.) She is walking to the door and he wants to prevent her departure. I would love to know more about it, the age and purpose of the box and of course value. Now tht I know the history of the company and how cherished the memories of your audience, the box will be preserved and not used.ReplyDelete
The section of this site devoted to Altmans seems to be the one with the most responses. I think this speaks volumes about the legacy of the Altman's culture and people working there. I posted several posts up (I worked there while a college student at Columbia and met my wife, who also worked at Altmans ....now married 32 years.) Everytime I pass the B Altman building I am a 21 year old man again=== in love, hopeful and filled with the bitter sweet memories of the store and the way it left us. Sounds corny but I loved the people and the promise --that one day I too will be an Altmans customer. So many great memories in the B Altman building. The beauty of the store and a young mans heart beating faster as he looked for the woman he loved!ReplyDelete
My grandfather on my mother's side bought my graduation pearls at B. Altman's, and my grandmother, on my father's side, had a gorgeous set of graduated pearls with a diamond clasp, also from Altman's. I still have both sets. So beautiful.ReplyDelete
I had the pleasure of working in the 34th Street store right out of High School 1985.It was the best working experience of my life. I met many fine people & a few celebrities while working there. I started out in the Bottom Line Dept & was in many different dept's after that. I ended up working for Intimate Apparel after it was remodeled ( 2nd floor) My favorite place in the store was The Charleston Gardens. I wish I had a picture of it. I have many fond memories of BAltman & Co. I loved the prize winning Christmas windows. Thank you for coming up w/ this reunion of memories!! There will never be another place like this ever! DeniseReplyDelete
What a magical name: B. Altman & Co! If you spent $50.00 at Altman's you got your $50.00's worth. B. Altman's was absolutely the last of the 'carriage trade' stores where respect and civility reigned. All employees knew each other by first name but out on the sales floor and in front of customers it was always, "Miss, Mrs. or Mr." ... especialy when addressing your manager or department buyer. I worked at the Fifth Avenue store in the 'seventies - sixth floor, Toys (but your directory lists it on the eighth?). The stockroom windows overlooked Fifth Avenue and on a snowy winter day the view was right out of a Thomas Kincaide painting. I remember well the old open-cage employee elevators (employee entrance was on 34th then downstairs to the long rows of dark green metal lockers to hang your coat) and the employee cafeteria (12th floor?)... great mac & cheese! In the late 'eighties I worked at the Fashion Center branch in Ridgewood, NJ. Behind the scenes we used to crack about some of the older and more monied regular shoppers. It was generally accepted you didn't lunch at Charleston Gardens unless you had blue-rinsed hair and wore support hose! While working in the Ridgewood branch I bought my wife a new coat, of course with a generous employee discount. Once while leaving work she had the coat over her arm with that famous label exposed. A co-worker saw it and exclaimed, "B. Altman's?" To which my wife replied, "I said I needed a new coat and my husband brought this home for me." Her friend said, "I wish MY husband loved me enough to buy ME a coat from B. Altman's!" I was with them right through bankruptcy and closure. Sad. The Australian real estate company that destroyed B. Altman's was named Hooker, a name we thought quite appropriate since - as we said at the time - they prostituted the good name of the store. Altman's holiday commercials would always end with the tagline, "Be merry, B. Altman's." That last holiday season a smart-mouthed TV news reporter ended a piece about the store's impending demise with the comment, "Be bankrupt, B. Altman's." It was not amusing. Each Christmas Altman's would put out a special piece of china - usually a mug or cup and saucer - in white with a gold design always with the store's famous caligraphy "B.A&Co" logo and year on the bottom. I have two mugs from the last year, 1990, decorated with the New York skyline: Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Woolworth Building, United Nations, World Trade Center, and of course the Fifth Avenue store. I also have a booklet on the history of B. Altman's put out by the company in the 1960's. Did you know Altman's was the first department store to purchase a fleet of horseless delivery vans? Not for the sake of keeping current but rather to cut out the expense of stabling their many delivery van horses! Altman's always bought the best and they ordered their new electric-powered delivery vans directly from the world's largest vehicle manufacturer - who had also made the store's custom-built horse-drawn vans - Studebaker Brothers. Those last few months at B. Altman's were bittersweet. I do remember the employees organized the Altman's Alumni Association but lost track of it as I needed to get on with my life. Every so often as I pass the Fifth Avenue store or the Fashion Center I remember the last department store where employees were regarded as civilized human beings not associate numbers. Be merry, B. Altman's.ReplyDelete
My father was the manager of the Toy Dept then became the manager of the Fur Dept.His name was John Hill. His brother Eddie Hill also worked there.Delete
Thanks for your memories . . . truly, Altman's was a spectacularly good store, which makes it so much more of a shame that it isn't with us anymore.ReplyDelete
Judging by the number of comments received about the store, we are not the only ones that feel that way!
I would love to see that history brochure - any chance it could be scanned and sent to The Department Store Museum? (email@example.com)
I will try to remember where I have that B. Altman's pamphlet ... I do remember it has a yellowish cover with the caligraphy B.A&Co. logo embossed in gold. When I find it I will try to scan it. By the way, I still have (somewhere) my employee ID and name tags from Altman's and my time at Stern's. Would you believe we have a set of cups and saucers with the B. Altman's stickers still on? I'm beginning to think my house may be a treasure-trove of defunct department store price tags and boxes!
Altman's evokes a lot of memories, and I would think any time you see a tag, box, or anything with the Altman logo, a sense of nostalgia would be summoned.
It would be fantastic to share that booklet with Museum visitors.
Thanks for your interest.
I would like to have anyone who worked in the New York B. Altman's store in the Fine Jewlery Department in the earlier days (50's possibly) contact me. I have been researching a necklace for over 2 years and have not been able to resolve questions I have about this rare and beautiful piece. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org...Awaiting someone please - PatReplyDelete
I am the owner of a B. Altman&Co. Spring and Summer catalog dated 1897. If anyone is interested contact me @ email@example.com BillReplyDelete
is anyone looking any women knit top blouse styled by apollo, new york? or c.crawford HollidgeReplyDelete
In 1989 I bought a charcoal-grey, double-twill tweed, double-breasted overcoat at the Murray Hill Collection boutique at B. Altman's in Manhattan.ReplyDelete
Its not cold enough to have worn it often but I have worn it every year since then.
I brought it to a tailor to let it out a bit last year. He was so impressed with its quality that he threw in a whole new black silk lining and resowed in the original label.
The coat is heavy, warm and timeless. What a great store Altman's was.
I worked at b. Altman's from 1984 to 1989 when it closed up in the customer service dept. Can't remember what floor it was on, but I think it was the 10th floor. I was 17 when I started and thought to my self after a few months, I'll be working here forever. I loved working there...loved shopping there...loved helping customers over the phone. There are so many fond memories I have of this wonderful store. AnitaReplyDelete
As a child, shopping trips to the 5th Ave Altman's were so special to me. When Altman's opened at The Fashion Center in Paramus we went there also...I continued the tradition with my children. Altman's closed,but the original graciousness of the store and it's employees never will. After being closed down, the Paramus store posted a farewell letter on its doors. It thanked the customers and the final line was: 'Altman's. It was always a pleasure'.ReplyDelete
Fascinated to read about such a well-loved store. I only visited it in its death-throes and it was very sad.The restaurant was just-about still there and visitors were very few...I would have loved to have seen it as all your correspondents so fondly describe it. Over here in London we have Harrods and Peter Jones, but B. Altman's sounds even better!ReplyDelete
I know this may be trivia but I remember the first time I was in Altman's in the 1960's at St. Davids on the main line.The parking lot lights were like the ones on the suburban parkways around NYC and the architecture and interiors were exceptional( quiet sophistication) fitting in perfectly to the setting.And to a kid the escalators rode as smooth as velvet.The lady who paged and did the public announcements was from England and added to the atmosphere that was Altman's.ReplyDelete
Altman's... ah, my favorite place to shop. My family's budget was Macy's/Ohrbach's, but for very special occasions we might go to Altman's - and of course seeing Altman's Christmas windows was a "must" for us!ReplyDelete
As an adult, I loved being able to shop there and I still have my Altman's "credit card".
Does anyone remember (this was in the late 1950's or early 60's)the "Penny Bank Shop" - which was set up for children to buy inexpensive gifts for their family members? (And to train a new generation of Altman's shoppers, of course!) My aunt took me to Altman's one year just for this, and when my small purchases were wrapped for me to take home, I also received a little ceramic piggy-bank (about 4" long). Above the coin slot it says "B. Altman & Co." in their classic script, and below the coin slot are the words "PENNY BANK SHOP". I have this piggy bank to this day, and cherish it and the memories it brings back.
Also, does anyone remember their recorded music "loop" that played during the Christmas shopping season? It played just inside the main doors, where you entered the store from 5th Avenue. I can faintly hear it playing in my head: "All the joys of Christmas at Altman's" or something similar. I wish I'd owned a tape-recorder back then, because I'd love to hear that Christmas "jingle" again.
I have so many memories of Altman's - their fabric department (to swoon for!), their incredible notions department, etc. I always felt very "grown-up" buying gloves at the glove bar (and I can picture it clear as day in my mind's eye).
Thanks for having this blog!
No, thank you for your wonderful memories!ReplyDelete
Does anyone have info about a B. Altman & c\Co. store in Cincinnati, OH 1988-1990?ReplyDelete
At an estate sale today I purchased what looks to be a heavy silver poodle face. On the back of it reads "Made in Italy" and B. Altman and Co. Has anyone seen or know what it is worth? Or where I might find info about it?ReplyDelete
B. Altman's was my first job while in H.S. I started as a seasonal packer and was retained through out High School. It was a magnificent store with impeccable standards. The dress code was strict working both on the sales floor and off the sales floor. Does anyone remember the terrific lunchroom with full hot meal service at a bargain cost? Or their employee thrift shop or 9/15 program?ReplyDelete
MUrray Hill 9-7000 listed as the store's number is incorrect. In the 1970s I was an operator on the 10-position cord switchboard at the flagship store. The main number was ORegon 9-7800. The number listed here was used in newspapers and television ads for telephone orders.ReplyDelete
Wow, what a treasure this site is! That it exists in fact, is a testamnet to the social aspect, and not just acquistive nature, of shopping in twentieth century America. The shopping experience was redolant with symblolism. Beyond this was of course the opportunity for exchange; with shop keepers, fellow shoppers and our shopping companions. The gracious halls of all manner of booty was, in some ways, merely a backdrop for our lives. I do remember Altmans with great fondness. The small wall fountains in marble in the foyer ushered one into the hushed halls. Altmans in particular, was an isle of calm off busy 34th Street. The air subtley scented with perfumes on the main floor. Yes, there was something distinctly calming about Altmans compared with other department stores of the period. Always very understated. I suppose this was their downfall; in an era that venerated brash sales tactics, Altmans became an anachronism. Still, I'm glad to learn that others share these same fond memories and recollections.ReplyDelete
I have been searching help relating to the Bakery Department at the Short Hills store circa 1960s and 70s - I am looking for help locating the recipe for the famous Honey Loaf sold in their bakery. I have been working to track this down for years and years. Please send any information you can to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be eternally grateful. I suspect this was also sold in the New York store. Many, many thanks!!!!!!ReplyDelete
Some above says what a treasure this site is - agreed and double agreed. My Mom worked there in the 50s in I believe ladies dresses.ReplyDelete
I have a fabulous faux fur full length coat with B Altman Fifth Avenue New York label, and Styled by Russell Taylor label. Any interest, please email me. Thanks
email@example.com - please title it B Altman in case it goes to spam.
What a glorious website! Tonight I was going through some old boxes and found a small coat that belonged to my daughter when she was a toddler. Since she is 43 I had no idea where it came from but the lace trim was so lovely. I looked at the label and saw Mode Enfant so I typed it in my computer. And there it was. Memories came flooding back about the trip her grandmother and I took her on from Alabama to New York. Tears streamed down my face thinking how many years ago that was. Thank you for making my Saturday night quite eventful.ReplyDelete
30 year ago I bought my first Steinbach nutcracker at B Altman in Willow Grove. It was the first Christmas the store was open and the department was run by an amazing woman Ronnie Graf. I was a part of the staff that trained in the St Davids store, was there at the opening,was promoted to the NY store and was part of the team that came down to close the store. I worked in the Paramus store and ended my tenure at B Altman's in Short Hills. A lot of history, a lot of good memories and wonderful people that helped direct the course of my life. I just put the nutcracker on display it's still in the original box with the B Altman and Co. price tag. If I could have one thing it would be the recipe for apricot croissants. They used to bake them in St Davids and send them to Willow Grove because we didn't have a Charleston Gardens.ReplyDelete
Did the B. Altman company ever make a wrist watch that said B. ALTMAN on the face? I don't know much about the company but as my name is B. Altman and I thought it would be great to have one. If anyone has one for sale I am interested.ReplyDelete
Each time my mother shopped at the B. Altman at Short Hills, she would bring home chocolate brownies from the Bakery. These delicacies were superb!! They were oversized rectangles with a luscious chocolate ganache icing piped on top. In the 1980's the Bakery had to remove the hazelnuts, because some of the older customers were losing their fillings.ReplyDelete
It was not uncommon to see women shopping at Short Hills with their dogs, their bubalas as elegantly coiffed as they.
I was in the Fifth Avenue store one Christmas season, an absolute madhouse! What a stately store - only surpassed by John Wanamaker.
If anyone has the brownie recipe, I would be much obliged. Never tasted a sweet quite so nice since Altman's closed.
Thank you, Paul
I have such fond memories of the 34th street store. My grandmother worked there for many years on the phones taking orders. She loved to shop for me in the thrift store and I must say I was one of the best dressed kids in school. Each season, she'd outfit me with a few dresses and a good winter coat before school started. I distinctly remember entering the store onto those beautifully aged wooden floors and going up the caged elevators. Such an exquisite store down to the red boxes with golden elastic ties. B. Altman's offered me a sense of class as a kid that has remained with me to this day. Beautiful store. Wonderful memories. So sad to see it gone.ReplyDelete
Fifth Avenue Altman's was the place to go with Dad and get your blue blazer and grey slacks. Actually I started off with blue blazer and grey shorts. Different days. Dad was all business, in through the Madison Avenue entrance right into the Men's dept. on the first floor and back out. With Mom, it was enter through Fifth Avenue, walk all 8 floors and have lunch in between. Little did I know that 30 years later I'd end up buying an apartment and live across the street in the former Bond Dept. store building. Very happy this great building was not lost and now houses City University.ReplyDelete
Does anyone know how much vintage Stern's, Baltman and Bloomingdales paper bags are from the late 60's to 70's? I have about 100+ of them. Please email me @ firstname.lastname@example.orgReplyDelete
I remember my mother shopping at the Altman's in St. David's when I was very young, I used to love going there because they had a playhouse in the children's department and we used to always stay for lunch. Glad to see the memories are still alive!ReplyDelete
What a wonderful site it oozes nostalgia. I spent my entire day reading every comment smiling, and tearing with Joy.ReplyDelete
Thanks a million for that everyone.
I was researching a beautiful piece that was given to me 2 years ago.
The Tag on the back of the credenza says "Collectors Group-This piece was handmade by expert cabinetmakers under our supervision
Made in 1935 No. 7031 B Altman & Co"
If anyone has any information please contact me email@example.com kindly use B. Altman as the subject.
B Altman had a wonderful antiques dept and hadReplyDelete
reproductions made, and marked appropriately. The
orginal owner, Benjalmin Altman had a particular
interest in Asia, I think. I have reproductions of
"Japanese Porcelain Ware Decorated in Hong Kong with B Altman" signature. My Mother would make regular trips to the antique departments of both
Macy's and B Altman...walking from Penn Station to
Macy's first and on up to B Altman!
The deep window sills at B Altman were where my 2
very small boys sat waiting with me one summer day and many stopped to admire them in their matching outfits (including saddleshoes) and healthy complexions acquired in Arizona. The boys were fascinated with the hubbub and the steam coming out of the grates in the streets! They loved seeing "Oliver" one summer and "Sound of Music" another. In Phila the Eagle at Wanamakers was the place to meet...in
NYC the window "sills" at B Altman was our spot.
Great memories...thanks for letting me reminisce and read your memories.
Your memories are pretty great, too - especially the ones of your boys on the window sills!ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing them.
My aunt would bring me when I was young to the store during the Christmas season and see and hear the sounds of Xmas as I went thru the store. Little did i know i would be working there in my senior year of high school and thru college. From Staten Island - on the Staten Island Ferry then the R train.ReplyDelete
Has time gone that quickly (1977 - 1983). I worked as a stockboy in women hosiery for many years and worked with many pretty women. The buyer Maryann Visco was a person that was not easy to get along with but I enjoyed it. My boss Allan Ditizon gave me the responsibility of setting up the Willow Grove merchanise as the store was being built in Pa. Then on to import expeditor. I go buy the store from time to time and it brings back found memories of a time gone buy. Worked Thurs night and then Saturday for a whole $3.15 per hour. Had fun there and it was family.Worked during the summers , made some money and even went up the Empire State Building before I left. Reading the comments brought back a flood of memories .Thank You All
I was a stockboy at the St. David's store, in Radnor, PA. It was my first job. I worked there after school, and during the summers,from 1968-1970. I remember I was working there the day we first landed on the moon. I was a student at Radnor High School, and would walk to work after school. If I remember correctly,my suppervisor was Mr.Harry Harris,(the head of Shipping and resieving). I also worked as a dishwasher,and busboy in the kitchen of the Charlston Gardens, in 1970. . It was one of the best jobs I had, and the nicest people and company I ever worked for.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your comments - especially to say "the nicest people and company I ever worked for." How many people can understand what that means today?ReplyDelete
I would love to have an image of the St. Davids store to post, preferably a store rendering like the ones I do show, and certainly from the time that it was B. Altman's, before the demised of this most loved and respected of department stores.
A Mr. Post was an antique and lamp buyer for the New York City store the late 1950s. Does anyone remember him and his wonderful funny stories?ReplyDelete
WHAT A REGAL STORE - MY UNCLE BOUGHT HIS WARDROBE AT ALTMANS - AT THE 5TH AVE STORE - AS YOU ENTERED THOSE WOOD FLOORS - I HAVE A FOYER TABLE THAT I PROUDLY DISPLAY IN MY HOME - I WOULD MEET MY AUNT FOR LUNCH IN CHARLSTON GARDENS - THOSE DAYS ARE GONE BUT MY MEMORIES OF B. ALTMAN WILL LIVE ON. BONWIT TELLER WAS ANOTHER GREAT STOREReplyDelete
I remember shopping at the White Plains store, nothing like B. Altmans, and Bonwit Tellers on 5th ave. Sad day when Bonwits was torn down to make Trump Tower. I have a raincoat from B. Altmans, and my Mom had a desk from that store. When I was a kid, my Mom, would by allot of my clothes from their. Someone needs to bring back both these store, to their former glory, selling high end clothes, and accessories.ReplyDelete
I worked for B Altman's from 1975 to 1985. I started as a stock boy in Manhasset and went on to become a buyer in the New York store. It is Altman's that shaped me into the fine person I have become. It wasn't just another job. You were taught and you were surrounded by the best merchandise and customers. You were treated with respect and a family atmosphere. It was a privilege to come to work each day. As buyers we were treated very well. I loved that no one used your first name on the selling floor. As a buyer, I was able to visit each store location and even helped set-up the Willow-Grove store. When news came that the store was being sold to a group I decided to leave because I knew that life there would change. It broke my heart when the doors closed right after Christmas. Michael MarchittoReplyDelete
I worked at B. Altman's from 1979 to 1984, in the 8th floor Art Gallery, which sold autograph letters, rare maps, rare books and all kinds of art, from the 18th century to the 20th. Robert Tollett, "Bob", was the buyer who found all the treasures we sold. He searched the USA and Europe for the items we sold. It was where the most expensive & special gifts could be purchased. I sold to Dame Joan Sutherland, Jessye Norman, many opera singers from the Met. ,actors and theatre people, writers such as Lillian Hellman. Jackie Onassis, The King of Spain purchased rare maps from the gallery. B. Altman did leave the store to several charities, such at the Met. Museum, and other NYC museums, the 13 Rembrandts in the Met. were Altmans! In the early 1980's, the president of B. Altman & Co. went to Washington D. C. to meet personally with President Ronald Regan, to try and restore the tax exempt status, but to no avail. Slowly the store died and it could not keep up with the other retail giants. B. Altman & Co. had an interior design department which did over parts of the White House, Katherine Hepburn's NYC. brownstone, the renderings of these jobs were framed and placed on the wall of the design Dept. Hattie Green, "the witch of wall street", John Wanamaker and others loaned B. Altman the money to build this, his final store. I remember there was a natural spring which ran under the store, providing each "selling floor" cool spring water from carved marble fountains. The Charleston Gardens Restaurant, 8th floor, served mainly lunches and like Wanamaker's (Macys), in Philadelphia, people say, " meet me at the Eagle', people in NY. would say meet me at the Charleston Gardens". Altman wanted to build on top of the 13 floors and the structure was planned for this when the original foundation was constructed. As far as I know, Altman's was the only East Coast store to have a Williamsburg Shop. Fur repair and cold storage, rare china and crystal, custom designed stationary, watch repair were all in house services.ReplyDelete
My grandmother lived in Manhattan in the 20's while she was at the Art Students League. I inherited a welsh dresser from her that I always adored, and if my memory serves, she bought it used from B, Altman's. does anyone know if they sold used furniture at that time?ReplyDelete
in regard to Sanibelle, 26, April,2013 question concerning used furniture. Altman's sold antiques at one time, I am not sure of these years. I know this to be true as there is a book intitled, "FOX, The Last Word...story of the world's finest theatre" by Preston J. Kaufmann, pub. 1979. This theatre, built in 1929, was as the title state. The furniture and objects, 17th & 18th century European, were from the "Altman Art Galleries. Mrs. Fox used the "real thing", antique items from the palaces of Russia, bronzes and period paintings, needlework, clocks, etc. all from the Altman Galleries. When I arrived at Altman's, in 1979, working in the Galleries on the 8th floor, many 17th & 18th century portraits were being sold, they were also used in displays on the 7th floor, in the furniture department. I purchased an 18th century portrait of William Paley, D.D. on the famous "915".ReplyDelete
I worked after school and all day on Saturdays in the fall of 1967 as a "carrier". I kid you not; that was my title. I would bring packages from the thirteenth floor wrap desk down to the basement on the 35th Street and Madison Avenue corner of the building where they would be sent up to the UPS trucks after men would pull part of the shipping label off of each parcel. The volume of "sends" was enormous Much of the merchandise consisted of children's personlaized backpacks,umbrellas and raincoats. . We used a special elevator located around the corner of the Madison Avenue entrance. The operator was named Mary and I think that she was Irish. The 13th floor also had the tailor who apparently did the alterations for the branches. One day, he had a suit for a customer from the St. David's store and it HAD to get out that day. Every evening, about 5pm, the employee cafeteria would fill up with people who had second jobs doing the paperwork for the mail and phone orders. Saturdays were very,very busy. I would work as assigned and was exhausted by 6pm. One day,I had to go to a sub-basement to fetch an umbrella box and the man working down there looked as if he had been there forever. It was quite a box with the then discontinued"BA&Co" swirly logo in gold. The logo was cut out of the white paper of the box and placed atop a piece of a piece of bright gold paper. In other words, it just wasn't printed on the white paper. Through the 70's and 80's they started to economize on the quality of the boxes BUT they were the real thing nonetheless---not the folding kind. I often thought that they should have tried to capture the children's business of Best & Co. after Bests was sold for its valuable real estate and put out of business by the ethically challenged corporate raider of that era, Meshulam Riklis. Remember the men's store was on the main and sixth floors until it was all consolidated on the main floor. I purchased a camel hair polo coat in 1984 with the Murray Hill collection label. What a fabulous garment and made in USA by union workers. I still have it---a 40L which had to be altered around the waist area. I haven't worn it in years because I can't due to my inability to button it. I hold onto it hoping that one of these days, I will again fit it. Mary was there as late as 1985. Its last Christmas was very sad, the reused "Williamsburg" themed mechanical windows were in a state of disrepair. The sight of the main floor was truly heartbreaking. The salesclerks of today could not even write up a salescheck. I hate to say it, but I think L&T will be next to fall. May Co. really cheapened the franchiseReplyDelete
Found a 4-drawer dresser with wooden knobs and with the Made for B. Altman plate. What type of wood was used? Fine grained. Stain is dark brown. Thx, JDReplyDelete
I had the privilege to work at B. Altman & Co. from 1978 until the last day of 1989. I served in many areas; started in the Executive Training as "Carrier Supervisor". This was such a fantastic place to start a career in retail ... I saw all the unseen parts of this magnificent emporium ... Altman's had its own electrical plant in the sub-basement! Can you imagine that today? My last position was as manager of the Men's Store; I might have left as the company was closing but I can say it was am experience ... I actually teared up that last day as the final group of us walked out the employee entrance on 34th Street for the last time. I ended up moving to Arizona later as there really was nothing to replace the wonderful years I worked and played at B. Altman & Company in New York City! Thank you so much for creating this site! So many wonderful memories here!ReplyDelete
Great Community !!! Does anyone have any information connecting the EARLY B. ALTMANS with the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition ? I have an ancestor who apparently was a buyer for B. Altmans, and supposedly met my GGrandfather at the Exposition because of her work. Any hints ? Thanks for any info.ReplyDelete
I worked at B. Altman in White Plains in the last 60's during the summer. My second summer there I worked in their small shop at the Westchester Country Club. What an experience. People (even kids) coming in bathing suits to try on Fall fashions. Loved the "class" of the stores.ReplyDelete
What contemporary store was B. Altman comparable to? And what can Lord & Taylor do to be more like Altman's?ReplyDelete
More than 20 years ago there was a very long article in an issue of the short-lived magazine Wig Wag about the history of B. Altman & Co., it's last burst of glory in the mid-80's and it's (criminal) demise. If memory serves, Hooker was not just a real estate developer but also ran low-end department stores back in Australia. After he ran B. Altman into the ground, the "gentleman" appointed by the bankruptcy court had a choice between trying to save the store (it had had a record-breaking Christmas only a few years before, so the lemmings in the press were wrong to say that it had been in an uninterrupted decades-long decline) or liquidating it and pocketing several million dollars for himself. He chose the latter course, the swine. I have that issue of Wig Wag somewhere. Would it be possible to upload the article to this site?ReplyDelete
Someone mentioned Best & Co. earlier and I just wanted to reply that, sure enough, once it closed my Mom started taking my younger brother and me to Altman's.
I remember marching down Fifth Avenue in a pro-choice demonstration one day shortly after Altman's closed. There was a break in the chants as we approached 36th or 35th Street and I started to chant "Bring Back B. Altman's! Bring Back B. Altman's" As folks turned around and chuckled or smiled, I added that it had been my Mom's favorite store, and some of them replied that it had been their mother's favorite, too.
Lastly, there's been quite a bit of controversy over the Central Library Plan of the New York Public Library. In addition to selling off neighborhood libraries and gutting the reference stacks at the 42nd Street Library, I believe I read somewhere that the B. Altman site might be on the chopping block, too. If you're interested, The Nation published an investigative report about it a few week's ago, and you can learn more at www.SaveNYPL.org (The Committee to Save the New York Public Library).
Charles K. Alexander II
Went to Colonial Williamsburg to research our menu for that promotion. Lovely. Fife and Drum playing on the escalators. I have a pic of my husband and I at a Juvenile Diabetes black tie function on the furniture floor.ReplyDelete
Loved the Charleston Garden. What a challenge that was to manage!
I really enjoyed this post, especially the personal experiences recounted in this comment thread. I'm researching the history of the Altman building and store for a NYC BID, and am looking for corresponding visuals.ReplyDelete
There are images aplenty of the building, and while those are great, there seems to be a lack of visuals that convey the warmth and personal histories so sincerely expressed in this comment thread. Would you know of a source of materials for Altman ephemera? Most seems to be buried in personal collections or in the chasm of Ebay.
Thanks again for this post and your website.
I have wonderful memories of your Dad and how gracious he treated me as a young Asst,and later Buyer whenever I visited his store, Ed Ward 1957-1988ReplyDelete
I kid you not.I had the same first job at Altman's in the fall of 1957 after school and on Saturday'sReplyDelete
Mary was the operator of the elevator to 13 and the trip to the sub basement for wrap desk supplies was often scary due to the "resident" stock room supervisor who was rumored to live there 24 - 7 and spoke to no one. 30 Years later I left the then sinking ship, set in motion from within by new management who were looking after their own interest rather than the Altman customers and employee's
I worked part time in Sales Audit starting in 1975 for a few years. A wonderful department run by two gentlemen and I often wonder what became of all of the staff. It was either the 11th or 13th floor.ReplyDelete
My Dad worked there as well as my mother and uncle. My Dad was the manager of the Toy Dept. then moved to the Fur Dept. ( cold storage ) where they would store all the fur coats during the summer time, I guess for customers. I remember him letting me put papers into the glass tubes that were placed into the pipes and it would be carried all over the store by suction. During the late 60's when I was born, my older brother had every imaginable toy you could think of, Corgi cars GI joe you name it. I remember he telling me when he met the inventor of silly putty. My dads name is John Hill and his brother Eddie Hill worked there also. He would eventually met my mother there ( Maureen Foden) and then marry her. I can still remember the way the restaurant would smell like in the morning and how the dome ceiling looked like back in the day. Then when we left at the end of the day we would have to leave using the workers exit.ReplyDelete
My Grandmother Helen Bruckner (Sales in the infant Department) got myself and my 3 brothers jobs at Altman's where we worked in the 70's and 80's, we all worked basically as stock boys thru High School and College, my brothers are Shawn, Danny and Jim. I have the fondest memories of Altman's starting from when my Grandmother, when we were young would take us in from Queens Village on the F train to that majestic edifice with the chandeliers and red carpet (Christmas-time). Long story short I've never again had a job where I was treated so well from everyone, it didn't pay much (well I was mostly a stock-person) but met some great New Yorkers from all the boroughs.I worked in the receiving department for Tom Charwood (not sure of the spelling). I also worked in the basement and on the freight elevators and remember the employee cafeteria on the 12th floor where for like 2 bucks you could get a complete hot meal.I also wish someone had photos of the inside of the building. I also met my wife of 27 years at Altman's. It remains a magical place of my youth in my heart, thank you Altman's and all the wonderful people who worked there that I had the good fortune to meet.
What an interesting site! I've just been given a wonderful antique table that boasts a B Altman sticker underneath. Looking at the style of the logo (and the table itself, which is a refectory style) I believe it could be from the rather early days of B. Altman history. Do you have a record of the logos attached to ranges of dates by any chance? I'd love to have an idea of when the table might have originally been purchased--although I suspect the table itself may have been antique already at the time of purchase.ReplyDelete
I was the stock boy for your Dad & Edna Cronin in the late 50's also hung out with him as he was the "Mayor" of Hoboken where the cost of a night out was less than half the prices in the cityReplyDelete
I remember great times with John at Edna's sailings to Europe and how quiet it was at work when she was away!!!lol
Work for Eddie also on occasion in the gift shop and still treasure the Seth Thomas Westminster
clock gifted to me and my late wife when we married in 1968
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for some answers to your questions Re: Altman's failureReplyDelete
Back in the 50's we took the tubes or bus to NYC from Jersey, and then walked to B. Altman and up Fifth Avenue checking out the storefronts around Christmas time. Altman's had a quiet elegance and was among the finest! I often think of those days gone by. I am now a Floridian.ReplyDelete
I found this site while researching a gray rabbit fur hat designed by Sally Victor (a famous hat designer), and bearing a label that reads B.ALTMAN & CO., The Young Colony Shop. It was probably made in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The hat is of the finest quality and speaks to the kind of store B. Altman must have been. I truely wish it still operated. Thankfully, its legacy lives on in the memory of all who have commented above, and in its great products that still survive.ReplyDelete
Today I was browsing through our local Salvation Army store - a hobby of mine to find old, unique items. I came across a long black fur coat with a brown fur collar. It has the B. Altman & Co. tag for New York City. It is absolutely stunning and fit me, so I bought it for $19.99. I then came home to look up this site, and it has been wonderful reading all of your posts and the history of this store. It takes me back in time to before I was born and tells a beautiful Christmas storyReplyDelete
I worked in the printing dept in the 60's. I heard B. Altman & Co was a not for profit organization.ReplyDelete
I found a new women's Fairbrook wool coat with the original B. Altman tag of $359.90 made from Scottish wool. I paid $12.99 at The Salvation Army on 46th St in NYC.ReplyDelete
Hello all! I worked at 34th and 5th from 1979-1989. I started part-time while in college and then went on to be a Section Manager, then Floor Manager, then finally a manager in the 10th floor Credit Department. I think I worked at some point on every selling floor as well as in the basement, sub-basement, and on 10. So I saw almost everything: the old tube system that carried inter-office mail, hidden elevators, behind the scenes views of the Christmas windows, and much more. - Phil Fennelly.ReplyDelete
I inherited my great-aunt's embroidered handkerchiefs from B. Altman and Co. She has long since passed away, but I feel a special connection every time I touch the careful stitches of our shared initials. Some things are timeless.ReplyDelete
Hi, I too was an employee of the amazing NYC B. Altman & Co. store. I worked on the 12th floor, in the Medical Department from 1974 - 1976, at the age of 21. Do you remember the store's Medical Dept? We were next to the employee's cafeteria. I remember the smell of the liver and onions cooking and wafting into our office. I had never tasted this dish before, but it smelled marvelous, so I gave it a try and LOVED it! Anyway, I admired the way B. Altman's treated it's employees and it's customers. As one of the receptionists (there were two - Emelia Tedesco was my fellow receptionist.) We worked together, full-time. We were busy all day long. Besides us, there were 6 full-time RN's, a Laboratory Technician (who did blood tests and other tests for employees), Social Woker, Physical Therapist, Dentist, and Dental Assistant, and full time secretary (Edith Olmeda, my friend), and of course a Physician and a Cardiologist. There was a Men's wing and a Woman's Wing. The Medical Dept. did the screening for new employees and if you needed medical attention they took care of that too. If your doctor ordered blood work or you needed physical therapy, it was all free to employees! If a customer got hurt or needed a Band-Aid they were treated here. I remember one time there was a thief who was caught in the act and tried to run away, he crashed through the stores front glass door and he was taken upstairs for us to treat - he was covered in blood! I also remember the head nurse saving the life of a little girl who was playing with a balloon when it popped and it lodged in her throat and she was not breathing.ReplyDelete
I remember the Charleston Garden, but I never had enough money to eat there; there was even a cheese department right next door to the restaurant on the 6th floor - Mr. Phelan worked there at the time; and, the little counter on the 1st floor that sold pretty things for your pet- outfits, rhinestone collars and even little raincoats and boots for your dog! I purchased several items in the Employee Thrift store which had GREAT prices! 10 cents for a child's little bikini and $10 for a London Fog trench coat. In the China Dept., I purchased my china with my employee discount at a very reduced cost before I left my employment to move to Smithtown, NY. Before I left in 1976, there were some changes that were made. Older employees were pushed out, I believe the cut-off age was 65, but I could be mistaken. These employees KNEW their departments like the back of their hands, they were faithful, loyal and trusted employees, but it did not matter. B. Altman's still took care of them medically though. So, I did see them again and it was so sad because they had lost their life - their life was B. Altman's. Now they did not know what to do with themselves and several of them died shortly after. But, I do not know of a store that treated their employees as well as B. Altman's did and it was so sad to see it go. On my last day of work there, Edith took me to the top of the Empire State Building (across the street from the store) and to lunch in one of the restaurants on the 1st floor of it. I had never been to the top and I will never forget it and the wonderful store across the street! Thank you for this site and the memories. Kathy (Chiaravalle) Strawn
I recently found a B. Dalton newspaper insert, color, 8 pages, from perhaps the mid-1950's. I wish I could post photos for you to see here.ReplyDelete
How well I remember B Altman & Co. Anonymous from April 25th , 2013 mentioned he/she worked in the 8th Floor Art Gallery. How well I remember that piece of History and Bob Tollert. My partner worked in that department for many years, including the time mentioned by Anonymous. I too remember him telling me he sold to Joan Sutherland as well as many others. I still have a collection of Rare Maps and many Signed Framed autographs purchased there. Mt partner passed; but reading about B Altman has conjured up many beautiful memories and brought back the incredible times I visited Bob Tollerts apartment looking at his amazing collections. LenReplyDelete
My best friend and I worked as "Saturday Extras" at Altman' while we were college students - from 1951 to 1955. I remember the dress code - ....navy blue dresses, stockings, and dress shoes with a heel..We wrote our orders in a book - or if it was a charge account, sent the metal plate and papers up somewhere in a pneumatic tube. Whatever I learned about porcelain figurines. copper chafing dishes, etc. I learned at Altman's - Incidentally, we were paid $1.00/hour.....I still think it was the best job I ever had - we met such marvelous people who shopped in our department.ReplyDelete
my name is Robert Martinek ( Marty ) & I worked at B Altman & co from 1973 to 2009 , I am the last B Altman employee to work there, I was one of the 8 people from the eng/mant deptReplyDelete
that the new owners kept on to maintain the bldg . As parts of the bldg. where sold off the # of
man went down to one ( me ). I could go on all day about how great it was to work there but
all the other comments says it all . I have storeys from my 37 years & from people that were
there for 50 ,60 years ,all loved working there . someone asked about a b altman watch,yes they did make one ( I have one ) I also have a b altman camera, do you remember the wolf in sheeps skin doll ?
I worked at the Paramus store from 1969 until 1975. I was dept manager in Juniors, Misses Sportswear. Are there any employees around from then?? email@example.comReplyDelete
I remember that Buffalo, NY almost got its own B. Altman & Co. store...almost. It was built at the then-new Walden Galleria mall. The 2-story building went up, the name went on the outside, and it was fitted out with beautiful fixtures and furnishings...you could see through the gaps in the papered windows at the mall entrances, ("Opening Soon"). But it never opened as B. Altman. It had the unfortunate timing of being built just as the company went under, So the store sat finished but without merchandise for several months, until a deal was worked out that local store AM&A'S would take over the building instead. But not before much of the beautiful furnishings (including some antique fixtures, I'd heard) were removed and replaced with more standard department store fixtures. It still became a nice store as AM&A's, but not the same as it might have been.ReplyDelete
I remember that Buffalo, NY almost got its own B. Altman & Co. store...almost. It was built at the then-new Walden Galleria mall. The 2-story building went up, the name went on the outside, and it was fitted out with beautiful fixtures and furnishings...you could see through the gaps in the papered windows at the mall entrances, ("Opening Soon"). But it never opened as B. Altman. It had the unfortunate timing of being built just as the company went under, So the store sat finished but without merchandise for several months, until a deal was worked out that local store AM&A'S would take over the building instead. But not before much of the beautiful furnishings (including some antique fixtures, I'd heard) were removed and replaced with more standard department store fixtures. It still became a nice store as AM&A's, but not the same as it might have been.ReplyDelete
My mother took my to modeling classes at Altman's when I was a child (1960s); does anyone know anything about these classes?ReplyDelete
I, too, loved the store. I shopped at the St. Davids, PA where I bought a breakfast room table and chairs to establish credit. I was always amazed at the unadvertised sales I could find. It's been many years since that store closed its doors and I miss it to this day. Thanks for all the memories.ReplyDelete
I too was a B.Altman& Co. employee at the White Plains store in NY and I remember a similar situation to the account of the other employee who recalled how a rack of clothing intended for Abraham and Strauss had come into the store and was ticketed, only to (somehow) find that when they were returned to A&S their prices were immediately reduced. I want to suggest that people be careful to not take that difference at face value because many things influence pricing the volume of sale and term of contract that one store has with the vendor vs. another,as well as the time of year and when they arrive relative to the dates of their various sales and promotions. The delay of just a week could cause a rack of clothes to change price if they missed the date of a promotion or, as would not have been the case with Altman's, the goods are seconds,sometimes in ways that would not have been recognized by the average shopper. So even though an identical style of garment might be sent to two stores, one could be slightly flawed and intended to be sold at a reduced cost by a discount chain while the "same dress" which is not imperfect will be offered at the regular price at the non-discount store.ReplyDelete
I hope Marty sees this... I would like to know which location of the store he worked for after the store was closed for business? I remember driving past our old location in White Plains long after the store had been closed and I remembered how long it took me until I sent up to the windows and peeked at the view inside from around the oversized sheets of paper that were covering the big windows at the entrance from the garage and taped up from the inside. With time they shifted some, and I was finally able to bring myself to go and have a look around, because it was so sad for me. Working at Altman's was my first job, and Mr.Carolin the longtime store manager inspired a work ethic in me that has never left to this day. And come to think of it, this was the last place where I was addressed by other,older employees as "Miss Casey" when I moved to managing the Jr's division in the store..ReplyDelete
miss casey I worked at the 5th ave store from oct 73 to dec 09 . I was involved in the demo of the inside,ReplyDelete
cleaning of the outside & everything else that went on to change the bldg. to what it is today
My name is Frank Albanese, I worked in the Paramus branch from Sept. 1975 until March of 1978 when I transferred to the warehouse in East Rutherford, NJ. I worked there until Feb. of 1984 when I left for another job. I have fond memories of my time working in those two locations. You might say I grew up around Altman's being my father (same name, he was Jr. I was actually the 3rd) worked there for many years until he passed away in 1977. I was wondering if there any other former employees of those two locations hanging around this sight.ReplyDelete
First of all ~I dearly loved working at Altman's~! Besides "Miss Casey" I also used to be called "Miss Altman" by the other employees because I was so enthralled. But this is my most outrageous recollection of my earliest years of employment in sales and as Group Manager of the Junior Division at their White Plains branch I well recall how some people would try to return a dress that looked exactly like one in our stock, except that it was from Alexanders across the street which sold drastically discounted seconds and the label in the dress had a distinguishing mark of some kind prominently indicating that it was of second quality. (Note that our store only sold first quality goods so we could not just put such an item back into our stock). Sometimes they would just swap boxes so I would see the actual receipt from Alexanders fall out when I opened and laid the dress out flat on the big counter top. Even when it was plainly clear that they had no receipt showing that they bought it from any Altman's store, and they were instantly combative including a raised voice and intention to create a scene, we would patiently explain why we couldn't take it back and politely send them on their way. THEN, I can't count the number of times when they would march up to the store manager's office and give the kindly gentleman running the store an undeserved ration and he would respond by not only granting the refund but he would send them... with no exaggeration here... A BOUQUET OF FLOWERS THE NEXT DAY!!!!!!!!!! This is the absolute truth! And when he would subsequently come down to talk with us (that is, me or whoever else who directly handled the situation, since this predictably happened to everyone one of the core staff in the ladies dress department over time) we would explain that we responded in exactly the way we were trained. And he would say it was okay with a big smile. And he seemed to not worry about how this opened the flood gates for our paying top dollar plus tax for every shoplifted, doubly marked down, out of season, or three year old worn out dress brought back without tags or receipts! And they learned how they could pick out a "comparable" dress to their liking and bring it up with the fraudulent one and ask to use it for the basis of their refund! It was a throwback to another age when the majority of people shopping there were honest and the store's philosophy was that it was better to pay off a thief than to risk treating an honest customer like one, even if it opened the floodgates for further abuse of our corporate good nature.ReplyDelete
"Miss Altman!" - Thank you for posting your entertaining and interesting story. In some ways we have ourselves to blame for not having an Altman's around anymore, and what you experienced supports this theory. At some point there become more thieves than the honest ones, and everything goes to hell from there. The other point of your story is that it illustrates what a fine store Altman's always was, and how fine their staff, too.ReplyDelete
Moving house and packing up cupboards I have not looked in for years! I opened a box that I had a vague memory of it as I had put a small piece of tape to the back of the hinge. On opening I was breath taken. The box contained the most beautiful padded satin silk inner and the name * Altman & Co. New York * The most beautiful pair of shiny white metal ? encrusted with diamantes hair adornments and a large slide also encrusted and so beautifully made. I guess from 1930s. So now I have read so many lovely stories on this site of this fab store too. I am supposed to be packing!ReplyDelete
Queen Kapi'olani of Hawai'i ordered her famous peaock-feather panelled Court Dress for Queen Victoria's Jubilee from B.Altman. While it is probable a Hawaiian artist in her entourage was responsible for the original design (and laborious collection of peacock feathers from the flocks residing on estates in the Waikiki vicinity), a woman at Altman's helped advise Her Majesty on color and the incredibly elegant and elaborate dress was sewn there. Wish the records from the Altman's of the time could be accessed...to see if this order is documented. The New York Times of 1887 goes into considerable detail about the Queen's purchase, and how pleased she was with Altman's.ReplyDelete
Found a Victorian Loose Pillow Back Sofa for Traditional Vintage Living Room Parlors with B Altman tag dating 1929. I am looking for more information on this piece before me and the wife try to restore it.ReplyDelete
Reading all these recollections from former Altman employees has triggered many of my own fond memories of working at B. Altman & Co. In the interest of sharing some of the names of the wonderful people I had the pleasure of working with, and putting them down before they are lost to memory!, I felt compelled to add my two cents to this "living" history.ReplyDelete
I worked for B.Altman from 1975 to 1982, first in the White Plains store, then Paramus, a short stint in the Treasurer's office in the Executive Suite on the Fifth Floor, and then back to White Plains before moving on. I started in Sheets and Pillows in 1975 in White Plains. It was a large department. Edith Pickens, Margaret Thalman, Mary Brownie, Mary Jane Chitti, Mary Worthington, Jane Brissette, and I went through two White Sales together. Remember those? Mary Lee Murtaugh was our group manager (merchandising) and Ed McConnell was the Section Manager (administration) on the first floor. John Carolin was the Store Manager and Frank O'Keefe was the Asst Store Manager. After six months as the "Sheet Head", I was asked to become the Personnel Manger to replace the gentleman who left. In this position I got to know all the employees personally through the annual salary review process. I got to oversee the process and distribute the annual $2-$5 per week raises. Don't spend it all in one place! It was a different time. The employees never complained. They loved working there.
As Personnel Manger I also got to work closely with the cadre of Group mannagers and Section Managers who ran the store with Messrs. Carolin and O'Keefe. On the first floor, there were Mary Lee Murtaugh, Joe Taliani, Donna Smith and Joe Godfrey. On the second floor-Jean Huffert, Vera McGuinn, George Marx and Walter Brown. The third floor was all Gerry Bolton (Furniture and Carpeting), and I should also mention Mike Wall who was the King of Carpet Sales. They were all such wonderful, caring individuals, and consummate professionals.
I moved to Paramus as the Asst Stoe Manager to Tommy Vier. Mr. Vier was a truly wonderful gentleman and a pleasure to work for, but after a very short time I was pulled into the NYC store to work in the Treasurer's Office for John Casey and Wes Lang. John was the Treasurer and We was his boss, the Chief Financial Officer. His office was next to Mr. Burke's (with his own private elevator). John passed away recently, much, much too young. We had some good times together. An Irish gentleman who knew how to get the most out of life. I still miss him.
In NYC I also got to work more closely with some of the great people in Personnel(it didn't become human resources until later) at that time: Doris Robsky, Dick Jones and George Carhart. In Payroll there was Mr. Savino and his valued assistant Neil Cox. Great people, great memories.
I hope that by mentioning as many names as I can remember, I have triggered some positive recollections of those halcyon days at Altman's. It was one great big family...once there was a Camelot.
Nice memories, and thanks for sharing them with anyone who cares about this late, great store!ReplyDelete
Love this site-at the auction of the 34th st store I purchased one of the waterford chandelairs. I was told these chandelairs were pre depression era however no one at waterford could verify this. I believe there were six in total. Anyone have any info on these chandelairs please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. ThanksReplyDelete
Hi Anonymous this is Marty , I worked at the fifth ave store for all of my 37 years with Altmans,ReplyDelete
I was 3 floors below the street in the eng room. When I started we were still making 40% of our own power (DC),a lot of the pumps, motors, fans & equipment were (DC),there was 5 hi pressure boilers (150) lbs steam to run the steam engs witch made (DC) ele to. It was realy great to work for Altmans its something I,ll never forget
I just purchased a batch of linens at an auction and was delighted to find a pair of all linen sheets tagged "Made in Ireland expressly for B. Altman & Co. New York. They were never used and still tied with white ribbon. I wish the department stores of today were like the much loved Altman & Co. Class always wins.ReplyDelete
I agree wholeheartedly - but class loses out in a society that doesn't recognize it and elevates sloth and laziness. I am sorry that I feel that way, but it's true.ReplyDelete
Any idea about date of this logo?ReplyDelete
I believe the hat (P. & C. Habig Vienna) was made in 1906 so the same year the store opened at this location.
Here is the hat.ReplyDelete
Some more photos of the P. & C. Habig Vienna Derby (Melone in German).ReplyDelete
I have four cane chairs and drop leaf table with drawer that belonged to my great uncle Duke. I do not know when they were made all i know is the backs and seats are cane. Can you help with some possible details.ReplyDelete
Circa 1963-1964 I worked at the 34 St store for Mr Papp & Mr Robbins in Store Supply (Forms, paper clips, etc.) then Long Island City Warehouse, then back to 34 St Gormet section on the ground floor. I remember the great food at the employee cafeteria. Met a sales girl from Norway and dated for awhile. I remember Flying Squad (9?) which was a fill in group of sales people . Remember Sue Simmons (Simpson ?) and Vickie Amos Executive Trainees (?)ReplyDelete
Sometime after Jan 1964 I left for employment with the Bowery Savings Bank-training at the 42 street branch, and then assigned as a teller to the 34 street branch right across the street from B. Altman's until I got my Draft notice and enlisted in the Navy Dec 1965.
Feb 1970 sworn in as a New York City Police Officer.Retired Homicide Detective.
I run an auction house in South Carolina and have come across a table from the B Altman store. If you would like to take a look at the piece go to www.gallery95auction.com and look at lot #413ReplyDelete
I have great memories of going to B. Altman's on 34th St. with my late mother, who had gotten her first credit card there in the 1940's. We would stop off at Charleston Gardens for a late lunch; I'd usually order the tea sandwiches and we both loved the lemon chiffon pie. A few times they would be out of it, and that definitely was the low point of our day.ReplyDelete
I've been trying to find a recipe for that pie, does anyone know of one?
My Mother, Eileen Spencer (Maiden Russell), was a manger in the toy department in the 1950s. She was from Scotland. I would love if anyone had photos of her or the toy department at that time. She has since passed on and told very interesting stories about her time there.ReplyDelete
My Father, John Hill was also a manger in the toy department in the 1970s. I think I have a picture of him working there.ReplyDelete
Love this site! I walked through the first floor of Altmans for many years in order to go from 5th Ave to Madison Ave. My apartment was on 38 St between Madison and Park. It got me out of the elements, but most of all I enjoyed the total experience of shopping there. I am an artist, taught Fashion Illustration at Parsons School of Design for decades. The Charleston Gardens murals intrigued me since the 50's. I wonder who painted them? And if they are still in existence? I am now retired from a teaching career and a career in Fashion Illustration. As per Fashion Illustration is no longer. I am a Plein Air painter and occasionally do mural work. So much artful inspiration came to me from sitting having tea with my girl friends in The Charleston Gardens resturant at B. Altmans. We'd bask in the glory of those marvelous murals with southern style balconies thickly hung with Spanish Moss. I would love to see PICs of them now. Does anyone know if such PICs exist? And who was the artist? Thanks, BobiMMReplyDelete
I am very happy that you got to work for B Altman all these years but I have to inform you B Altman closed in 1989 early 1990 you said you worked for them until 2009? They were long gobe before 2009 sorry to inform you.
I have a gray plastic card that reads carriage check Madison Avenue entrance. B Altman & Co. It has the number 132 on it. Anyone know what this is or what it was used for? Can't find any info at all. Please email me at email@example.com. Thanks paulaReplyDelete
Hi Charlie A Federico , if you go back to my post on (23 may 2014) I state that I was one of 8ReplyDelete
men that the new owners kept on to keep up the bldg . I retied (Dec 2009) I started (Oct 1973)
that makes just over 36 yrs & I am still the last of the old B,Altman employees to leave the BLDG
There is a very unnusual furniture from Baker's Furniture that was sold to B. Altman. I don't know how it traveled to South Florida but here is the listing:ReplyDelete
Real-life working and shopping at B. Altman & Co. was reminiscent of fictional life at Bailey Brothers Building and Loan in the Capra film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I can’t explain it any better than that.ReplyDelete
I started working at the Short Hills store as a waitress in the Charleston Garden, on Thursdays after high school and on Saturdays . . . by law, I had to wait until my 16th birthday (my first job). In the early 1970s, stores weren’t open on Sundays nor every weekday evening. One year during the summer, I started working in the bed linen and bath shop. In between college, after my father moved to New York, I again worked in the bed linen and bath shop, only this time in the Manhattan flagship store. After a time, I was offered a position in the Treasurer’s Office. While waiting for that position to open, for a few months, I worked in the accounts-payable office.
Working in the treasurer’s office was a real treat. The treasurer’s office was next to the chairman’s office. (The president’s office was on a different floor.) I had the privilege to know and work with Mr. Burke and his secretary Miss Baer (well, mainly Miss Baer), Mr. Lang and his secretary Miss Sherry, and of course, my boss Mr. Casey. Yes, in those days, and especially at B. Altman, you were addressed Mr., Mrs., or Miss. And Miss Baer and Miss Sherry were referred to as secretaries, not assistants. Also in my immediate office was the indomitable Miss Rubin, who could outpace any electronic calculator with her manual desk calculator, and Bessie Freundlich.
My responsibilities included handing out the buyers’ and some of the officers’ paychecks (no direct deposit in those days), and so got to know everyone. Among others, there was Mr. Giattino, the furniture buyer, and Miss Turbe, the bath-shop buyer. I can’t remember his exact title, but Mr. Johnson was someone who always had a quick step and glad handshake at the ready. He was responsible for the mechanics, and the basement always was kept immaculate, so clean it was said that you could eat off the floor. His guys were responsible for constructing the wondrous holiday window displays, which were built from scratch, new ones every year.
So many stories to tell, but not enough space here. However, I do fondly recall a few of us from the treasurer’s office occasionally having black-and-white sodas in the board room when Mr. Burke was away, only at the invitation of Miss Baer, of course. The sodas came from the employee cafeteria.
At the time, although I don’t know if it still holds true, only two whole city blocks were privately owned: one was B. Altman and the other was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Everyone at B. Altman & Co. was a real gem. You name it, behind the scenes, on the selling floor, or executive offices, it didn’t matter. We were a family.
B. Altman & Co. employee ~1974-1984
Going through some old things in a box, I found a 1917, November 20 to December 22 catalogue. Such beautiful things!!!ReplyDelete
Amending my earlier post, my tenure at B. Altman & Co. was ~1974-1979.ReplyDelete
Hello Miss O`Hora my name is Marty & I worked for Mr Johnson in the eng room 3 floors below the street from oct 73 till dec 09, as I said in my post of (23 may 14) I was the last of theReplyDelete
B,Altman emp,s to leave the bldg., You are right we were all family & it was a great place to work, that's why people stayed there for as long as 65 years. You stay well
Hi, Marty, it's so nice to hear from you. Mr. Johnson personally took me on a tour of the basement. He was very proud of that place and you guys. --ElaineReplyDelete
The thrift shop moved down to the eighth floor and you could shop until you dropped for just 0.25ReplyDelete
Cassie was the manager for as long as I can remember and it was very busy on payday (Wednesday's)ReplyDelete