The Ladies' Mile: Shopping District of the Gilded Age!


Of course you’ve seen them—the massive cast-iron and masonry buildings that line 6th Avenue and Broadway just above Union Square, today holding Trader Joe, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and ABC Carpets. But who built these behemoths, and what kind of emporia could fill these entire structures? Let’s answer those questions by discovering the booming shopping culture of Gilded Age New York, from the late 1870s just up to the outbreak of World War I, along an area so crowded with women shoppers that it was dubbed in after years “The Ladies’ Mile”. Along the way, we’ll hear about the millionaires who lived here first, like eccentric miser Peter Goelet and audacious August Belmont (upon whom Edith Wharton based unscrupulous Julius Beaumont in The Age of Innocence); the great merchant princes, including philanthropic businessman Benjamin Altman and  “fighting Irishman” Hugh O’Neill; the shop girls, counter-jumpers, and child laborers who served here by the thousands; and luminaries from the entertainment world also populating the district, like Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth and the mysterious “Ajeeb”. Throw in a Richard Upjohn church and a secluded Jewish cemetery, and it’s a neighborhood full of fascinating “survivor” structures.  

Where to meet: Meet in front of the Citibank, NW corner of 23 Street and 6 Avenue.

When to meet: 12:45 for a 1pm start. I will be holding a sign that reads, "Ladies' Mile".

Train: Take the F to "23 Street" and 6 Avenue; Otherwise, take the E, C to  "23 Street" on 8 Avenue, and walk down.

Fee: $15 cash, exact change appreciated!

The tour will be approximately 2/2.5 hours long. While Friendly Native tours walk rain or shine 99.9% of the time, on rare occasions they will be postponed in cases of what can be deemed dangerous weather, and an email sent out to that effect to all who have registered for the event.   Check the weather reports on the day of the tour; if there is a chance of rain, please bring your own umbrella.

The nearest restrooms to this location are inside the stores and eateries on 6 Avenue.  Please be sure to "take care of things" before the start of the tour!

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  • Linda

    A sunny day on the Ladies Mile this time, but we managed to squeeze into the shade more times than not as we checked out the remarkable store edifaces of the Gilded Age. Always happy to see our vets Carrell, Donna, Anna, Jackie, and Atul. Quite a few newbies this time around, in Joan, Anna, Dee, Julie, Hitomi, Libby, Lisa, Susan, Rosemary, Teri, Julie, and Tony--all great folks!

    1 · June 24

  • Hitomi

    I often walk around the area. But I did not realize those amazing buildings. It was good to know about the history. Thanks Linda. I had fun!

    June 23

  • Libby Pilios DeNorchia

    I enjoyed this tour very much. I wish I could have stayed until the end, but had a time limit in order to get home for another appointment.

    June 23

  • lisa himelstein

    This was a very interesting walk with a few wonderful surprises. Linda is very down-to-earth and has a real passion for New York that shows in her delivery and detail in presenting her tours. I will be going again and again to see nyc through her well researched and presented tours

    June 23

  • Susan

    I really enjoyed the tour. So interesting. Linda was a wonderful guide. I look forward to my next tour.

    June 22

  • Anna

    Linda did an amazing job. Such thorough research. I will definitely be attending the next tour!

    June 22

  • Donna Tinnerello

    Linda did it again. This was full of surprises in a city that I have lived in for over 40 years.. The familiar names on entrepreneurs in the business of providing the people of new york city with clothes. Many are gone now but Linda provided us with an eye view and history of their ascent in and in some cases descent.... Macy's has survived in spite of the competition....Love the events, the photographs lovingly assembled of what used to be. Buildings kept in tact -treasures.... This is not to be missed next time around as only Linda can tell it..

    June 22

  • Rosemary O.

    Linda is a wonderful guide. She was well prepared with information well researched. The pace was just right. I learned so much in a relatively short amountof time.

    June 22

  • Anna


    June 22

  • teri

    Wonderful 5 put of 5

    June 22

  • Anthony Blasini

    First learned of "Ladies' Mile when I read Jack Finney's novel TIME AND AGAIN, which I highly recommend for those interested in 19th Century New York. It's One of my all time favorite books along with "The Alienist" by Caleb Carr (also takes place in late 19th C NYC)

    1 · June 8

    • Donna Tinnerello

      What is the name of the sequel.?.. I would love to read it..

      June 9

    • Anthony Blasini

      From Time To Time

      1 · June 10

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Refunds are not offered for this Meetup.

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