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.  For sunny days, be sure to bring a hat and a bottle of water. 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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  • phyllis

    Once,again i enjoyed a enjoyable day out.I learned about building that i have passed for years and always wonder about their history.

    September 11, 2013

  • Linda

    Thanks, Mary B, for posting such great photos--even Ajeeb got into the act!

    September 9, 2013

  • Linda

    Always a pleasure to see Friendly Native vets Frank, John, Elyse, Chelsea, Irene, two Marys, Richard and Nicole, and Phyllis and Ira. This time, we welcomed new attendees Shirley, Meg, Renata, Andreea, and Samantha as we wended our way thru busy streets to hear about how these great buildings came to be.

    September 9, 2013

  • Mary B.


    September 8, 2013

  • Mary B.

    I've been waiting for this one. So glad I can join you!

    August 12, 2013

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