Borough and State: Manhattan, New York
Type of district: certified local historic district
Main Intersection: West 19th and 5th Avenue
The Ladies’ Mile Historic District is named for the stretch of Broadway that became, toward the end of the 19th century, a prime shopping destination for the women of New York. As such, most of the district’s buildings are commercial and date from the period between the Civil War and World War I. In 1899, laws prohibited the combination of production and living quarters without a permit, requiring many people who had worked at home to find commercial space. This, combined with the pressure of unions for better working conditions, spurred the development of the district’s most common building type – the multi-story store and loft building.
Broadway originally developed as a haven for dry goods stores, household furnishings and decorating shops, and specialty stores, such as the one that sold goods from the Near East. Sixth Avenue housed most of the department stores. Fifth Avenue, which had been the premiere shopping street, became lined with speculative store and loft buildings, as well as offices. The cross streets’ converted row houses and newer loft buildings housed smaller merchants and firms that serviced the larger stores on the north-south streets. During and following World War I, all of the department stores moved uptown and the buildings were converted for manufacturing use. Today most of the buildings retain their commercial character, though some have been converted for residential use.