When I’m walking through the streets around Times Square, I tend to keep moving as quickly as I can, while focusing on my destination rather than my actual surroundings. If you’ve been anywhere near Times Square over the past decade or two, you’ll understand.
One afternoon, however, I was forced to wait for a traffic light to change, and as I stood on the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, I did something that New Yorkers often forget to do: I looked up.
Above the sign for a T.G.I.Fridays restaurant and behind a billboard for some Fox television series, this building still bears the inscription “THE SHOW FOLKS SHOP DEDICATED TO BEAUTY IN FOOTWEAR.” And four niches in the dirtied marble facade contain statues of silent-screen actresses in costume.
Mary Pickford is the best-known of the quartet, and she is dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy. The others are Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, and Rosa Ponselle.
Of course, I’m not the first person to wonder about this building. The New York Times explains that it was once an I. Miller boutique and showroom, where footwear for theater productions (as well as non-stage use) was displayed.
The sculptures are the work of Alexander Sterling Calder, the second generation in a famous family of sculptors.
You can read more about this semi-obscured bit of New York theater history at Ephemeral New York and Lost New York City.
Images: photos by Tinsel Creation; Mary Pickford in “Little Lord Fauntleroy” via Milestone Films.
6 thoughts on “On the Street: I. Miller, “The Show Folks Shoe Shop” of Times Square”
I just love how in Europe you’ll find representations of philosophers, saints etc on buildings and in the States, actors! :)
hah! Well, NYC does have plenty of saints on its churches, and historical figures on its governmental buildings, and allegorical figures in public spaces (Liberty, Justice, Civic Virtue), but this is Broadway, after all! ;)
Oh I know, they’re everywhere as well but the “actors” addition is quite fun!
If you haven’t yet found Scouting NY, let me introduce you with his blog post about this very building (warning: it’s a fascinating website that you can easily lose hours to): http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=705 You might really enjoy his post about the old movie palace – and I’m not using that word lightly – in Queens. http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=6288
I saw this while waiting to cross the street in Times Square on a visit a couple years ago. I googled it when I got back to my hotel to find out the history. Having worked for 20+ yrs in the Chicago loop I’ve always enjoyed looking up every so often to examine overlooked and often grimy architectural detail. It’s art hiding in plain sight.
Chicago is so rich in architectural treasures. I haven’t been there in a while… hope I can visit again someday!