I Found the Old McCall Building!

I spend a good amount of time in my day job as an architectural historian using old photos to help tell the stories of historic buildings and the people who lived, worked or otherwise spent time in them. So one day I took on a personal project and searched for sewing-related images.

photo 2

You know what first clued me in to searching for photos of the old McCall Building? I was about to head into Mood when I happened to spot faded “ghost signs” across 37th Street. See them in the photo above? Windows have since been punched into this side wall, but at one time the sign was very hard to miss. Scroll to the very end of this post to see what the building looked like over a century ago.

So, yep, at one time, McCall’s was right in the thick of things in the Garment District!

All photos and captions are from the Museum of the City of New York‘s digital collection. These were taken by the Byron Company in 1913.

MNY36167

Photo caption: McCall’s Magazine, art department, pattern department, press room, offices.

You may already know, but companies like McCall weren’t just making sewing patterns. In fact, they really made big business with their magazine publications specifically for women around the country (and, in some cases, the world). These magazines were a big deal!

MNY39708

Photo caption: Interior of a press room at the McCall Publishing Co.; men operating large printing machinery.

MNY22652

Photo caption: Men and women working on clothing designs in the art department at McCall’s Magazine.

MNY30432

Photo caption: A press room at the McCall Publishing Co.; men operating large press machinery.

MNY1166

Photo caption: McCall’s Magazine, art department, pattern department, press room, offices.

MNY26793

Photo caption: A press room at the McCall Publishing Co.; men operating large press machinery.

MNY25682

Photo caption: McCall’s Magazine, art department, pattern department, press room, offices.

MNY234946

Photo caption: Oblique view from across the street of the McCall Co. Publishers building; adjacent row houses and buildings visible.

There’s what looks like the ghost signs I shared at the top of the post.

photo 1
And here’s what the entire building looks like today. You can see that the Garment District was still pretty young in 1913 – lots of small-scale residential buildings (rowhouses and tenements) surrounding the “towering” McCall Building. In general, most clothing manufacturing was still happening downtown at this point.

If you love history (sewing history!), you can learn more about the Garment District on the Skyscraper Museum’s website: Urban Fabric: Building New York’s Garment District.

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “I Found the Old McCall Building!

  1. Oh, that’s super interesting! I love New York history. I used to work in what I believe was the old headquarters of Simplicity, actually — I found out by accident when I read the backs of some vintage Simplicity pattern envelope and saw my work address (200 Madison Ave).

    • That’s really cool! Yes, you were in the old Simplicity HQ – I just double checked. 🙂 200 Madison Avenue was built in the 1920s, and Simplicity’s address shows up on later pattern envelopes. I had an idea once that I’d take photos in front of these old sewing buildings. Guess it could still happen!

  2. Amanda, this is awesome! I love finding ghost signs like that and always enjoy finding out more about the businesses that used to reside in buildings around the city. But man, these photos take the cake! Thanks for sharing!

    • And thanks so much for commenting, Nancy! I absolutely love hearing from people who are part of such wonderful history. I love that my pattern orders ship from Manhattan to Manhattan. 🙂

    • Aren’t the garments they’re working in cool? I had to stop and take it all in that these were taken over 100 years ago. Working in those long skirts is something I didn’t think of, but makes sense given the time period.

  3. Thank you for an excellent article! I too am an architectural historian and proud owner of many vintage McCall’s patterns. Thank you for sharing your information and photographs.

    • You’re welcome! And nice to meet a fellow architectural historian/sewer. I wonder if there are more out there like us? I see so many similarities – love for the past, visual, etc!

Hey, thanks for commenting! I truly appreciate it and always try to respond back. :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s