Gimbels traverse on 32nd Street. Midtown, New York City.
There is a green copper traverse that is situated high above 32nd Street in midtown Manhattan. In my ongoing quest to find the rare few traverses (also known as skybridges, footbridges and air spaces) that exist in New York City, I found myself under this one last week. This area of midtown is admittedly rather depressing. Having spent quite a bit of time here when I went to FIT nearly a decade ago, I can definitely say that most people who pass down this street are either in a rush to get to the transportation hub at Penn Station which is directly at one of the ends of this long block or are hurriedly rushing along to get somewhere (anywhere) else. It’s one of those streets that unless you have an affinity for dreary chain stores, you probably don’t end up on to admire the views (although, the block does have arguably one of the best 99 cent stores in existence, Jack’s 99 cent Store. So, it’s no wonder that this gorgeous skybridge traverse goes largely unnoticed.
Aside from being a beautiful work of architecture designed in 1925, this copper bridge which sits at three stories tall was the product of architects Richmond Shreve and William Lamb, two of the same architects who ended up involved in the design of the Empire State Building. The bridge was commissioned by the retail store Gimbels which was a department store that reigned supreme from the late 1800s to the late 20th century. It became the largest department store in the world in the 1930s even playing an interesting role in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.
Gimbels had a spirited rivalry with Macy’s for many years. Macy’s eventually ended up outlasting Gimbels due to a number of factors such as reputation and brand identity. Many people felt that Macy’s outward image was more polished than Gimbels. Whatever the reasons, the skybridge in this photo was actually a product of Gimbels competitively branching out to a more ‘fashionable’ street in 1922. Both Macy’s and Gimbels were located in Herald Square (where Macy’s still stands) and in a move to migrate the store towards the more fashionable 5th Avenue, Gimbels merged with the Sak’s on 34th Street store. To link its Herald Square location to the newer 5th Avenue location, a grand skybridge was designed and built for Gimbels.
I love that the skybridge has survived all these years. Gimbels is long gone and the neighborhood has gone through many architectural changes but this little reminder of the dynamic and spirited department store wars of the mid-20th century still sits above 32nd Street.
View this photo larger and on black on my Google Plus page
Buy “Gimbel’s Skybridge Traverse ” Posters and Prints here, View my store, email me, or ask for help.