Thursday, January 29, 2009

Show Folks Shoes Dedicated to Beauty in Footwear

Q. Looming over Times Square, on the north side of 46th Street just east of Broadway, are four statues of great actresses from the 1920's in some of their most famous roles. Above them is an inscription saying that ''famous show folks'' bought their shoes at this shop. What was the shop, and who put up those statues? 

A. Israel Miller, a shoemaker from Poland, arrived in New York in 1892 and began making shoes for theatrical productions. His designs were popular with many vaudeville performers, who turned to him to produce their personal footwear.  When he acquired long-term control of the property in 1926, Mr. Miller unified the buildings' facades, using marble with granite trim and bronze fittings around the showcase windows. The wall along West 46th Street, beneath the cornice, bears the inscription, ''THE SHOW FOLKS SHOESHOP DEDICATED TO BEAUTY IN FOOTWEAR.'' 

Niches were added along the wall to honor four of New York's then-favorite actresses. Mr. Miller released a public ballot to pick actresses in drama, musical comedy, opera and film. The winners were: Ethel Barrymore as Ophelia, Marilyn Miller as Sunny, Rosa Ponselle as Norma and Mary Pickford as Little Lord Fauntleroy. Mr. Miller commissioned Alexander Sterling Calder to make these sculptures, which were unveiled on Oct. 20, 1929. Is it landmarked? YES!!  


Hilda said...

And now it's a Friday's?! Sigh. Guess that's better than having it torn down.

Daryl said...

I am sitting here dumbfounded that I have never looked up to see what was on the facade of that building ... amazing ... now you know I will have to get off the bus a stop early tomorrow morning and look UP ... thanks for the literal 'head's up'!

Cyd said...

Beauty in Footwear

Now THERE is a noble aspiration!!!

Complete with a marble edifice and statuettes...

New Yorkers have their priorities straight.

Judy said...


bobbie said...

The fun thing is that this Saturday there's a new meme starting - Footwear Fever. This has nothing to do with your wonderful photographs, of course. Just seemed an interesting coincidence.

Anonymous said...

man, when was the last time they pressure washed that facade?

Virginia said...

KM, Get that _ _ _ _ Friday's outta there this minute. OH MY, that is some fine shoe shrine. I worship!!!
V said...

beautiful statues. thank goodness they are landmarked!

DAG said...

Nice photo Ken, You have knack of finding the little piece of beauty just waiting to be rediscovered.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This was an interesting post Ken. Names that are almost forgotten in time.

joy said...

Thanks for posting this. I used to have a upfront view of this building, and I'm so glad to have found out the stories behind it.

Rob said...

Love this building, it's history that I just learned. Love the niches with statues. But what's with the TGI Fun Factory greasy canned reheated food emporium? Why is it necessary to have such garish signs advertising silly logos?

Anonymous said...

So what ultimately happened to Mr. Miller's shoe emporium? How much past 1929 was his business located here (immediately prior to Friday's or did it fold decades ago)?

Andrew Porter said...

I used to work at 165 West 46th Street aka 1560 Broadway (in 1967, gasp!), which wraps around this building, and the Broadway facade was every bit as good as the West 46th Street facade is. Glad to know it's landmarked, though it seems there's been no maintenance of the stonework on the building, and the TGI Friday sign is way too big for the place.

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