Macy's Wooden Escalators
A bit of retro transportation flair preserved in the world's largest department store.
Macy’s Herald Square is famous for a lot of things, most of them holiday-related: Its animatronic window displays during the Christmas season, its starring role in the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street, and its namesake Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s, of course, also helped popularize the department store concept, but perhaps the best-preserved piece of its history lies right underneath shoppers’ feet.
When the flagship store underwent massive renovations in 2015, it swapped out many of its old-school features for more modern accouterments. But 20 of its much-loved wooden escalators stayed put.
The escalators were built between 1920 and 1930 by the Otis Elevator Company, which pioneered the machinery. They’re made of sturdy oak and ash, wood that’s traditionally used in hardwood flooring. The mechanical parts have, for the most part, been updated, and modern safety measures have been put in place.
They might be updated and maintained regularly as per modern standards, but the nearly century-old escalators aren’t going anywhere, despite how much they might creak.]
Update as of October 2016: Only the escalator treads on the top two floors remain wooden.
Update as of January 2020: The escalator treads from the fifth through ninth floors remain wooden.
Update as of July 2021: The escalator treads in the escalators near the elevators and women’s restroom are wooden from the second through ninth floors. The other escalator is modern at least on the lower floors.
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