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New York, New York

The Show Folks Shoe Shop Building

Amidst the nightmare marketing blitz of modern Times Square is an elegant holdover from its showbiz glory days. 

These days it’s hard to find much of the original heart of old Times Square, but hidden amidst the crowds of tourists and neon signs, around the corner of Broadway on West 46th street, is the venerable facade of Israel Miller’s shoe store, looking much as it did a hundred years ago.

Miller’s passion was designing elegant shoes for elegant women, and his creations graced the feet of some of the most famed actresses of the day. In giant script along the side of his building, ran the tag line “The Show Folks Shoe Shop - Dedicated to Beauty in Foot Wear.”

So enamored was Miller with his actresses, that on the side of the building he had four empty arched recesses built, where he left space for marble statues which would celebrate drama, comedy, opera and screen. A competition was held for nominations as to who should be enshrined on the shoe shop, asking “Who are America’s Best-Loved Actresses?” The four winners were Ethel Barrymore for drama, Marilyn Miller for comedy, Mary Pickford for film and Rosa Ponselle for opera, and their statuesque likenesses soon gazed upon Time Square from their golden niches.

Miller’s Shoes closed its doors in the 1970s and a string of tenants saw the building fall into neglect. Its last residents, TGI Friday’s, being the principal culprits of the neglect. But the building’s fortunes were reversed last year when it was taken over by SL Green Realty and Wharton Properties. The facade was lovingly restored to its original beauty, and the new tenants are fittingly, a shoe seller.

Broadway’s glittering stars may no longer shop there, but the restored building is, as its original sign still says “dedicated to beauty.” In an age where Times Square is a garish purgatory of advertising and noise, one can’t help but feel that Israel Miller and his passion for elegance would approve of his building’s longevity.