These days, it’s hard to find much of the original heart of old Times Square. But on the corner of Broadway and West 46th Street, above the crowds of tourists and neon signs, 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 a giant script along the side of his building, ran the tag line “The Show Folks Shoe Shop—Dedicated to Beauty in Footwear.”
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. To decide who should be enshrined on the top, a competition was held. Voters were asked to choose “America’s best-loved actresses.” The 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. I. Miller and Sons had a resurgence in the late-50s when it hired a not-yet-famous Andy Warhol to illustrate its print ads.
Miller’s Shoes closed its doors in the 1970s, and a string of tenants saw the building fall into neglect. Its fortunes were reversed in 2012, when the facade was restored.
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 cacophony of advertising and noise, one can’t help but feel that Israel Miller would approve.