Macy’s Philadelphia – not just a department store

Even without a guided tour, Macy’s Philadelphia is a wonderful mix of fashion, architecture and history. And pipe organ music.

Housed in John Wanamaker’s flagship store, the first of its kind in Philadelphia, a national historic landmark since 1978.

Wanamaker Building was completed in 1911 on the site of an abandoned railroad station. Built in the Florentine style with granite walls by Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, it had 12 floors, just enough to accommodate the pipe organ John Wanamaker bought from the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1909. With more than 10.000 pipes, the organ was so big, they needed 13 train cars to transport it and two years to install it.  

It is, by some accounts, the largest playable organ in the world and it is delighting visitors twice daily, at noon and in the afternoon Monday through Saturday. For schedule and other interesting historical and musical facts, please visit the website of The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ.

But meanwhile, enjoy a photographic behind-the-scenes historic tour of this magnificent building, which we joined by pure chance when a guide and his small group of two found us peering at the console and kindly invited us to follow them.

It was one of the highlights of our trip.

The tour includes unused spaces restricted from public view, such as this room adorned with wood and these magnificent Tiffany stained glass panels; it takes a look at the Egyptian Hall and Greek Hall auditoria, hidden behind the shop’s executive offices; walks through the organ workshop where repairs and restoration take place to this day; and, finally, to the grand Crystal Tea Room where – as expected – preparations for a wedding reception were underway.

Tours last approximately 45 minutes. For more info please check with the Visitor Center at Macy’s.

February 22nd, 2017

12 thoughts on “Macy’s Philadelphia – not just a department store

  1. Now I need to break out the organ music recordings for my Sunday morning listening! My father, who was a minister, always marveled at pipe organs, especially amused by the fact that they were typically tuned with a hammer 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And don’t forget the daily concerts! But to its credit, Macy’s NYC still has those magnificent wooden escalators running… somehow I always forget to check the merchandise when I step into a Macy’s 🙂


  2. Wow, gorgeous! The whole idea that a family (patriarch?) would create such architectural beauty for a place to shop. Today some ruins (mostly columns) of market place agoras from Ancient Greece still remain and are treasured! This reminds me of department stores in beautiful buildings built around the same time in Paris and London.
    Strange in some way to see this 100 year old building at a time when stores are being replaced by online shopping and cement warehouses. Such a tangible experience of time passing. Grateful to those who left us these beautiful buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an era of innovation when pioneering spirits could thrive; they had space, time and money to start with. And if one was as fair an employer as Wanamaker – who offered his employees benefits such as pensions and education, never been seen before – success was guaranteed. Alas, empires are built to fall, as history has shown, and Wanamaker’s was no exception. But their legacy is kept alive through these gorgeous buildings for us to enjoy. Excellent point concerning online shopping: no wonder the current shop (Macy’s) occupies only 3 of the initial 12 floors!

      Liked by 1 person


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