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Vintage Charm at Macy’s [The Fascinating Story Behind New York’s Oldest Escalator]

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Step back in time and ride the charming wooden escalator in the iconic Macy's department store in Manhattan.

This antique people-mover, built by the Otis Elevator Company between 1920 and 1930, is not your average modern escalator. With a distinctive Art Deco design and a Steampunk/Dieselpunk feel, it's a unique experience that transports you to a bygone era.

Macy's historical wooden escalators in Manhattan

As one of the last functioning wooden escalators in the world, this mechanical fossil has a fascinating story to tell. Its clacking sound and vintage charm have captured the attention of visitors and escalator enthusiasts alike, making it a must-see attraction in New York City.

Its days may be numbered, however. With only two wooden escalators remaining in Macy's, and one under repair, this century-old relic may soon reach the end of its existence. So, if you're looking for a one-of-a-kind experience while on vacation, hop on board and ride this vintage escalator before it's gone for good.

TikTok Users Are Enamored By This Piece of History

It's fascinating to think that the essential building blocks of modern escalators can be traced back to the technology of ancient Egyptians. Fast forward to the 19th century, when the first escalator was invented, and the rest is history.

Nowadays, escalators come in all shapes and sizes, from ramped to winding ones, but this particular escalator is a true standout. It has been around for so long that it has become an essential piece of history.

It's an experience that many tourists schedule on their New York City travel itinerary.

@arielviera 👀 Macy's (Herald Square) escalators date back as early as 1920, making it the oldest in NYC and made out of wood! #nychistory #nychiddengems ♬ original sound - Ariel Viera

TikTok user @arielviera shares a video history and takes a ride on this iconic escalator in a viral TikTok that reached over one million views (and counting)! 587 others weighed in on view of history when it comes to wooden escalators.

User @Magdalena argues that it might not be the oldest in the world by saying "In the Paris metro you can still find some from 1900 in some stations. All made of wood". @Paul0 chimes in that "The London Underground had many of these but after the fire at King's Cross in 1987 they were gradually replaced."

Adding to this escalator's iconic history, user @bernardpallotiej reminds us "That's the escalator that Natalie Wood was on in the movie Miracle on 34th St."

The Evolution of Escalators: From Coney Island Attraction to Macy's Icon

The first modern escalator was patented in 1859 by Nathan Ames, a patenting lawyer. However, it wasn't until 1892 that the earliest working-type escalator, similar to those we see today, was invented. This new invention was so fun and exciting that it was even promoted as a ride at the famous Coney Island theme park in New York!

Fast forward to the 1920s, and escalators began to be built for the iconic Macy's located in Herald Square. At that time, Macy's was not yet the upscale department store we know today but rather a dry-goods market. Otis Elevator Company was at the forefront of the escalator manufacturing industry, bringing to life these innovative machines that would soon become a staple in department stores, shopping centers, and airports worldwide.

It's amazing to think that the world's oldest functioning modern escalator can still be found today inside Macy's.

Macy's Wooden escalator: A Hidden Gem Loved by Tourists and Locals Alike

Wooden escalator

While several of the original escalators built in the Macy's branch in Herald Square still operate today, only one of them has been kept in its original condition with ash and oak wood, creating a charming vintage aesthetic.

Recently, a Reddit user u/AmericanConsumer2022 shared a short video of this wooden escalator, sparking a flood of comments from other Redditors. One user, courage_wolf_sez, reminisced about riding the escalator as a child, saying, "Feels like I've been sent back to the 90's." Another user, @porchhonky, corrected him, saying, "You’ve actually been sent back to the 30’s, old timer!" and keefhernandz shared a heartwarming experience with his son, saying, "I took my son there strictly for the wooden escalator. The Cellar doesn't have that same delicious, Zaabar's like aroma in the air but it still brought back memories."

MoSqueezin, a tourist who stumbled upon the escalator during their visit to Macy's, described it as a hidden gem, saying, "Before I went, I had no idea these were here. I explored the largest Macy's and was surprised to find them. They started at the 7th floor, so it's almost like a little hidden secret since I feel like most folks probably just take the elevator."

Despite being a relic of the past, the wooden escalator still operates and is available for public use, offering a unique and nostalgic shopping experience that can't be found anywhere else. Its vintage charm and the excitement it brings to both tourists and locals make it a true hidden gem and a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Macy's in Herald Square.

Don't Miss Out on this Iconic NYC Experience

Macy's wooden escalator in Herald Square is a true gem of New York City, and a unique feature that visitors from all over the world can enjoy. From its historic origins to its current status as a beloved relic, this one-of-a-kind escalator captures the spirit of the city in a way that only a century-old icon can. As you ascend the wooden steps, you'll be transported back in time to a different era, and you'll feel the magic of New York City all around you. So, if you're planning a trip to the Big Apple, make sure to add a ride on the Macy's wooden escalator to your must-see list. You won't regret it!

 
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