Last year in September, I wrote an open letter to the new owners of the property at 1552 Broadway in Times Square asking a simple request: that they save a Times Square treasure.
Nearly 100 years before it became a decrepit, out-of-business TGIF, 1552 Broadway was the showroom for I. Miller shoes, famous for supplying actors and dancers in New York and beyond with footwear. The building was gorgeous, with arched windows lined with polished marble, a stately limestone facade, and pristine white statuary set into gold nooks representing the leading actresses of the day.
And over the past 13 years, TGIF let it rot.
When I took these pictures last year, the entire facade was covered in soot and grime:
Entire chunks of marble were missing…
…while other gaps had been filled in with concrete:
The four statues were in a sad state…
TGIF cared so little, they couldn’t even be bothered to accommodate Ethel Barrymore’s full name.
The I. Miller logo running around the top was still “dedicated to beauty,” but beauty was hard to see beneath the neglect.
Last year, TGIF finally moved out and the building switched owners, with plans to open as an Express. Shortly after, scaffolding went up, the statues disappeared, and the windows were boarded as renovations commenced. Would they save it? Or would they hide it behind Express ads and let it continue to decay?
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a reader saying that the scaffolding was finally off, and that I should take a look.
Care to see the prettiest building in Times Square?
How incredible is that?? It’s like the building was built yesterday:
Seriously, compare the facade a year ago…
…and the difference is nothing short of a miracle.
The soot covering the building?
The cracks in the marble?
Repaired and polished:
The bits filled in with concrete?
And those statues? Comparing before and after, here we have Mary Pickford depicted in her title role as Little Lord Fauntleroy…
Marilyn Miller in her title role as Sunny…
Rosa Ponselle in Bellini’s Norma…
And finally, Ethel Barrymore (great aunt of Drew) as Ophelia, restoring both her first name and half her head:
Ready for one more surprise? This was the Broadway side of the building a year ago…
Here it is today:
I love the new facade, which feels perfectly in step with the rest of the building. I’d love to know if any of it was actually discovered when the TGIF sign was removed:
There’s one final addition: a gigantic new digital billboard over the building. In fact, this is fitting with the building’s history, considering the Broadway facade was always dedicated to billboards since the first Domino Sugar ads appeared in 1910:
Of course, there’s only one sign I ever pay attention to – and it’s looking better than ever.
To those responsible for bringing 1552 Broadway back to life, THANK YOU. I left Times Square that day with a big stupid smile on my face, and I’m smiling even now as I write this. Express, you’ve got the prettiest building in Times Square.
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