At Lord & Taylor, Everything Must Go. A Daughter’s Guilt Will Remain.


Lord & Taylor’s own start is worthy of the frilly paper. Its beginnings read “like an episode from a Victorian novel,” John William Ferry wrote in his book “A History of the Department Store.” There was the man before the ampersand — Samuel Lord, the youngest of nine children and orphaned when he was 6, who went on to work in an iron foundry and married the boss’s daughter.

The boss was James Taylor. After Lord emigrated from England in 1825, $1,000 from a Taylor relative financed a store he opened near the Bowery. Soon Lord formed a partnership with yet another of his wife’s relatives, and Lord & Taylor was born.

As the city migrated uptown after the Civil War, Lord & Taylor followed, arriving in 1914 in the store Ms. Robinson knew so well. The light fixtures that hung from the ceiling on the first floor were originally old-fashioned gas lights, according to a sign in the store. “Converted to electric!” the sign said. The fixtures are being sold for $1,000 each.

Lord & Taylor continued some decidedly American traditions after it was acquired by Hudson’s Bay. Even as it conducted its store-closing sale, it played “The Star-Spangled Banner” over the public address system before allowing customers inside, as it has done since the 444-day Iran hostage crisis that began in 1979. The store’s chairman at the time ordered the national anthem played “because, with all its problems, this is still the greatest country in the world.”

But when Ms. Robinson stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the eighth floor, a passenger, Cynthia Williams, lamented another tradition that would end with the store’s closing: the windows that were decorated for the holidays.

“It’s like it’s over,” Ms. Williams said, “even though there will be the other Lord & Taylors. They’re not the same. This was part of the Christmas experience.” Ms. Robinson nodded.

The other stores in the Lord & Taylor chain are not closing. And Hudson’s Bay, which originally said it would maintain a Lord & Taylor presence in the Fifth Avenue building, has decided not to, a spokeswoman said.

If Ms. Robinson is still feeling guilt about her mother’s unsent letter — her mother died in September 2016, at age 76 — at least there is this. The spokeswoman for Hudson’s Bay, Tiffany Bourré, said the plaques would be preserved and taken care of after the store closes for the last time on Wednesday.


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