History/Timeline

1879: John Wanamaker purchases the abandoned Pennsylvania Railroad to construct a “Grand Depot,” which eventually became the first modern department store in Philadelphia and one of the first in the country.

1904: Wanamaker begins building a new store with the help of Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham. The building was built in the Florentine style with granite walls and included 12 floors, nine of which were dedicated to retail, numerous galleries and two lower levels totaling nearly two-million square feet.

1909: John Wanamaker brings the famed pipe organ and large bronze eagle statue to Philadelphia from the St. Louis World’s Fair. One of the oldest in the world, the Wanamaker Organ is still playable today, preserved with the help of the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ and can be seen in the Grand Court. The large eagle became a symbol of the store and the phrase “Meet you at the Eagle” became a popular phrase amongst shoppers.

1911: The construction of The Wanamaker Building is completed and Wanamaker’s is dedicated by President William Taft on December 30th. The Wanamaker Building was prolific for its time and was the first store to offer what has become modern-day retail practices such as price tags and Returns and Refund policies.

1956: Wanamaker’s premieres its Christmas Light Show, which included a musical and blinking light display that could be seen from several stories within The Wanamaker Building. Its popularity ensured a continuous run, even through various changes in ownership.

1978: The Wanamaker Building is designated a National Historic Landmark. The Wanamaker Family Trust also sells John Wanamaker and Company to Carter-Hawley Hale Stores for $60 million.

1989 – 1990: Floors 6-12 in The Wanamaker Building were fully restored and converted to office space to meet the changing needs of retail and office users. The property team implemented changes that improved the comfort, appearance and efficiency of the property allowing it to function as a state-of-the-art modern building while maintaining its historic charm.

1995-1997: The Wanamaker Building was sold to the May Department Stores Company and rebranded as Hecht’s then Strawbridge’s & Clothier before reopening as Lord & Taylor, another division of May Department Stores.

Behind-the-scenes, Amerimar Enterprises, in partnership with Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Cargrill Financial Services, acquires a controlling interest in the property. Amerimar reduces the retail space to three floors,  converting 219,000 square feet of retail into office space, and leases it to a mix of public and private sector tenants.

2006: In August, the store is converted to Macy’s, operated by the Macy’s East Division of Federated Department stores, Inc. (now Macy’s, Inc.), which has acquired May Department Stores Company in late 2005. Amerimar retained its ownership interest and continues to manage and enhance the value of the property.

2007: The American Institute of Architecture reported The Wanamaker Building ranked as #32 on a list of the country’s 150 favorite pieces of American architecture according to members of the AIA and the general public.

The Christmas Light Show is modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studios with over 100,000 energy-efficient LED lights.

2009: The Wanamaker Building is designated as an Energy Star labeled structure for its energy efficiency.

2011: The Wanamaker Building is presented with the 2011 Landmark Building Award by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Additionally, Amerimar Enterprises, Inc. receives the 2011 Special Recognition Award for stewardship of The Wanamaker Building by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

December 30, 2011: The Wanamaker Building officially celebrates its 100th Anniversary. The Wanamaker Building continues to draw people from all over the world, whether it’s for business, shopping or to take part in The Wanamaker Building’s historic traditions, especially the Wanamaker organ, Holiday Pageant of Lights Christmas Show and The Dicken’s Village.