New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Lerner Shops

Frank Mastropolo
© Frank Mastropolo

"The Lerner Shops—they are in every important neighborhood in New York and in all other Eastern cities—know the coming mode just a little ahead of most other shops," read a 1922 ad in the New York Evening World. "To carry styles that are at all times in the forefront of fashion—to have them just a little sooner than everyone else—and to keep them always in the pink of freshness—that is the Lerner policy,"

Lerner Shops was founded in 1918 by Samuel A. Lerner and Harold M. Lane in New York City. Originally blouse manufacturers, Lerner Shops became a popular chain of women’s wear stores.

Lerner moved into 478 Seventh Avenue in 1928 as the millinery and apparel district migrated uptown from Broadway below Houston Street. Since it was converted to business use in 1893, the building had been home to bail bondsmen, a doctor’s office, and the exclusive Embassy Club, busted by Federal prohibition agents in December 1926 for serving liquor.
The Evening World, March 9, 1922

Lerner Shops renovated and moved into the building in 1928, opening a retail store on the ground floor. The front of the building was redesigned with a medieval theme that included stone heads across the parapet. Exquisite coats of arms announcing Lerner Shops were mounted on either side of the roofline.

Lerner only remained in the building for two years but left behind its elaborate ghost signs. By 1985, Lerner was an 823-store chain and was acquired by The Limited. In 1992, the company changed its name to Lerner New York. In 1995, the company changed its name again to New York & Company.

Mastropolo is the author of The Not-So-Wild Animals of New York and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past.

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Frank Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever and New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make New York Rock, selected by Best Classic Bands as two of the Best Music Books of 2021 and 2022. The former ABC News 20/20 writer and producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton, has written a number of books on music, television, ghost signs, and New York City history. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition. Mastropolo subscibes to that old Sicilian proverb, "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Prov and you provolone."

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