The story of the notch in Macy's has been told before, but to find it you need to know that there is a story to be told. Most past by this intersection at Herald Square, one of the busiest in the city, never suspecting that the enormous sign proclaiming Macy's to be the World's Largest Store is the subject of a small drama. See a photo of the entire block here.
The strange tale is about the quintessential Holdout - in real estate parlance, someone unwilling to sell a key property standing in the way of development. 'Tis the dream of many that through pure happenstance and good fortune, one has an apartment or property which is crucial to a large project and holds out for an enormous sum of money, securing one's financial status ever after.
In the late 1890s, Macy's decided to expand from its 14th location to 34th Street. It secretly began buying property there, but word leaked out. Robert Smith snatched the property for $375,000. Escalating from holdout to holdup, the hope was to use this property to negotiate with Macy's and get occupancy of their 14th Street location (and some of the Macy's original customers).
However, Macy's did not take the bait. It built around the building, and continued to hold the 14th Street property vacant until the end of the lease.
They opened at Herald Square in 1902. The following year, the corner building was torn down and replaced with a new 5 story structure - the one you see here today (it was first leased to the United Cigar Store Company for $40,000 a year.)
Much later, after 1945, Macy's started to rent advertising space, covering the entire building. Although there have been opportunities to buy the property, to this date Macy's has not. They continue to rent advertising space for the 70 foot sign. Sadly, many of the retailers at this corner building have been tacky, unattractive establishments. Currently there is a Sunglass Hut - a step up in appearance.
So if you dream of holdouts and holdups, keep in mind, they may only be pipe dreams ...