Following the early success in Philadelphia, John Wanamaker opened his first New York store in 1896. In 1902, he built an equally large annex across the street. This annex featured a 1500 seat auditorium and a 4/42 Austin Organ. The critically-acclaimed organ events at the New York store convinced Wanamaker that a large organ could be popular in the Philadelphia store. The new Philadelphia store opened in 1911.
Wanamaker hired George Alexander Russell (1880-1953) to be concert director and organist of the New York store. Russell was an accomplished organist, pianist and music scholar who graduated from Syracuse University in 1901, served on its faculty, and later studied in Berlin and Paris. In addition to playing daily recitals on the Wanamaker Auditorium organ, Russell was supervised the sale of musical instruments in the store and arranged musical performances by employees and outside groups. By 1919, Alexander Russell was in charge of arranging organ concerts at both the New York and Philadelphia stores.
When John Wanamaker died in 1922, his son Rodman was named sole inheritor of the retail business. Upon Rodman's death in 1928, the businesses were put into a trust, with family members as the beneficiaries. The Wanamaker trust sold the New York store in 1954. The organ (then at 118 ranks) was sold at auction, as evidenced by this intriguing photo.
Just prior to its demolition in 1956, the New York building caught fire and burned out of control for a full day before firemen could contain the blaze. The cast-iron construction withstood the fire, only to fall to the wrecker's ball. Today, a 21-story apartment block, built in 1960 and named Stewart House, occupies the site; the 1902 Wanamaker annex is an office building.