Israel Miller, shoe store owner

Born in Poland, Mr. Miller came to New York in the 1890s from Paris and began to specialize in shoes for dancers and actors. He began a chain that grew to 16 stores by the time of his death in 1929. One of the most famous of his stores was in Times Square and remnants of it remain today. About 1915, Mr. Miller leased store space in 1554 Broadway in an old brownstone just north of 46th Street.

In 1926, Mr. Miller had his brownstone and the building next door, using the upper floors for offices and rebuilding the exterior. His renovated store opened there in November 1926. Many buildings in the area had been taken over by billboards, but he decided to go a different way with the exterior of his building. The 46th Street side of his building had five window bays separated by four sculpture niches. In September 1927, the store announced that the niches would be occupied by statues of women from the fields of drama, musical comedy, opera and motion pictures. Ethel Barrymore, representing drama, would be shown as Ophelia in “Hamlet”; Marilyn Miller (musical comedy) as Sunny (from the play of that name); Rosa Ponselle (opera) as Leonora in “La Forza del Destino”; and Mary Pickford (motion pictures) as Little Lord Fauntleroy.

The statues were dedicated just after Mr. Miller’s death in 1929 and the store remained in the family for a couple more decades before being sold and finally closing in 1970. The statues remain and have been cleaned by the current owners, a restaurant chain.

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