The Historic Link Between FAO Schwarz and the 200 Fifth Avenue “Toy Center”

6a0133ec87bd6d970b01bb08fe52c6970dNY2_193As time passes, it is a bit startling to consider how quickly the number of toy industry veterans who remember the Toy Center has eroded. Once located at 200 Fifth Avenue, near the triangulated corner of 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway, it was where toy companies had their offices and where Toy Fair was celebrated each year.

The Toy Center was truly the home of the American toy industry. In the 1980s and '90s, when the Toy Center was at its height, it housed six hundred tenants. As someone who has vivid memories of the building during its best years, its packed elevators, and its timeless halls and offices, I wondered why the toy companies in 1903 chose the 23rd street location and I think I have discovered the reason — FAO Schwarz or Toy Bazar as it was known at the end of the 19th century.

While doing some research on the noted retailer, I found that in 1897 the store was located at 23rd Street. So, when The Toy Center was opened six years later it would have been only natural for toy companies to cluster their offices near America's biggest toy retailer.

Supporting this notion is that prior to that location FAO Schwarz was located at 1159 Broadway (27th and Broadway) and later at 303 Fifth Avenue (32nd Street and Fifth Avenue). In other words, from 1894 to 1931, the Toy Building was located next to or very close to The Toy Center.

In 1903, phones were a novelty so being able to walk to your customer or have your customer walk to you meant being physically close was extremely important. Whatever the reason, the Toy Center is a part of history.

Javits is not a bad location but there was something about the Toy Center that sticks in the mind. If you want to catch a glimpse of what it was like, the building still stands at 200 Fifth Avenue where it houses Eataly, a food destination. Walk into the lobby and look around or into Eataly and look up at the cornices and you will get a feeling for what attending Toy Fair was like in the 20th century.

5 thoughts

  1. I don’t miss the stairwells or waiting for elevators during Toy Fair – i did like the proximity of the Subway – especially during some of the Blizzard years where you could not get a cab but could take the Subway from Uptown and get to the building!

  2. Hi Richard, I have fond memories of the Toy Building, I was in Eataly recently and realized I was having lunch in the old Ertl showroom.

  3. Thanks Richard! I never heard of this connection and I’m glad you dug it up. 200 Fifth was such a beautiful home for the industry.

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