In another commentary here on Oxford Valley Mall and during my tenure there as it's GM i mentioned that a former senior real estate executive from John Wanamaker requested that the mall owner (Kravco) should furnish a large Eagle fronting their new Oxford Valley store. The Kravco people were more than happy to comply and thus to smooth future business with JW. So here is the story behind the story:
John Wanamaker purchased his very first 'Eagle Sculpture' as depicted here below from the St. Louis Worlds Fair and earmarked it to be placed in a most prominent location in his new downtown Philadelphia store. The Eagle became later the symbol of the store and the phrase “Meet me at the Eagle” became popular amongst shoppers. Designed by the German sculptor August Goul the bronze bird weighted over 2,500 pounds.
Then while at St. Louis World's Fair and John Wanamaker being still in the midst in building his famed Wanamaker department store in downtown Philadelphia, wanted something even much more grandiose. Specifically then to christen his new 150-foot high grand court in the center of the store.
Wanamaker decided that the world’s largest playable organ was exactly what he was looking for and which was for sale right after the Worlds Fair ended. The organ for him was simply a 'must have' aquisition! The organ was loaded piece-by-piece onto 13 freight cars and shipped to Philadelphia. Six months later, Wanamaker opened his new store to the public, with none other than President William Howard Taft in attendance.
The organ was a sight to behold: Seven stories tall, weighing 287-tons and containing 28,750 pipes, It's the world’s largest playable instrument and the organ made history as the largest pipe organ that had ever been built.
Wanamaker strongly believed that any arts and sculpture placement would enhance the overall appeal of his store. He felt that music should be part of people’s daily lives and that it made people happier and would enrich the shopper experience. Very much like a body of water rushing from a mall fountain.
He quite regularly commissioned complete organ concerts were concerts were given in the store’s grand court, bringing in famous European organists including Leopold Stokowski, who later conducted music for the Disney movie Fantasia. The annual Christmas in a 'Grand Tradition' concert, absolutely delighting Santa and the kids.
Over the years, Macy’s who took the over the downtown JW store has invested in constant restorations and refurbishments for the organ. And while Philadelphia might be full of history, there is only one place where you can shop for shoes and leave with a song in your heart.
Philadelphia Downtown JW Store: The Eagle became a major identity for John Wanamaker. Very much so as shoppers would refer to it: "Let's meet at the Eagle." At 2,500 pounds the Eagle standing guard and meeting you at the store main entrance, it was surely never to be overlooked.
This is the Oxford Valley Mall John Wanamaker Eagle fronting their store. Unlike the Philadelphia Eagle at rest in their store, this one is about to take off or about to land. A mall fountain setting and bit more modern in design and appeal, but still an Eagle.