A Brief History of Luckey, Platt and Company

By Alice Friedle

Poughkeepsie, New York is a small city of about 30,000 people located on the Hudson River about halfway between New York City and the state capital of Albany. The city, founded in 1687, has a long history as a political and commercial center in the Mid-Hudson Valley.  Downtown Poughkeepsie was a thriving area for small businesses for more than 200 years. The Luckey, Platt & Company department store was the largest and most impressive of these local stores. The store existed for 130 plus years in its various incarnations and made an enormous impact on the local economy and the residents of Poughkeepsie. It brought countless shoppers to the city and employed many hundreds of local residents over the years. Though no longer open as a retailer, the Luckey, Platt building continues to dominate its section of Main Street and serves as a reminder of the former greatness of the city.

Luckey, Platt & Company was officially founded in 1869, but its roots stretch back further into Poughkeepsie history. The company was started in 1835 under the name Crandle & Smith.[1] Isaac Dibble’s dry goods store came next in the chain of business that would become Luckey, Platt & Company. Dribble’s business was founded in 1845.[2] The business changed hands again and was owned by Robert Slee. Slee hired Charles P. Luckey to be his assistant sometime in the 1850s. Luckey bought part of the business in 1866.[3] Edmund P. Platt bought a share in the company in 1869 and Luckey, Platt & Company was established.[4] This long history gave the company a solid footing in the community.

Postcard ca. 1907 Credit: Ancestry.com

Postcard ca. 1907 Credit: Ancestry.com

In 1875 the storefront of Luckey, Platt & Company extended from 336 to 346 Main Street.[5] This was a prime location. This section of Main Street was a very fashionable area frequented by many shoppers. The location must have been a factor in the department store’s success as it continued buying the surrounding buildings. Luckey, Platt & Company was so successful that it outgrew its original location. In 1910 the company hired Poughkeepsie architect Percival Lloyd to design its new furniture annex.[6] This expansion was not the last, and the store continued to grow. The year 1924 marked the final time the store expanded, this time by constructing an entirely new building.[7]  Luckey, Platt & Company hired another local architect to design its new storefront. The neoclassical building, designed by Edward C. Smith, is the one that is recognized as the Luckey, Platt building by City of Poughkeepsie residents today. When Luckey, Platt & Company used the space it featured a beauty parlor, a cafeteria, and had three hydraulic elevators. [8] This building is located on the corner of Main and Academy Street. It stands five stories tall and is a prominent feature of the cityscape.

In the 1920s the Luckey, Platt & Company building was the largest store between New York City and Albany, serving customers from all walks of life. The company advertised 60,000 square feet of floor space.[9] The building’s three elevators helped consumers navigate its 33 departments. These departments included: dry goods, accessories, carpets, furniture, drapery and upholstery, and all types of clothing to just name a few.[10] Women managed 15 of the store’s 33 departments, though the company’s advisory board remained all male. [11] At its height Luckey, Platt & Company employed 400 people.[12] This was a huge workforce and reflects the immense success of the store and the number of jobs it created in and around Poughkeepsie.

Postcard ca. 1912 Credit: C. B. Jackson Advertising,Chicago

Postcard ca. 1912 Credit: C. B. Jackson Advertising,Chicago

The store’s good fortune did not last forever. Luckey, Platt’s sales declined from the 1950s onward as people moved out of the City of Poughkeepsie and shopping plazas opened up on Route 9. The city tried to save its downtown shopping district with the creation of the Main Mall in 1974. This project leveled sections of the neighborhood and blocked traffic on Main Street to make way for a pedestrian mall to attract shoppers. The city also built the arterials, two three-lane highways that run right through the middle of the city. This plan was one used in many places around the country to save their local economies.[13] Business owners were wary of the plan but hoped for its success. Unfortunately, Main Mall was a failure. One reason for this could be the arterials. “High-speed, limited-access roads allowed city residents to drive outward in search of bargains far more than they drew shoppers inward to the traditional shopping core.”[14] Luckey, Platt & Company fell victim to the same fate as many of its contemporaries. It could not be saved from suburbanization and the rise of strip malls.

In 1975 Luckey, Platt & Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. [15] Luckey, Platt & Company scaled down their business, operating only the first floor of their massive main building with a workforce of 15 employees. The top floors were rented out to the Dutchess County Department of Social Services. The main store closed its doors for good on July 2, 1981.[16] . The company opened some satellite stores in the Route 9 strip malls in a desperate attempt to stay alive. These failed as well within a few years of the main store’s closing.

The Department of Social Services moved its offices out of the building in the mid-1980s. After that the building sat vacant for almost 20 years. Its interior suffered major damage during this time including the collapse of some of the floors. In 2004 Queens based developer Alma Realty purchased the building.[17] They have repurposed the space into apartments. These apartments are very desirable and a serve as symbol of Poughkeepsie’s gradual recovery. The beautiful Luckey, Platt & Company building is once again serving an important purpose in the community.

Luckey, Platt & Company was the premier shopping outlet in the City of Poughkeepsie for more than 130 years. It had great influence in shaping the city and was easily one of the most important businesses in Poughkeepsie’s history because of the number of people it employed and shoppers it attracted. The Luckey, Platt & Company department store may be closed, but the building continues to play an important role as a symbol of the revitalization of downtown Poughkeepsie. Perhaps someday that city will be restored to its former state and there will be other retailers like Luckey, Platt & Company to ensure the city’s continued success.

Luckey, Platt & Company building today. Credit: Poughkeepsie Journal

Luckey, Platt & Company building today. Credit: Poughkeepsie Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

1st Photo. 1907. Photograph. Dutchess County Postcards. Web. <http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nydutche/postcards/po_luckeyplatt.jpg>.

Flad, Harvey K., and Clyde Griffen. Main Street to Mainframes: Landscape and Social Change in Poughkeepsie. N.p.: State University of New York, 2009. Print.

Longstreth, Richard W. The American Department Store Transformed, 1920-1960. New Haven [Conn.: Yale UP, 2010. Print.

Platt, Edmund. The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie: From the Earliest Settlements, 1683 to 1905. Poughkeepsie [N.Y.: Platt & Platt, 1905. Print.

Rinaldi, Thomas E., and Rob Yasinsac. Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape. Hanover: University of New England, 2006. Print.

Saartje. “Urban Renewal Part 5.” Hold’er Newt. N.p., 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <http://www.44parkave.com/holdernewt/2011/11/urban-renewal-part-5/>.

2nd Photo. Floor Covering Department, Luckey Platt & Co., Poughkeepsie, N. Y. ca. 1912. Photograph. C. B. Jackson Advertising,Chicago. Web. <http://home.southernct.edu/~sisselmanp1/Box%201/Businesses/343aPage.html>.

Sharp, Townley M. “Luckey, Platt & Company Department Store.” Luckey, Platt & Company Department Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <http://www.oprhp.state.ny.us/hpimaging/hp_view.asp?GroupView=1785>.

3rd Photo. N.d. Photograph. Poughkeepsie Journal. Web. <http://cmsimg.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=BK&Date=20081209&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=812090323&Ref=V2&MaxW=300&Border=0&Historic-Luckey-Platt-finally-opens-tenants>.

For Further Reading:

The American Department Store Transformed, 1920-1960 by Richard Longstreth

This book provides a good overview of the trends of department stores in general during their golden age and into their demise. It is good to read to gain a broader knowledge of the topic.

Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape by Thomas Rinaldi and Rob Yasinsac

This book gives the reader many descriptions of former industrial spots in the Hudson Valley and a general history of these sites and companies. It is worth reading so one can identify the buildings they see abandoned locally and what they were.

Seventy-five Years of Service: the Informal Biography of a Store by Luckey, Platt & Company

This pamphlet gives the reader the history of the department store from the company’s point of view. It is interesting to see how the store portrayed itself to its customers.

Footnotes:


[1] The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie pg. 286

[2] Sharp

[3] Hudson Valley Ruins pg. 166

[4] The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie pg. 286

[5] Main Street to Main Frames pg. 72

[6] Sharp

[7] Hudson Valley Ruins pg. 166

[8] Hudson Valley Ruins pg. 167

[9] Saartje

[10] The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie pg. 286

[11] Main Street to Main Frames pg. 137

[12] Hudson Valley Ruins pg. 167

[13] The American Department Store Transformed 1920-1960 pg. 234-235

[14] The American Department Store Transformed 1920-1960 pg. 248

[15] Main Street to Main Frames pg. 310

[16] Saartje

[17] Saartje

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