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Siegel-Cooper began as a discount department store on State Street in the Loop. It was founded by Henry Siegel, Frank H. Cooper and Isaac Keim in 1887. Four years later, the store moved into the eight-story Second Leiter Building at State and Van Buren Street, designed by William Le Baron Jenney.
In September 1896, the company opened a store in New York City, a huge emporium in the Ladies' Mile Shopping District, joining the other major department stores in the neighborhood. Their steel-framed building, the first department store in New York to be so constructed, was the largest store in the world at the time, and was designed in Beaux-Arts style by DeLemos & Cordes, who would go on to design the R. H. Macy's store in Herald Square, which then took the title of largest. The six-story Siegel-Cooper store was located at 616-632 Sixth Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets, and was built between 1895 and 1897, then added to in 1899.
The steel-framed construction of the "Big Store", as it was called at the time, enabled the building to have large interior spaces with uninterrupted selling floors, and allowed for skylit courts. Siegel-Cooper took full advantage of the novelty – to New York City – of steel-framing by advertising the building as "the only and absolutely fire-proof and perfectly safe store in New York City."
The store offered a wide variety of dry goods in its 18 acres (7 ha.), as well as other amenities such as a grocery department, barber shop, theatre, telegraph office, art gallery, photo studio, bank, dental office, a 350-person restaurant, and a conservatory which sold live plants. The main floor featured a copy of Daniel Chester French's statue The Republic inside a marble-enclosed fountain. This was a popular meeting place, giving rise to the phrase "Meet me at the fountain," which the store used as a slogan, along with "A City in Itself" and "Everything Under the Sun".
At its peak, the store employed over 3,000 people, mostly girls and women, and offered its employees an infirmary, a parlor and a gymnasium. The company also published a newspaper for its workers, called Thought and Work.
In 1905, The Henry Siegel Company opened a large store in Boston, at 600 Washington Street. 
In 1902, Henry Siegel sold the company to one of his major stockholders, who merged the store with B. Altman across the street, creating a mega-store which was ultimately unsuccessful. In 1913–14 J.P. Morgan was involved in combining the company with other retailers as the Associated Dry Goods Corp. Siegel-Cooper declared bankruptcy in 1915, and the New York store closed in 1917, becoming a military hospital during World War I and then a warehouse. The Chicago store closed around 1930, and that building was taken over by Sears, Roebuck as their flagship store. It is now the Chicago campus of Robert Morris University.
After decades of miscellaneous use as a warehouse, television scene shop and location of a social services center ("The Door"), the New York building become one of the first of the great dry-goods emporia in the Ladies' Mile to be renovated and re-opened for retail use. Calling itself "The Anchor of the Avenue", the building's retail tenants are Bed, Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx and Marshall's.
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