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The two women stepped onto the fifth floor, the rooms of which were a facsimile of the 1916 interiors of Benjamin Altman’s Fifth Avenue home. Dana and Helen walked through the reception area, which was a replica of Altman’s well-known Renaissance room. Fine art adorned the wood-paneled walls beyond the anteroom, with elaborately carved woodwork accenting the hallways. The President’s Room was a reproduction of Altman’s personal library, while the Board Room was a faithful rendering of his dining room. Oriental carpets lay on the polished parquet floor, and Dana never ceased to marvel at the rich interior of the executive suite and its expensive art collection no matter how many times she entered the area. It had the ambience of a corporate cathedral, and the first time she stepped onto the floor years earlier, she had unconsciously lifted her right hand for a split second, as if to dip her fingers in a holy water font.

Dana and Helen walked in the same direction for fifteen paces until it became obvious that they were both heading for Bea Savino’s office.

“I was told Bea wanted to see me,” Dana stated.

“I’m sure you were,” Helen said flatly. “But I need to see her first. That isn’t a problem, is it?”

“No. Of course not.”

It was another elevator moment. Dana gave Helen a politically correct smile and stepped back, allowing her to open Bea’s door and slip into the office.

Dana walked up and down the hall, admiring the landscapes hanging on the dark paneling. Miniature marble sculptures stood on pedestals and library tables with inlaid mother-of-pearl. She hoped Helen wouldn’t be long since she wanted to get back home, walk her dog, and double-check arrangements for the annual McGarry Christmas party, now only six days away. It was one o’clock, but if Bea called a special events meeting, Dana’s afternoon would be lost. She was overseeing the expansion of the adult programs, known as “department-store culture,” and she and Bea were still working out the details for the rollout in January. B. Altman was a pioneer for such a program, and Dana would be programming three events a week in the Charleston Garden restaurant that seated two hundred. A smaller third-floor community room was newly renovated for the expanded sessions that included mini-courses in art appreciation, cooking demonstrations, book signings, self-improvement, and current events.

B. Altman
B. Altman was located in New York City’s Murray Hill at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. In 1914, the addition of a twelve-story building expanded the store to a full city block and Benjamin Altman realized his dream to build the finest and largest New York department store. In deference to Murray Hill's exclusive residential neighborhood, Mr. Altman had the building designed to replicate a Florentine palace and his business name did not appear on the outside of the building until the 1950s. I lived in Murray Hill many years, and it will also be Dana McGarry’s home throughout the five book series. In this excerpt, Dana McGarry will introduce you to B. Altman, beloved by generations of New Yorkers.
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