Historic Structures

The Wallach Building, Trenton New Jersey

Date added: May 11, 2018 Categories: New Jersey Commercial Retail

The Wallach Building is a commercial building erected on the corner of State and Broad Streets, the heart of downtown Trenton. The modern steel frame building with greatly simplified classical detailing replaced nine individual 19th century buildings which had crowded together on this site. Planned in the Roaring Twenties, but completed during the Depression, the Wallach Building was the most modern building in this block of downtown. The building was most popularly known as part of the Dunham's Department Store in the 1950s and '60s, and it carried a lighted sign for Dunhams on the corner overlooking State and Broad Streets.

The Wallach Building site has been a bustling corner 1n the heart of downtown Trenton's commercial area since the early 19th century. In the 1920's The First National Bank of Trenton began to consolidate ownership of the nine existing buildings on the corner of East State and Broad Streets, so that by 1928, the entire site could be sold for development. The existing buildings were razed, and construction on the new four story block began in 1929.

The Wallach Building was designed by William Klemann, a local architect who died in 1929, shortly after completing the plans. A few years earlier, Klemann also designed the new facade for the expanded Dunham's Department Store, located next door to the Wallach Building on North Broad Street. The Wallach Building was a concious attempt to create a modern building in an aging downtown, and its fireproof construction was unique in the block of older buildings. Its chaste decoration, derived from simplification of classical motifs, was subordinated to the large window walls, giving the monolithic building a very light and open appearance.

Although largely constructed by the end of 1930, the economic changes of the Depression slowed completion and finishing of the building. The Wallach Building was not fully occupied until 1934. As built, the structure contained 14 stores and a narrow lobby on the first floor, and three floors of office space above.

The tenants listed in the 1935 Trenton City Directory reflect the variety of professions represented in the upstairs offices. A sub-post office was located on the second floor, as were a photographer, a real estate agent, a dentist, a beauty shop, and a firm of tailors. The third floor included offices for a chiropractor, a small law firm, a painter and an insurance company. The State Labor Department had offices on the third and fourth floors, the first in nearly half a century of office rentals in the building by the State of New Jersey. The State Fire Warden also had offices upstairs, along with a pair of lawyers who shared their office space with the Trenton Historical Society. The shops on the first floor also hosted a series of tenants in the 1930's and '40's, including shoe stores, hat shops, jewelers, florists, and beauticians.

In 1954, the Wallach Building was purchased by the Dunham's Department Store. Dunham's, established in 1867, was by the 1950's the premier retailer 1n downtown Trenton, outgrowing its buildings at 11-15 North Broad Street. Dunham's purchased the Wallach Building, (and several other buildings in the block) and expanded their retail and office space by creating internal access to these adjoining buildings. The largest first floor store within the Wallach Building was thus annexed to Dunham's, and the second floor was taken over as office space with direct access from the original Dunahm's building at 11 North Broad Street. Although the carved entablature over the lobby entrance continued to read "Wallach Building", a large lighted sign mounted over the corner of East State Street and Broad Street proclaimed "Dunhams".

The decline of downtown Trenton in the 1960s and '70s was mirrored 1n the lack of maintenance to the Wallach Building (and most others in the area), shabby attempts at storefront renovation which robbed the building of overall aesthetic unity or architectural integrity, and the loss of tenants from the building.