Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale were sons of a Bavarian salesman who got their start in 1861 selling hoop-skirts in a Ladies' Notions Shop on New York's Lower East Side. In 1872 they expanded their offerings and opened an East Side Bazaar that was unique among upscale retailers in that it carried a wide variety of European fashions rather than specializing in a single type of garment. In 1886, the brothers moved to this location at 59th Street at Lexingtion Avenue in a neighborhood that was becoming the home of the wealthy and powerful. The relocation proved especially precient as continued urban growth and the advent of mass transit placed their location in the accessible heart of city. The store continued to grow and by the 1920s covered the entire block.
In 1931, the disparate additions were completely redesigned into a coherent Art Deco whole by Starrett and Van Vleck, a firm well known for its department store design that was also responsible for the Lord & Taylor (1914) and Saks (1924) stores on Fifth Avenue.