By Garland Pollard
OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL
DOWNTOWN, USA – It’s the Christmas shopping season. Not less than a decade ago, most parents had a nearby downtown department store. The visit would usually entail seeing Santa, buying some presents, and in general, picking up some civic spirit and sense of community.
That is all gone. Almost. Thankfully, and by some sort of accident, a few downtown stores have survived, including the Neiman Marcus store in Dallas. It is such a wonderful display it would be worth a visit to Dallas just to see it. Above, a great video we found of the lighting in downtown Dallas this year made by blogger RandomShawn.com. Makes us weepy.
We asked members of the Congress of the New Urbanism’s list serv to help us compile a list of department stores that have survived across the U.S. We were surprised that there were as many as there were still around.
While Macy’s could do much more to unlock the value of the brand names that it has shut down (Burdine’s, A&S, Rich’s, Marshall Field’s), Macy’s (NYSE: M) has at least kept open some of the stores open that it owns. Macy’s is in for a tough time this season, and while we think the re-branding of Marshall Field’s was a disaster, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise Macy’s for keeping these stores open.
Thanks to CNU list serv members Brandon C. Mason, Benjamin Weaver, Michael Eversmeyer, Lisa Selin Davis and Charlie Schmehl for helping us out with the list. We would love to add to it as I am sure there are some smaller department stores open in mid sized towns.
- Boston: Filene’s became Macy’s, a great history is at www.dshistory.com. The building survived and is apparently under renovation as Filene’s Basement at 497 Boylston St. Boston, MA, 617-424-5520. If you visit the Downtown Crossing Macy’s, you are actually visiting the original flagship store of Jordan Marsh.
- New York: Of course, there is Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Lord & Taylor is at 424 Fifth Avenue.
- Brooklyn: The former Abraham & Straus in downtown Brooklyn now operates as a Macy’s.
- Scranton and Wilkes-Barre: There is still an old department store, Boscov’s, in downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, according to new urbanist Charlie Schmehl. But the future of that store could be in doubt. There are two department stores in the Mall at Steamtown built in the 1990s in downtown Scranton. They are a Bon-Ton and a Boscov’s. The original owner of Boscov’s was instrumental in that project. Two other old department stores across the street were converted into offices.
- Philadelphia: In August of 2006, Macy’s re-opened in Center City Philadelphia in the former Wanamaker’s building. The building is recognized as one of the most architecturally significant retail spaces in the U.S. and is a National Historical Landmark. “There were originally two modern mid-priced dept. stores (including a Penney’s) in the Gallery indoor shopping mall in Philadelphia (which is proposed to have a slots casino built over it). Now they are a K-Mart and a Burlington Coat Factory. The old Lit Brothers and Strawbridge dept. stores next door were converted into offices. The Lit Brothers building is magnificient,” according to Charlie Schmehl; it was days away from being demolished in the 1980s.
- Norfolk. While Smith & Welton has closed (it is now a branch of the Tidewater Community College), the MacArthur Center Mall in downtown Norfolk has a Dillard’s and a Nordstrom. While they are new, they are truly downtown stores.
- Miami: The old Burdine’s in downtown Miami is now a Macy’s. There is a second urban Macy’s in Miami Beach, which has recently been renovated.
- Pittsburgh. Steel City used to have Kaufmanns, Hornes, Gimbles, Frank & Cedar, Rosenbaums. Today only Kaufmanns survives (barely), but of course it’s a Macy’s. Architect Michael Eversmeyer reminds that it was Edgar Kaufmann who commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design Fallingwater for him.
- Cincinnati: The former Lazarus store at Fountain Square is now a Macy’s.
- Chicago: You can still go to Chicago’s Marshall Field, but it is now a Macy’s. Sadly, the Carson Pirie Scott building is no longer Carson Pirie Scott, though the chain survives in other locations. Sears, God bless ’em, operate TWO stores that have been in business since November 2, 1925, one on Lawrence Avenue, and the other on 79th Street. These are the oldest continuously operated stores in the Sears system.
- Kansas City: Hall’s, a spinoff of Hallmark, is in downtown at Crown Center and in Country Club Plaza.
- St. Louis: The old Famous Barr store now operates as a Macy’s.
- Minneapolis: Dayton’s on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis is now a Macy’s. It’s where Mary Richards threw the hat at the beginning of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
- Dallas: Neiman Marcus still operates its flagship store at Main and Ervay.
- Portland: The old Meier & Frank in downtown Portland is now a Macy’s.
- Seattle: Nordstrom is, of course, in downtown Seattle.
- Los Angeles: Macy’s operates a store at 750 W. Seventh Street, Los Angeles.
We would love it if others could add some additional downtown stores that still remain in our comments section after the article. And there are even more in Canada.