Lord & Taylor
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19 Iconic Department Stores We Miss

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Lord & Taylor
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Relics of a Bygone Era

Today, it's easy to go on a shopping spree without leaving your couch — or taking off your pajamas, for that matter. But it wasn't long ago that shopping was an event, and heading downtown to a massive, glittering department store might even require getting dressed up in your Sunday best. Sadly, many of these iconic retailers have been shuttered, snapped up by competitors, or demolished. Here are 19 of the many department stores we'd love to have a chance to explore one more time.

Related: 50 Events That Made Retail History Before the Pandemic

Lord and Taylor Store with Empire State Building, New York
OlegAlbinsky/istockphoto

Lord & Taylor

New York City
Until very recently Lord & Taylor was a survivor — the nation's oldest department store still in operation. Founded in New York in 1826, it grew from a dry-goods store into an upscale chain noted for high-quality apparel. Its flagship Fifth Avenue store opened in 1914, becoming known for its display windows and, eventually, its famed Bird Cage tea room. It also made history by appointing a woman, Dorothy Shaver, president of the company in 1945. Shaver helped set the chain apart by pioneering "store within a store" concepts for petite women and others.

Fate: Filed for bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic and announced liquidation of all stores; flagship store closed last year after being purchased by WeWork for $850 million.

Related: Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began

Hudson's, Detroit
Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Hudson's

Detroit
Though it started as a small menswear shop in the 1880s, Detroit's Hudson's mushroomed, eventually becoming the nation's second-largest department store. Customers who came to Hudson's flagship downtown store could be forgiven for craning their necks. For a time, the 32-story building was the world's tallest department store, with more than 200 departments. During the holidays, it became a destination for everyone in Detroit, hosting a large Thanksgiving parade and an impressive Christmas toyland. The store even laid claim to the world's largest flag, which would eventually cover seven stories when displayed. Hungry shoppers could fuel up in one of several fine restaurants, and the most notable dish, the Maurice Salad, remains a local favorite.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Marshall Field's in 2001, then Macy's in 2006; flagship store closed in 1983 and imploded in 1998.

Lazarus, Columbus, Ohio
Lazarus, Columbus, Ohio by Ohio Redevelopment Projects - ODSA (CC BY)

Lazarus

Columbus, Ohio
One of the most prominent of Ohio's many homegrown department stores, Lazarus grew from a one-room men's clothing shop into a Midwestern behemoth with its flagship in downtown Columbus. A trip there became a pilgrimage for many families, especially during the holidays, when a tree of lights would rise on the roof, a "talking" Christmas tree would welcome kids to Santaland and the toy department overflowed with shiny new gizmos and an army of seasonal assistants. Teens could even take grooming courses here, and visitors could pat a baby lamb. Nine restaurants fed hungry shoppers, including the Chintz Room and the Buckeye Room, and all but one would close as shoppers started fleeing to suburban malls in the '70s and '80s.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2005; flagship store converted into office space.

Filene's, Boston
Library of Congress

Filene's

Boston
While the Filene's flagship store was indeed a Boston landmark, Filene's is best known for how it cleared out unwanted merchandise: by putting it in its elaborately decorated, air-conditioned "Automatic Bargain Basement," where it would be marked down a certain amount, with bigger discounts the longer it sat. The late '40s even brought an annual bridal gown sale known as the "Running of the Brides" that over the years grew into a media spectacle. The clearance concept was so successful that Filene's Basement later became a spin-off of Filene's in the late 1980s.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship buildings torn down or gutted and sold to offices and new retailers.

Marshall Field's, Chicago
Library of Congress

Marshall Field's

Chicago
A trip to Marshall Field and Company in downtown Chicago, the "cathedral of all the stores," was an assault on the senses. Built during the turn of the century, its flagship on State Street contained a whopping 73 acres of floorspace, and its book, china, shoe and toy departments eclipsed those of any rival. Highlights included polished marble floors, wood and glass counters, a vaulted ceiling decorated with Tiffany glass, two prominent cast-bronze clocks, and the Walnut Room restaurant, the first restaurant inside a department store and eventually home to the world's largest indoor Christmas tree. One other notable feature: The 28 Shop, a couture salon with 28 fitting rooms where wealthy customers saw high-end merchandise in private.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship converted into Macy's and office space.

Hecht's, Washington, D.C.
Library of Congress

Hecht's

Washington, D.C.
One of the mid-Atlantic's most prominent department store chains began as a used-furniture shop in Baltimore. But the business grew and migrated to the nation's capital, where its impressive F Street store became something of an institution, the first store in the city to have a parking garage. It even drew 30,000 people for a ribbon-cutting in honor of its "moving staircase" — the city's first escalator. The store was also notable for welcoming black customers more than other competitors at the time, but it still segregated shoppers in its cafeteria, leading to protests that would end the policy in 1952.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship converted into retail and office space.

Barneys, New York City
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Barneys

New York City
Barneys may have been known as a luxury store, but it began roughly a century ago as a men's discount clothing store with very humble roots, paid for when owner Barney Pressman pawned his wife's engagement ring. In the '60s, Pressman's son converted it into a high-end store and eventually added women's wear. Collaborations with designers like Giorgio Armani and supermodels like Naomi Campbell eventually made Barneys a luxury destination, and in the early '90s, it opened its iconic Madison Avenue flagship, the largest new store in Manhattan since the Depression. Aside from high fashion, the store was known for edgy window displays like a duct-tape nativity scene. It also opened just a few years before the chain first declared bankruptcy, signaling two decades of financial turbulence to come.

Fate: Liquidated in 2019 and Barneys name licensed to Saks Fifth Avenue; flagship store remains open as pop-up store for new owner Authentic Brands.

Related: These Companies That Filed for Bankruptcy Also Awarded Their CEOs Huge Bonuses

Burdine's, Miami
Burdine's, Miami by Phillip Pessar (CC BY)

Burdine's

Miami
Any Sunshine State resident of a certain age is bound to have fond memories of "The Florida Store," as Burdine's eventually billed itself. Its most prominent location in Miami beckoned snowbirds with tropical colors like bright pink and blue, plus plenty of resortwear, billed as "Sunshine Fashions." A Burdine's shopper could even order tropical fruit to be shipped home to colder climates, and starting in the '40s, pick up daring fashions like strapless bathing suits. They could also head to the palm-print Hibiscus Tea Room for an elegant lunch, finishing the meal with a famous dessert called Snow Princess — a lavish skirt of ice cream, whipped cream and silver balls topped with a porcelain doll.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2005; flagship store converted to Macy's and closed in 2018.

Wanamaker's, Philadelphia
The Library of Congress

John Wanamaker

Philadelphia
To say Wanamaker's was an important part of Philadelphia is an understatement — President William Howard Taft even gave an address during the palatial store's dedication in 1911. One of the store's hallmarks was the grand Wanamaker Organ, originally made for the St. Louis World Fair, which sat in the marble Grand Court and remains in operation today; another was a large bronze eagle that became a popular meeting place in the cavernous store. Beginning in the '40s, kids could ride a real monorail throughout the atrium and toy department, and in the '50s, Wanamaker's introduced a holiday light show using hanging lights, music and narration. Macy's continues the tradition today.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Hecht's in 1995, then Macy's in 2006; flagship store converted to Macy's and office space.

Bullocks Wilshire, Los Angeles
Los Angeles Public Library

Bullocks Wilshire

Los Angeles
One of the most prominent old-school department store chains in Southern California, Bullock's quickly birthed Bullocks Wilshire in the late 1920s, a far more upscale branch of its parent company. The resulting store was a towering Art Deco masterpiece with themed shopping departments like a Louis XIV salon and mirrored perfume hall. It catered to the wealthiest customers, including celebrities like Mae West and Clark Gable. The elegant top-floor tea room was a destination in itself, providing private dining spaces for more important diners and a classic menu of finger sandwiches, salads and a still-famous coconut cream pie. Sadly, the building was damaged during the 1992 L.A. riots and closed shortly after.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 1996; flagship store closed in 1993 and converted into law school (though once a year it's open to the public for tours).

The Bon Marche, Seattle
The Bon Marche, Seattle by Steve Morgan (CC BY-SA)

The Bon Marche

Seattle
Though it took its name from a famous Parisian department store, The Bon Marche was a decidedly Seattle institution, with its flagship store downtown. Unlike many other department stores, it retained a reputation as a down-to-earth place where shoppers could look for bargains, and even had a drugstore where practical goods could be purchased, not just fashionable clothing and housewares. Thirty years ago, a jingle based on Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song," advertising a one-day sale may have become The Bon Marche's most lasting legacy, lodging itself in the hearts and ears of Seattle residents for years to come.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2005; flagship store converted to Macy's (closing soon).

Related: 20 Things You Didn't Know About Canada's Favorite Department Store

Rich's, Atlanta
Library of Congress

Rich's

Atlanta
Though it started as a modest dry goods store, Rich's would grow to anchor much of Georgia retail in the 20th century. The Atlanta flagship, opened in 1924, quickly became a downtown institution, with traditions including the Lighting of the Great Tree, a 70-foot live Christmas tree perched on the store's roof, and kiddie rides on pink pig monorails through the toy department. In 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a sit-in at the store's Magnolia Room restaurant; it would desegregate the following year. One of the restaurant's enduring dishes: Chicken Salad Amandine with Frozen Fruit Salad.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2005; flagship store closed in 1991 and converted into federal office building.

Montgomery Ward, Chicago
Ebay

Montgomery Ward

Chicago
Montgomery Ward, pioneer of the mail-order catalog and money-back guarantee, wouldn't open its first stores until the mid-1920s, half a century after its founding. But it did so in short order and had more than 550 stores by 1930, including a flagship in Chicago with 10 acres of floorspace topped with a gilded statue, "The Spirit of Progress." In 1939, a Montgomery Ward advertising exec dreamed up a rhyming tale called "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to hand out to excited kids during Christmas visits. Sadly, the magic wouldn't last: Sears beat out Montgomery Ward for prime suburban locations, and the company got tangled up with investors like Mobil Oil and General Electric as it scrambled to stay relevant.

Fate: Liquidated in 2001; Montgomery Ward brand name acquired by Colony Brands Inc. and relaunched as an online company; flagship store converted into condos.

Related: How to Score at Going-Out-of-Business Sales

Kaufmann's, Pittsburgh
Kaufmann's, Pittsburgh by Steve Morgan (CC BY-SA)

Kaufmann's

Pittsburgh
Kauffman's, founded in 1871, became the most prominent of Pittsburgh's many department stores. Its flagship, called "The Big Store," eventually had more than a million square feet spread across a dozen floors in three buildings. Highlights included black marble columns, wall-to-wall murals, executive offices designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and an iconic clock that became a meeting point for many locals. While the store boasted many places to eat, one of the most iconic was The Tic Toc restaurant, where shoppers could dig into chicken Waldorf salad, mile-high apple pie, or a plate of tea sandwiches. In addition, the Arcade Bakery churned out well-loved thumbprint cookies.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship converted into Macy's and closed in 2015; conversion to offices, apartments and retail ongoing.

Gimbels, New York City
Museum of the City of New York

Gimbels

New York City
By now, it's pretty clear that Macy's has won the battle of the department store, but for decades, Gimbels was its plucky rival just a block from New York City's Herald Square, a fight referenced in the classic movie "Miracle on 34th Street." The chain had several large flagship stores, including in Philadelphia, where its inaugural 1920 Thanksgiving Day parade beat Macy's to the punch by four years and where patrons in the store restaurant in the '60s could dine on a $1.65 filet of flounder, followed by 50-cent buttermilk fluff for desert. Later years saw Gimbels making a play for more middle- and lower-income shoppers than Macy's, but constant discounting eventually did the store in.

Fate: Chain closed and sold in 1986 to various rivals; New York City flagship now houses shopping center.

Famous-Barr, St. Louis
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Famous-Barr

St. Louis
With its St. Louis flagship dating back to 1914, Famous-Barr was simply the place to shop for many River City residents. And like so many other department stores, Famous-Barr would become synonymous with the holidays, luring visitors downtown with events like breakfast with Santa or elaborate window displays. Beyond typical holiday decor, the store once even displayed a partridge, turtle doves and French hens; another year, three bears frolicked in the display. Of course, eating there was an event in itself, with a handful of restaurants spread among the store's dozen floors. St. Louis residents fondly remember the store's French onion soup, which was sold to hungry shoppers at stands throughout the store.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship converted into Macy's and closed in 2013; conversion to offices, apartments, and retail in planning stages.

Jordan Marsh, Boston
Jordan Marsh, Boston by Bob Bruennig (CC BY)

Jordan Marsh

Boston
One of downtown Boston's most prominent department stores, Jordan Marsh sprawled across several buildings from the '40s through the '70s, when it was consolidated and remodeled. Its most prominent non-shopping attraction was The Enchanted Village, an extravaganza of animatronics decorating their Christmas trees, buying presents, and attending to other holiday business in a Victorian setting. Another thing Jordan Marsh shoppers undoubtedly remember: the blueberry muffins, served in the top-floor restaurant. Fortunately, copy-cat recipes abound for anyone who needs a little taste of nostalgia. The village, eventually auctioned off by the city of Boston, has also been resurrected by a local furniture store.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 1996; flagship store converted to Macy's.

Dayton's, Minneapolis
The Dayton's Project

Dayton's

Minneapolis
For decades, Dayton's was the place to shop, see and be seen, especially in Minneapolis at its downtown flagship store. You could buy nearly anything in the 12-floor building: For a time, it even housed a "Pet-O-Rama" that sold exotic birds, fish, and even monkeys. An eighth-floor auditorium hosted extravagant annual holiday shows and, starting in 1960, the famous Spring Flower Show. But Dayton's knew that in changing times, it couldn't cater solely to the upper class, and decided to open a discount version of its venerable store in nearby Roseville. The decision was a good one: It was the nation's first Target store.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Marshall Field's in 2001, then Macy's in 2006; flagship store converted to Macy's in 2006 and closed in 2017; conversion to offices and retail ongoing.

Foley's, Houston
University of Houston Libraries

Foley's

Houston
Unlike many of the opulent turn-of-the-century buildings that housed major downtown department stores, Foley's in Houston was hailed not for its grandeur but practicality. The "windowless box with glorious air conditioning" debuted in 1947, growing to a 10-floor building over the next decade with departments for everything from candles to clock, bridal to books. The '50s saw the beginning of a Foley-sponsored Thanksgiving Day parade, and the store's elaborate animated Christmas windows were always a highlight of the season. Student protests led to desegregation during the early '60s, with many other Houston business following suit. Women later got in on the action by successfully marching on The Men's Grill, a male-only restaurant at Foley's, in 1970.

Fate: Chain absorbed by Macy's in 2006; flagship store converted to Macy's in 2006 and closed in 2013; building demolished in 2013.

Related: 20 Chain Restaurants That Are Closing Locations This Year — and 13 That Could Be Next