Wanamaker took way to stay ahead of the competition. In the early twentieth century, he commissioned DanielH. Burnham, mastermind of the Chicago Columbian Exposition, to design a new fourteen- story store on the point of his Grand Depot. Work progressed in three corridor, with internal divisions that remained visible in the completed store. The structure was opened in 1911 with an address from President WilliamH. Taft, making it the only department store to be devoted by a sitting chairman. Also, like the Gimbels, Wanamaker raided New York, buying the store of his former hero, Stewart.
The giant stores came stages for pageantry that underlined their part in communal life and the culture of town. Wanamakers installed a- pipe Grand Organ from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition inSt. Louis, added pipes, and on occasion brought in the Philadelphia Orchestra to accompany it. At peak shopping seasons, Wanamakers and other storesre-created the uproariousness of Rome or the Belle Epoque. To balance the frivolousness, during each Lent the Wanamaker store displayed oils of Jesus before Pilate and on the cross.
For Christmas, store windows drew families to Market Street to see the tableaux of animated dolls groaning, opening presents, and jotting lists to Santa, who awaited upstairs. Outside, Lits created the Colonial Christmas Village and Strawbridge offered the Dickens Christmas Village. Wanamakers ’ Christmas Light Show, introduced in 1955, packed the Grand Court hourly with children and parents watching the capers of Frosty, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer – a character created by the public department store chain Montgomery Ward &Co. in the 1930s.
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Although generations of Philadelphians cherished these traditions, as beforehand as the 1920s machine power and suburban casing development gestured a new period in which merchandising shifted down from midtowns. In Camden, original stores similar as Baker- Film and Munger & Long failed after the 1926 opening of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, compactly leaving only aJ.C. Penney store town. Although Philadelphia’s main stores continued to expand in Center City, they also opened branches, at first small and confined to resorts and rich cities. Strawbridge responded more assertively by opening some of the megacity’s first branch department stores, at Suburban Square in Ardmore in 1930 and just outdoors Jenkintown on Old York Road in 1932. Frank & Seder also espoused a suburban strategy, opening a store near the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby in 1929.
Lits Is vended
utmost of the Big Six remained family- possessed, but Lits was vended to one of the new chains of department stores being organized in the 1920s, City Stores, an admixture of three stores in the South and the Goerke family’s operations around Newark,N.J. The Depression put also City Stores into the hands of Albert Greenfield’s Philadelphia- grounded Bankers SecuritiesCorp., which broke off Lits as a separate unit.
When suburban growth proceeded after the Great Depression and World War II, department stores continued their expansion. Strawbridge’s and Wanamakers opened branches in Wilmington, whose department stores were weakening. Lits bought a store in Trenton, took over from Frank & Seder in Upper Darby, and erected new stores in the Northeast and in Camden. Snellenburg’s – another part of the Bankers Securities conglomerate since 1951 – went to Lawrence Park, Willow Grove, and South Philadelphia, and bought the largest store in Atlantic City. Wanamakers fanned out to Jenkintown and Wynnewood, and Strawbridge also went to Springfield, Delaware County.
The cost of staying competitive was too important for Frank & Seder, which withdrew from Philadelphia in 1953 and went out of business entirely in 1959. Next to fall was Snellenburg’s. In 1962, its branches were rebranded as Lit’s, leaving just the town store. One day, the store suddenly closed, with guests being ordered onto the road at 2p.m.
On the other hand, Strawbridge in 1961 came one of the anchors in Cherry Hill Mall, the first enclosed boardwalk on the East Coast and the alternate in the nation. As were the extensively anticipated Clover Days deals.
sluggishly, the Tide Turns
While department stores sounded to be roaring in the 1960s, they had in fact passed their peak, as discounters, promenades, and big- box stores offered wider selections at lower prices and with lower fixed costs, and further new challengers moved in from other metropolises. High- fashion New York stores similar as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, andB. Altman &Co. were formerly on the Main Line, and Bloomingdale’s opened original branches.
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The public chains of Sears, Roebuck &Co. andJ.C. PenneyCo. had longtime original operations but had noway tried to contend in Center City. Sears had one of its public roster centers in a huge structure on Roosevelt Boulevard, and its longtime president, Lessing Rosenwald, lived in Montgomery County. Sears ’ superintendent staff remained at the company’s home base in Chicago, although it opened one of its first retail stores on the Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden. Penney’s was indeed less visible, though it had stores in Germantown and on 69th Street( and latterly in the Gallery in Center City).
Lits fell in 1977. The Philadelphia- area Gimbels stores were bought by the Allied Stores chain and assigned to its Stern’s division. By 1989 Stern’s was done in Philadelphia, and the Reading- grounded Boscov’s Department Stores Inc. began picking up vacated stores. Boscov’s also for a number of times patronized the megacity’s Thanksgiving cortege , which had been established by Gimbels in 1920 as the first festivity of its kind in the nation.
Indeed Wanamakers was vended, first in 1978 to Carter Hawley Hale Stores from California and also in 1986 to Woodward & Lothrop, a Washington store possessed by Detroit boardwalk inventor Alfred Taubman. After “ Woodies ” went void in 1994, Wanamakers came part of the Hecht’s division of May Department Stores, which also bought Strawbridge & Clothier in 1996.
Eventually, in 2005, Federated Department Stores bought May. The establishment renamed all of its stores across the nation as Macy’s, except for Bloomingdale’s stores. therefore, in 2006, Macy’s came to Market Street. The Strawbridge position closed and Macy’s moved into the store erected by John Wanamaker. Macy’s pledged to maintain and ameliorate the Christmas Light Show that had pleased generations of children and grown-ups, and it remained a tradition to meet “ at the Eagle ” – a statue brought back to Philadelphia from theSt. Louis world’s fair by Wanamaker, the brickmason’s son whose words, still inscribed on a column on the main bottom of his store, spoke to a dissolved period in merchandising