A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Friday, 2 July 2010

Looking at Photos: Shots of Filene's in Boston from the 1940's to 2008

Hello again, My Fellow Boston Retro Lovers!
I have had the pleasure of being in touch with some super folks since this blog began a few years ago. I am so proud to present some photos today sent to me by another fellow department store lover, Michael. Michael has been collecting photos and other items from the great USA department stores of old for many years now and has even started writing books about his favorite stores. He has a great collection of Filene's photos that make my heart sing out...Yipppeee!!
I have added a few finds from my own collection of images of Filene's to his great selection to help us have a good look at this wonderful, old Boston institution that people from all over the world have shopped at during its long, busy life.

Let's begin by looking at the wonderful winter scenes. The 1960 view down Washington Street is so dear. You can see the older buildings of Filene's as you come to Franklin Street. These were torn down in the early 70's to make way for the block shaped low addition that has only just been torn down as the building is slowly redeveloped for other use. If you look at the photos from 2008, you will note the way the older buildings inner walls had to be altered due to the lower height of the 1970's addition compared to height of the ones it replaced.

Now let's look at the photo of one of the Gabor sisters being given the key to the store. Note the great lower-case letter "f" on the key. This lower-case spelling of the store name was in use for many years and even was used on signage around the store as well.

Now look at the 1950- 1951 photo of Filene's looking toward a Jordan Marsh Company that is all set to celebrate it's big 100th anniversary. The old Shuman building of Jordan Marsh located at the corner of Wahington and Summer Streets has been all done up and it looks very festive, I bet it lights up at night!
Anniversary celebrations were big for Boston department stores, RH White's would soon do it up in style in 1953 and hail their own 100th year in business.

Note the various shots of Filene's street floor over the years. I loved the "Art Deco" lights that used to hang above the central sales area of the main store building. Classic stuff really! The new fancy fixtures are really a bit much that you see in the later shots. Give me the simple "Art Deco" style any day!
A make-over in the 1970's removed many fine features and covered much of the balcony area with mirrors...or what Filene's called...the mezzanine:-)
Boston department stores prided themselves on having unique street floors. Each was different. Filene's had the height and grand pillars that gave a wonderful feeling of space.

Note the basement shot. Filene's had a uniform basement layout. Upper and lower levels and all rather open and rectangular in shape. The ceilings were low but it was air cooled for summer comfort, note all the duct work:-)
By the early 1970's, Filene's basement was a palace compared to Jordan Marsh's on the other side of the street. Jordan's lacked air cooling in most areas and due to the vast number of different buildings in use...it was a hodge-podge of a maze to walk around in! Jordan Marsh was fun to navigate if you had time....Filene's went for the simple and direct approach to bargain sales.
Back in the ealry days of the 20th century, when my nana worked in Jordan Marsh, it was so hot one summer day that all the fire sprinklers came on in one area of the basement. That's hot:-)

Thank you, Michael!!! Your photos are SUPER!!! Real treasures!!



BAK said...

Hello, Charles!

This is Bruce from The Department Store Museum.

I have some things for you, too. In 1978, I came to Boston with my University class. We were each given a copy of the "Official Bicentennial Guidebook" and I have kept it all these years. There are ads from Jordan Marsh, Gilchrist, Filene's and R. H. Stearns. I thought you might like to have them for your collection, so I scanned them and placed them at


so you could use them.

Also, I found a photo of the Jordan Marsh Annex from the Feb. 18, 1910 Boston Globe.

I will be addin Filene's to the Museum soon. I do not have as much information as I'd like, but I am sure I can get more in time. The only directory I have for Jordan Marsh was from the late 1970s, when it had become a much less interesting store due to the consolidations. I lost everything I had regarding Stearns, but hope to get more from the Noston Globe when I can access it on line.

Thanks for your very nice blog.

Kind regards:


Charles said...

Bruce.....Thanks So Much!!!!!
I wrote to you at Flickr.
Hope to hear more from you!!


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Marisa said...

Hi, these images are great! Do you perhaps have access to the hi-res files of these images?