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

Friday 5 March 2010

Jordan Marsh Co....Build me a bridge

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!
I have put together a little taster of my salute to the once great, Jordan Marsh Company Annex. By the late 1890's, Jordan Marsh began to feel a bit cramped in their Main Building on the corner of Avon and Washington Streets and the need to expand over to the other side of Avon Street became a serious need. The great Annex Building of Jordan Marsh has its roots here at this critical stage. From this point in 1898 until the early 1960's, the great Annex of Jordan Marsh grew to consume the entire block from Avon to Bedford Streets. In the years before 1920, three new buildings would be built by the Jordan Marsh Company and, in the years to follow, other smaller buildings would be acquired in this large city block. The great Annex Building(s) was the pride of the company for many years and Jordan Marsh made this block feel like one large building even though it was created by using at least seven as of the early 1960's!
The Annex was built mainly to serve as the home furnishing division of this New England giant...but more on the Annex history in a future update!
Today I share with you Jordan Marsh's need to build a bridge, a bridge over Avon Street to connect the Main Store to the ever growing Annex on the other side.
By 1898 a tunnel was built under Avon Street to connect the two but in 1914 Jordan Marsh wanted a sky bridge like the famous one in New York City built by John Wanamaker. Jordan Marsh wanted the public to cross over on any upper floors from one side of Avon Street to the other without having to go down to the basement tunnel...or truly cross the narrow street outdoors.
The Hovey Company, a rival of Jordan Marsh also on Avon Street, was not thrilled with the idea of this sky bridge blocking light and air.
The petition was approved and the project was ready to begin but...I can find no mention of the sky bridge again and the project must have gone on hold.
Why? I am not sure. I believe the sky bridge over Avon Street was built in two stages. The first was done around 1939 and connected the old Main Store to the Annex from floors three to six. This section was attached to the very edge of the old Main Store but could be detached and stand on its own if and when the old building might be replaced in the future. Very innovative for 1939 construction planning!!!
The second was done in the mid-50's as part of Unit 3 of the new building project started in 1949. This new section was attached to the older sky bridge and added more floors upward, greater width and was attached to the newer building section called Unit 3.
The one photo(Bostonian Society) I have found (so far in my searching for treasures) of the sky bridge is from 1975 and shows the sky bridge over Avon Street in the lower right corner over the ongoing demolition of the old Main Building. The sky bridge was more like a solid building and had rows of very small windows on the upper floors... also note the digital clock(2:17pm) and company name on the top.
The older section below(floors three to five) dating from 1939 had more glass windows and looked more inviting.
I recall the bridge being in use until the 1977 new building on Washington Street opened and the Annex was no longer needed by the store...1978 marked the end and it was demolished...thus the sky bridge was gone forever.

More later on the late, great Annex!!



Suldog said...

As a child, I always thought it was so cool that a bridge connected the two buildings. Thanks for the background.

Joan Winterbottom said...

When a college student I worked part time at Kennedy's clothing store (another Boston department store that has gone out of business) in the credit office. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed looking at all the photographs and stories posted here. I worked in their credit office, mainly evenings from 5PM to 9PM when stores downtown were closed, and on Saturdays. I would often go to work a bit early to window shop and can remember shopping at the Woolworth's and Filene's. When we were kids my mother took us to Jordan's every year during the holidays to visit the Enchanted Village so I particularly enjoyed your stories about shopping with your mother. The kind of service you could get from sales help in those days is not obtainable anywhere nowadays; store clerks seem to think that helping you to find what you're looking for is beneath them. I can remember bringing some homemade cookies to an elevator operator at Jordan's in the early 70's that had been particularly helpful to me. I can't think of a single store employee I would do that for today! I am going to tell all my family about your wonderful blog!

BAK said...

Dear Charles:

I have placed a link to your blog on my own creation, "The Department Store Museum."


Even though it is a work in progress, you may enjoy it nonetheless.

Best wishes,


Charles Boston said...

BAK, Thank you!! I added you to my links as well!!
Great blog!!


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