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

Wednesday 28 July 2010

A Place Called....Avon Street

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!!

Hello, Ron!! You asked me to locate where Avon Street used to be and I shall try to do that so you can find the exact spot the next time you walk in Boston.

Many people who live and work in Boston today have no idea just how the streets have changed in the last forty or so years in and around the downtown area.

Avon Street ran between the two blocks that contained the vast Jordan Marsh Company store and connected with Chauncy Street at one end and Washington Street at the other.
It was almost directly across from Temple Place on Washington Street but just a bit askew...as so many streets where in old Boston:-)

Avon Street's demise was part of the redevelopment project of the mid 70's and early 80's that saw the fall of the Annex Building complex of Jordan Marsh Company and the rise of the ill fated... Lafayette Place. Bedford Street used to run all the way to Washington Street and almost meeting up with West Street, but this section of Bedford Street was also swallowed up in the large project. The old RH. White's building that had sat on this corner since the 1870's was sadly lost in the early stages of the project in 1975.

My last memory of Avon Street would be from about 1980 or 1981 after the Annex Building complex was gone and just a large, gaping hole in the ground. You could still enter or leave Jordan Marsh using the Avon Street doors(of the new 1977 addition that replaced the old Main Store) and walk along the long wooden wall that protected you from the big drop into the construction site on the other side. I think that auto traffic was now blocked from using the street and it was not long after that it was consumed by the vast hole as the foundation for the new shopping center was being built.

The Bostonian Society image from 1975 shows the corner of Avon Street as it connects to Washington Street(just opposite Temple Place) with the old Main Store of Jordan Marsh on one side with the blank clock face atop and part of the Annex Building complex of the large store on the other.
The shopper's map from 2010 has a red X to mark the spot today.

Hope that helps!

Now have look the next time you walk down Washington Street and see if you can locate the ghost of little, old Avon Street:-)


Monday 26 July 2010

More Ads from 1975 and... Boston Shopping Memories from the 70's sent by Henry

Hello, My Retro Boston Lovers!!
Thanks to Ron I present more ads from the Boston Bicentennial guide published in 1975.
These ads focus on Copley Square and the New York based stores that were clustered there for many years in and around the Prudential Center.
I tossed in the Boston Half Shell as just a great place to eat at on Boylston Street at that time and was very much part of the landscape of the Prudential Center area.

I was very excited to read some very vivid and warm memories sent to me by Henry of Vancouver. Henry grew up in Boston and shared his very fond memories of shopping in downtown in the 1970's before his family moved away when he was 10 years old. These memories are extra special because this was a routine he shared with his grandad...and he will always treasure those days out with him!

He wrote:

I remember going into Kresge’s with my grandpa. As you walk upstairs, to the second floor, you would see all the various knitting yarns on the right side with women's pattern designs and of course...the big toy section. It was 1977 or 1978 and this was where I got my first Luke Skywalker toy. As we head down onto the main floor, you could see the dining area on the right side of the store, I still remember looking at the yummy honey glazed ham! Grandpa bought some and that was the best ham I ever had to this day!!!
Across the street or near it was Jordan Marsh. My favorite was Jordan Marsh because of the bakery inside that sold blueberry muffins on the street floor of the old annex building. The best blueberry muffins!! These muffins had a big top, they were fresh, moist and delicious. If I remember correctly, there was a toy department(upstairs) and in that toy department they would have a section featuring toy trains. It was a fun time with my grandpa.
On the same side as Jordan Marsh on Washington St. we would head further down and we would shop at Woolworth’s for more Star Wars toys and Micronauts. After that we would head onto Tremont St. for a bite to eat at McDonald’s and later buy peanuts to feed the pigeons on Boston Common.
Then we would go to Brigham’s Ice cream for vanilla ice cream and head back home.
I saw the picture of the Paramount Theater that was near the stores…not my favorite part of town down there but that was the theatre I saw the movie, Jaws when I was 7 or 8. I can't believe to this day they allowed the kids in!
We moved from Boston in 1979 to Nova Scotia, Canada. When I came back to visit Boston in the early 90s, Jordan Marsh had changed and got a "new" modern look and Washington Street was free from cars.

Thanks so much to Henry!!!

Henry recalls so many things that I also have such clear visions of in my own memories.
The Kresge's ham did look and smell amazing and you really could not help but enjoy it as you came down from upstairs on the escalator.
I include a Nick Dewolf shot of Kresge's and Jordan Marsh for Henry to enjoy from 1969. He can see from this shot that the Annex Building(a whole city block of buildings) on Avon Street was right on the other side of Washington Street just before you came to the old Main Store of Jordan Marsh. Jordan Marsh confused many of us in our childhood because it had so many buildings and had so many ways to get inside....doors and more doors...floors and more floors. Just plain HUGE!! But wonderful....oh, YES!!!!!

Thanks to all and please keep sharing your memories!!!!



Tuesday 13 July 2010

More from the 1975...."Boston 200: Official Bicentennial Guide Book"

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!
Thanks to Ron!! He has sent more scans from the Boston Bicentennial guide published in 1975 to add to the ones Bruce just sent to me for my previous update. I am adding a variety of scans here...so this update is a bit different. They are not all department stores in Downtown Boston but a patchwork of places around Boston to shop and eat.
These scans give a feel of what Boston was like in the mid-70's and it brings back so many memories to just consider all the choices we had in this city once upon a time.
There has been some talk on this blog and on others about the New York influence in Boston.
We must recall that the Boston based original BIG stores were all located in the Tremont or Washington Street areas of Downtown Boston.
The New York stores with Boston branches such as Best&Company, Lord and Taylor, Saks and Bonwit Teller were all located in the Copley Square area more or less.
This clear distinction remained in place for many years and these ads remind us of this retail divide.
Boston stores looked and felt different....a bit more old-fashioned and a little cluttered...but very charming in that New England way. Slow to change was Boston...for better or worse....but Boston had a unique identity of its own!
I love the Woolworth's ad!! The store was the pride of the Woolworth's fleet and in the 70's was a super place to shop. It was always very busy and it had everything you might want. Plus it smelled wonderful! The large, open street floor with its deli and coffee shop/lunch counter created some tasty smells.
And Brigham's Ice Cream locations were all over Boston, too!
I recall one at the top of the steps at Park Street, two near Government Center,one in the theater district and another large one in the Prudential Center. I know there were even more such as the one in Kenmore Square and several along Beacon Street in Brookline.
If Ron sends more ads from this guide, I shall post them here as well.
Thanks, Ron!! And now enjoy the ads!!


Friday 9 July 2010

Boston Celebrates the Bicentennial and Boston Yellow Pages of Years Gone By

Hello, My Fellow Retro Boston Lovers!
I start another update with a big Thank You to Bruce!!
Bruce is a serious collector of information and other memorabilia from USA department stores and what a great collection it is!!
He was kind enough to share some scans from his copy of "Boston 200: Official Bicentennial Guide Book". This guide was published in 1975 and was available to the public for several years thereafter. Bruce was given his on a trip to Boston in 1978.
The ads for the last four BIG Boston department stores are classic!!
Each is proud to able to share in the festive Bicentennial celebration that is about to grip Boston and the nation as a whole.
The period from the spring of 1975 through the summer of 1976 was amazing for the City of Boston.
The tourists flocked in and the city seemed to be more crowded than I ever recalled seeing it so far in my young life.
The Freedom Trail was revamped and new signs all over Boston helped the many visitors get around the city with ease. Some MBTA buses and a few select Green Line trolley cars had Bicentennial themes painted all over their sides and the multimedia slide show, "Where's Boston?" began to be shown in various locations around the city.
The festive spirit was everywhere and for the remaining BIG stores of Downtown Boston, it was the last time they saw such crowds fill their street floors. By the time Bruce got his copy of the book in the summer of 1978, RH Stearn's and Gilchrist's were both sadly out of business...but their wonderful ads remained in place.
I love the way Gilchrist's calls itself the "first" Boston department store...it only beat Jordan Marsh by about nine years....but we all like to be the "first":-)

I also share with you a selection of Boston Yellow Pages ads from the 1950's to the 1970's. These ads are also classic because they contain store logos and slogans that each of the BIG stores was using at the time the ad was published.
Note the way RH White's goes from praising the "updated" flagship store in Boston in 1956 and then in 1957 it's... Goodbye Boston, Hello Suburbs!
RH White's did try to update the aging building on Washington Street in the 1950's, the ad proudly states they have fast escalators and bright lighting...but this attempt at dressing up did not stop them from closing shop in Boston and heading out to the suburbs. The historic building only had short term uses and sat empty most of the time until it was lost to the wrecker's ball in the mid- 1970's.

Thank you Bruce for the Bicentennial goodies!!
Now please enjoy this selection of Boston ads from the past!!


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!!


UNKLE EPH'S FOOD SHOP, BOSTON...where pennies make sense

Hello, Retro Boston Lovers!
I have a wonderful treat to share with you sent to me by Irene. Irene worked in Raymond's of Boston while she was still in high school. She began up in the attic of the old store sorting greeting cards. She wrote:

I worked my way up...that included wrapping, sales, even typing (copying) some of the newspaper ads, COD's and eventually I did the whole store sales report which involved subtracting refunds, adding the sales of that day to all of the subsequent days and then typing the report and giving it to the powers that be. Mind you, all the courses I took in school were geared to sales and typing was not my strong suit, forget numbers on the typewriter. I taught myself to use a comptometer, did a lot of praying each day, and managed to learn the job and did it quite well.

Sadly, Irene left the job and life moved on but she recently found this little treasure in her sewing basket one day. An original Raymond's token coin. I have never heard of or seen one until Irene shared her little find.
I am thrilled Irene got some help and was able to send photos of the back and front of the coin for me to share with all of you. I also added a small shot of the front of "Unkle Eph's Food Shop" located on the street floor along the Washington Street front.

Thanks so much Irene for sharing your memories and your little Raymond's treasure!

Keep writing to me....I love it!!