C Cleveland

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I guess I took a little unplanned hiatus this week. Sometimes life just gets in the way.

I've done most of my Christmas shopping online but I haven't been able to resist some of the sales. I love seeing the holiday decorations at the malls and along the neighborhood shops but I must admit, I miss the grandeur of the old department stores.

It's just not the same when you walk into a cookie cutter Macy's or Nordstroms. Yes, they look lovely, but something is missing.

One of my favorite memories is of going to the downtown Cleveland department store, Higbee's. You may recognize it by its appearance in the 1983 holiday movie, A Christmas Story.

Higbee's was founded in 1860 by Edwin Converse Higbee and John G. Hower. It moved to a few different locations until 1931, when it found its home on Public Square, in the heart of downtown Cleveland. It was the ideal location for housewives whose families had started migrating to the suburbs. They could hop on a train and it would deliver them right underneath the store.

Shaker rapid transit line, 1956

Higbee Santa, 1955

Manicure booths, 1931

Christmas window, 1955

Higbee's 50 foot tree, 1968

This sweet photo was taken by famed photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, who began her career in Cleveland.

Downtown shoppers, 1965

Christmas splendor, 1963

Higbee's Christmas carolers, 1934

World Series Champs Apron, 1948. Yes, the last time we were the champs.

Fur salon, 1960

The high fashion Crystal Room

China and glassware shop, 1931

The elevator doors were made to match the motif of the elegant new ocean liners, 1931

The Silver Grill was a popular dining spot and has been reincarnated for special events.

Lunching ladies, 1944

Having tea at Higbee's, 1934

Children's book room, 1937

Merry go round, 1934

The store expanded to a number of locations in Cleveland, Akron and Canton before it was sold to Dillards in 1988. The flagship downtown store retained its splendor until the doors were permanently shuttered in 2002, marking the end of the grand department store era.


  1. Hi Chrissy, a bit of a sad end to the tale there. The photos were amazing, especially the Christmas tree in the vaulted hall. What is it with Cleveland architecture? First the West Side Market, now Higbees! Thanks =) Indigo

  2. Those photos were spectacular! WOW. It's safe to say the world is changing, that's for sure. This blog just made my world more 'Christmassy' so, thank you!

    *cheers* let's have some egg nog by the fire and share the awesome people-watching stories we have from shopping.


  3. That was almost like watching an old movie about Christmas. Thanks for posting this!


  4. What another neat piece of cleveland history. supers sucks that it closed though... boooo.. seems like its hard to hold on to anything anymore..

  5. What a glorious post, Chrissy!

    You have no idea how many great memories this brought back for me. I too miss the grandeur of the old department stores. There use to be one here in Philly called John Wannamaker and it looked EXACTLY like the photos you posted.

    All the department store nowadays are homogenized - so sad.

    Thanks for posting this, girl!

    LOVED the photos!!

  6. Fantastic post. Dillards has no budget for Christmas decorations. They will put up whatever their vendors send them. In fact, they shut their managers down on their expenses during the holidays, so that corporate can receive their year end bonus. And don't forget the customers have changed to. The vast majority of the customers no longer dress to shop, come as you are, and eat and drink as you walk through the stores messing up the carpets. We are culturally different, today

  7. Ahhhh, the days of Higbee's. I loved shopping in there. Now whatever is happening over there just creates lots of dust in one of Brooks stockrooms. We can't even put clothes in there any longer, there's so much of it.

    When are WE going for our annual Christmas sale extravaganza?

  8. @IndigoWrath,
    Yes, the old architecture here is stunning!

    I'm glad you liked it!

    Don't you love those old movies?

    I know. It is sad.

    I was thinking about you when I wrote this. I knew you would appreciate it!

    You're absolutely right. It's all come as you are now. Even church!

    That's where COSE is now. They moved after I left. I'm off Christmas week. Maybe that Monday?

  9. The photo captioned as "Higbee's 50 foot tree" actually looks like the foyer at the entrance to the Terminal Tower off Public Square.

  10. Good eye! You're absolutely right. The "Higbee Tree" was placed in the foyer to Terminal Tower.

  11. Hell-o Kickie,

    I read your casino piece, noticed you fotoed the elevator doors in this one, so did i during a two week hit last year.
    Still, my father did not take me much beyond Five Points. We did not have the money, instead he often went to Bailey's. As a child, i do fondly remember Mr. Jing-a-ling on TV (and Halle's 7th floor, he later moved to Higbee's [or Bigbees as Big Chuck called it]).
    You are free to delete this.


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