Friday, December 12, 2014

"The Shopping Center of the Mohawk Valley": Wallace's Department Store

This colorful 1924 postcard shows how well the 1911 addition to the Wallace Building, on the left, matched  the facade of the earlier building on the right. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Postcard Collection. 

This blog entry is written by Library Volunteer Ann Eignor. 

Wallace's Department Store, a landmark at 413-417 State Street for many years, began as William McManus Dry Goods. The dry goods store first opened at 39 Ferry Street in 1822. It prospered and moved to what was then 101 State Street. In 1840, the McManus Building, constructed in brick, was erected at 137-143 State Street. At the time, it was considered one of the finest buildings in Schenectady; the building was razed in 1951 to make way for Schenectady Savings and Loan.

Taken circa 1919, this photo shows the Wallace Company store after the 1911 expansion which doubled its size. Image from the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

1875 saw the William T. McManus store sold to a group of partners led by Thomas H. Reeves. Among the partners were E.W. Veeder, Charles F. Veeder, and Charles Luffman. From 1875 until 1909 the store was known by various names -- T.H. Reeves, Reeves-Luffman, and Reeves-Veeder. Charles Veeder was responsible for moving the store "uptown" to 417 State Street. This was then the first large business to be located east of the railroad tracks, which were then at street level.

A 1921 advertisement for an August fur sale appealed to the fashionable Schenectadian. Furs purchased during the sale could be kept in storage free of charge until November 1. Image from the collections of the Grems-Doolittle Library. 

The Wallace name first appears in 1909 when the store was purchased by Andrew Wallace of Springfield, Massachusetts. It then became part of Consolidated Dry Goods, which owned department stores in several cities in New York and Massachusetts. Under the new owners, the the store doubled in size. The house next door, once the residence of the former mayor T. Low Barhydt, was demolished. In its stead a building arose with a facade that duplicated that of the existing store. Thus was created the Wallace Building at 415-417 State Street. Among the attractions of the expanded Wallace's in 1911 were elevators to take you to the upper floors. It was said that "the long skirted, tight-waisted lady clerks of the day seemed thrilled to greet new and old customers."

The Wallace Company building took on a patriotic look, festooned with bunting and flags, in honor of the Liberty Loan Drive in Schenectady in 1917. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

An advertisement in October 8, 1919, offered satin blouses at $6.98, trimmed hats for dress wear starting at $7.98, and linoleum from $1.69-$3.50 per square yard. In 1925, Wallace's declared as their standard "Always Reliable" (meaning, no seconds or irregular merchandise). By 1941, they boasted "you can dress the family better for less at Wallace's." As suburbanization began to take its toll on downtown Schenectady, Wallace's reached out by declaring itself "The Shopping Center of the Mohawk Valley."

A modern facade was built in the 1950s, obscuring the classic Wallace Building. This photo shows the start of demolition, with the dismantling of the store's awning, in December 1977. 

Further modernization occurred in the 1950s, as three escalators capable of carrying 5,000 people per hour were added. A new, modern facade was also constructed. The 1960s saw the decline of downtown shopping throughout the country, and Schenectady was not immune. Wallace's closed its doors in 1973. The building's facade was demolished in 1977, restoring the classic look for the building. Today, you can find a CVS Pharmacy at the department store's former site.

This 1981 State Street scene shows a number of businesses, including the CVS Pharmacy located in the former Wallace Building. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

No comments:

Post a Comment