In lieu of an April Fool’s Day joke, I submit a location which no longer exists. You cannot travel there now, but you can still know about it.
This is the corner of Main and Vernon streets in Springfield, Massachusetts as it was in 1981. This building, the Forbes and Wallace Building, represented what is now an almost vanished entity, the family-owned, city landmark department store.
Andrew B. Wallace, a native of Scotland, born in 1842, came to the US as a young man of business. Dry goods were his trade, and he worked at both ends of the Commonwealth, in Boston and in Pittsfield, before settling down in a spot a little closer to the middle, Springfield. Here in 1874, he partnered with Alexander B. Forbes to form what became a venerated institution among shoppers. Forbes retired from the business in 1896, the Wallace family continued it.
This building, eight floors, was constructed in 1905. Each floor had its departments, and being brought here to have a picture taken with Santa was something like an audience with royalty.
The store went out of business in 1976. Downtown had changed, as did shoppers’ habits. There were arguments about finding a new use for the building as opposed to demolishing it, and a few interested parties made feasibility studies, but ultimately decided that refurbishing the site was not really feasible.
The demolition began in 1983. The demolition of the parking garage attached to the store continued through 1985.
Monarch Place has the spot now. We have magnificent modern buildings going up all the time, and dynamic corporations to provide jobs and economic vitality to our cities. Unfortunately, we seldom have the emotional connection with them that we did these old family businesses, and their buildings with the opulent stonework. When the modern buildings are torn down, as they one day will be, it is probable few will care as much.
Been there? Sat on Santa’s lap? What about the big family stores in your community?