The Macy’s department store in downtown Minneapolis, once the flagship of the Dayton’s retail dynasty, has entered the annals of history, and the Minnesota Historical Society is there to preserve its memory.
Macy’s invited the historical society to pick through what was left at the century-old store that closed in March and select items, signs, documents, figures and even candy boxes that reflected the iconic Minnesota brand.
Dozens of newly procured items and documents will join the historical society’s already extensive stash of Dayton’s memorabilia.
All the artifacts will be digitized, and images of the new acquisitions will be available on the society’s website by October.
“It’s the end of a very long legacy. People across the state felt that pretty viscerally,” said MHS associate curator Sondra Reierson, who noted that the historical society had received many calls from people inquiring about preservation efforts.
For generations of Minnesotans, the Dayton’s brand represented a first-of-its-kind upscale shopping experience replete with dining and entertainment.
For a generation of women, it also represented freedom — the rare chance to venture out of the house on their own, Reierson said.
During their final tour of the store’s Nicollet Mall building, historical society staffers saved animatronic figures from the store’s eighth-floor holiday shows including Cinderella and Pinocchio, and Professor Severus Snape from the 2000 Harry Potter display.
Other items removed included posters, floor plans, menus, a sign from the Oak Grill and chocolate boxes from the store’s famous candy kitchen.
George Draper Dayton built the store on Nicollet Avenue in 1902. His major tenant was Goodfellow’s department store, which he bought and renamed Dayton’s in 1903.
The name remained until 2001, when Target Corp. changed the name to Marshall Field’s after the Chicago chain it had purchased. The decision to drop the Dayton’s name was not taken well by Minnesota shoppers.
Dayton’s was the first store in Minnesota to cultivate the notion of an upscale shopping experience, Reierson said.
“It was really a one-stop shop where you could shop through the many floors, go from high dining down to the candy kitchen and attend shows ranging from fashion, flower and holidays,” she said.
And spending a day away from home was a tonic for many women seeking more autonomy, she added.
“Shopping meant independence for women. It was getting women out in public on their own,” she said.
Dayton’s expanded to the suburbs in 1956 when it moved to Edina and Southdale Center, the first indoor shopping mall in the nation. The company entered the discount retail arena in 1962 when it opened the first Target store in Roseville.