I'll always have a soft spot for my original home of Boston. It's a city so rich with history in many ways, but one thing that always pulls at my heart strings is the architecture. Of course, being learned in the arts of commerce and retail, I have an undying love for the classic department stores of yesteryear. There's no place like Boston to experience this at its finest - or at least, that used to be the case.
When I was visiting briefly over Thanksgiving weekend, my Dad and I ventured to Downtown Crossing. I had memories of holiday store windows, and wanted to see what still remained. I was devastated at what we found.
But first, a little history. Filene's flagship store opened in 1912, and by 1929 it occupied the entire city block around Washington, Summer, Hawley and Franklin streets. The cavernous subterranean floor would become home to the bargain-priced "Filene's Basement". Eventually a subway stop was built underneath the building, feeding thousands of shoppers directly into the Boston landmark.
The massive store (which also served as Filene's headquarters) was shuttered in 2005, after parent company Federated Department Stores acquired its competitor, May Department Stores. While many Filene's simply received a name change to Macy's, the monument at Downtown Crossing had the disadvantage of being located directly across from a Macy's already.
Although the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, this protected only the ornate facade. The interior was completely gutted, leaving only the shell of one of the country's oldest, most beautiful department stores.
While a New York developer announced a $700 million project for the space, money soon ran dry...and the grand plans for the former Filene's building - including a hotel, restaurant, condos and plentiful retail space - have come to a complete standstill.
Boston's Mayor Menino continues to put pressure on the developer to sell so that work can begin again, but who knows when that might actually happen. Until that day, citizens of Beantown are left with only the extravagant skeleton of Filene's...and memories of Christmases gone by, in my case.