Monday, December 11, 2017

Seeking Denholms memorabilia

I am asking everyone if the are cleaning out their basements or attics to please consider donating or selling your Denholms memorabilia to me. Over the past 30 years I have been assembling and curating Denholms items to help preserve the history of Worcester's largest store.  The collection will be willed to the Worcester Historical Museum when I pass.

My email is

I am interested in;
-old catalogs
-paper items
-store fixtures
-Denholms labels
-shopping bags
Thank you in advance!

The Denholms blog will be ending

Due to difficulty posting, and the switch to Facebook, the Denholms blog will not be updated starting January 1st, 2018.  To see current and vintage news stories regarding the store, please view the posts on Facebook.

I will be leaving all posts up on Blogger that have been previously posted.
Thank you and best wishes to you for the holidays.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Early Days of the Denholm and McKay Company

Here are two images showing The Denholm and McKay Company after it had moved to the 484 Main Street location.  The top image shows the original facade with the Jonas Clark lettering affixed on the center tower, as well as all of the advertising signs of the inhabitants of the upper floors.  The building originally housed Becker Junior college, The architectural firm of Earl and Fuller, as well as other various law offices. Denholms at this point only housed product on the Main floor and lower level, and bought up upper floors as they became available.  The second image of an early 1900s ad shows the whole building now converted to the store.  The ad also shows what types of goods were popular at the turn of the century. Notice the original three entrances to the building.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Dreamed I floated to India on my Perma- Firm

This is a window from 1965 showcasing the "Perma Firm" line of mattresses by Crimson Shield, located on the 4th floor. As a full line department store, Denholms would promote seasonal sales happening throughout the store, but the windows were primarily used to showcase women's apparel and accessories. I have always loved this window, and remember having one of these mattresses as a child.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Denholms goes abroad!

Recently I was contacted by an architectural firm designing a new hotel in London. How shocked and surprised I was to hear that they would like to use vintage Denholms windows to wallpaper the end of the hallways on all 3 floors! It's so nice to know that the legend of Denholms still lives on after all these years.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Give Cupid a lift with a valentines gift" reads the copy for this 1956 lingerie window. It's a classic example of a window display from that era, for the Valentine's Day holiday. I hope you enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Preservation Worcester celebrates Denholms for the holidays

This Year Preservation Worcester chose Denholms for their holiday fundraiser.  To prepare for this, we have been working everyday to make the decor, spruce up the interior of the building as we prepare to bring back the aesthetic of the former store.  Join us as we light up the facade with the former tree..a sight that has not been seen in over 40 years!  If you are interested in buying tickets, please click on the link below.
Hope to see you all there!
Saturday December 10th,2016
7:30 pm-11:00pm

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Denholms for the holidays

I am thrilled to announce that Preservation Worcester is having its holiday event at the historic Denholms building. See the building all decorated and lit up for the first time in over 40 years.
Saturday December 10th 7:30-11:30 pm
RSVP to Preservation Worcester at 508-754-8760
Experience the magic that was Denholms!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Vintage Denholms advertisements

Some wonderful old ads highlighting the women's dress and coat departments. The art of illustrations in advertising is starting to make a come back and it is such a refreshing change to traditional photography. All of these were hand drawn in the advertising department which was on the sixth floor.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Denholms story

I Wanted to share a wonderful article that my friend Joyce posted on her blog.
Joyce and I met over our love of the city of Worcester, and how we might be able to lend a hand to help revitalize the downtown core.  I am very humbled by the words she has written about me.

To read the full article along with pictures please click on the link-

WooVoice #3: Chris Sawyer, Store Window Designer

Chris Sawyer has not had a vacation in five years.  For his day job, he travels up and down the east coast and Chicago to design the store windows for over twenty Ralph Lauren stores.  For the past five years, he has returned to Worcester during his precious vacation time to donate his energy to beautifying the store windows of the Denholm building downtown at 484 Main Street.  He does whatever it takes to maintain the beauty he remembered during his youth, anything from washing the windows to creating intricate design stories for all to see on Main Street.
 Until the 1970s, the Denholm and McKay Company operated as the premiere department store in Central Massachusetts, drawing people from locally and all over New England. As a boy, Chris fell in love with the glamour of the store and the beauty of the windows that inspired his career as a window designer.  Some of you may be sad by his words.  He details the end of the era of family owned department stores now bought out by national chains such as Macy’s as well as the demise of his own profession as retailers cut costs on “visual merchandizing”.  I actually feel inspired by Chris – his generosity, his dedication to the Denholm building and downtown Worcester, his altruism and humility.  What can you say about a man who comes back here to wash and beautify the windows of a building, pro bono?  Chris now has the largest collection of Denholm memorabilia that will someday be donated to the Worcester Historical Museum.  He has channeled his passion into a blog and a co-authored 2011 book, Denholms: The Story of Worcester’s Premiere Department Store.
The love affair with Denholms started early
"I grew up in Princeton.  My grandmother always worked here at Denholms for almost thirty years.   I used to come down with her every Saturday, shadow her and see what she did for work and walk around….I was four years old and I remember being taken up to the 6th floor that at the time was the beauty salon and display department.  The display people would take and walk me around throughout the store.  I remember it clearly.  It was so beautiful.  I remember coming back in 1983 when they were turning it all into offices.    I went with my grandmother.  There was construction going on and she said, “I used to work here. Could I just go in and see it one more time?”  I was thirteen and my jaw dropped.  I have all the polaroids I took that day.   I just couldn’t believe the level of beauty… I mean it was New York level of beauty that was here in this building.  I remember lying and telling them I had a term paper so the owner of the building would let me in and walk around.  I studied every square inch of this building before it was fully converted.  I knew where every single thing was -  the finish on the walls, the lettering.  The building is almost like a part of me.  People joke that my ashes are going to be scattered on the roof!"
Remembering Worcester and Denholms in its heyday
This downtown was booming in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s.  In the 70s, that’s when the downtown here and across the country started fading off.  People were going to suburbia.  The idea of new malls was enticing to them.  It was a different generation coming into the shopping market so a lot of downtowns fell apart.  That’s the story of Worcester."
Denholms as inspiration for a career in visual merchandising
"When I was young, my grandmother had a big book on the building given to her as a going away gift when she left.  I would analyze every single photo, every single window display.  That’s how I got involved in this field, inspired by Denholms and seeing what they did at the time.  The 60s and 70s were the height of window display.  All your budget was thrown towards windows.  They were elaborate and custom.  I started analyzing the photos and thought, “I want to do this!”  It’s bittersweet because I’m ready for the next phase in life but it’s sad to see your industry go.  It would be like seeing the theater close down everywhere.  I think you will see bust forms instead of mannequins, one prop instead of a whole story,   I think retailers are going to go real streamline so that they can get their image across at a cheaper price.  So, now I have to come up with phase two in life and I don’t know what phase two is."
The Real Reason Why Denholms Closed
"This store had one bad year after the mall opened up and then it was fine.  The mall was not the reason why this store closed.  The gentleman who bought the company from the family, had a lot of other companies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  He owned Shepard’s Department Store in Rhode Island, a knitwear factory in Lawrence, all failing.  Denholms paid for everything.  He siphoned the equity out of this company to fuel his other companies and then made this go bankrupt.  I don’t think the mall helped.  In one year after the mall opened, revenue dropped almost 5%.  It may have survived maybe another five more years but it probably would have been bought up at some point.  Now, these kind of local department stores are almost gone.  Companies like Macy’s just bought all these stores and renamed them Macy’s.  It wouldn’t have been Denholms anymore at this point."
On Denholm’s now, 2016:
 "This is just a shell of what it was.  It makes me horribly sad.  I know it could never exist anymore, the way retail is but it makes me sad to see the condition the building is in right now.  The architecture is called “streamlined moderne” right after the art deco period before the 1950s kitschy atomic era.  This was the era of Glenn Miller and big band music.  That’s what the exterior looked like and the interior followed suit.  Denholms was a building that has been here for over 100 years and it was constantly being maintained and upgraded.  It was the most modernized department store outside of Boston."
"Even the escalator over there, those glass panels were all hand screened in Paris and flown over.  Now, you can't replace them.  If we have empty ones or they crack, they can't be replaced because they were all hand done."
"It’s sad to see but it is a sign of the city.  This city used to be stunning.  There was industry here.  It was kind of like our Detroit.  You can see the glory in some of the structures like the art museum, Federal Square, the Auditorium, Notre Dame which is so important.  They want to take that building down which is a shame.  You don’t tear that down.  You just don’t.  It could never be replaced again. I don’t know why in the city, they will easily tear down its architecture that makes this city amazing."
"It’s so different down here.  There were so many department stores.  Six of them at one time.  It was very prosperous and safe.  I’d walk around here late at night because I got my first apartment right around the corner.  It was so safe.  I never, never felt threatened.  When I came back five years ago, I was, “Oh my God! What happened!!??”  That’s how I got interested in the building again because I couldn’t believe how bad it had gotten."
On being a store window designer
"I was lucky to grow up in retail when retail was great.  My first job was at Jordan Marsh in Worcester center. In 1993, I got the job at Neiman’s.  I took it because I needed to refine my eye and work with better product and styling.  That’s where I learned lighting design on the job, exhibit design, proper styling of mannequins.  It was a time when people were still doing windows and interior mannequins and fresh floral.  Now, it’s all been removed because of budgets.  No one wants to do “realistics”, like this mannequin here that looks real.  No one in the younger generation knows how to style them.  They were never taught.  I’m from the generation where stores were full of them to present the product.  It was a cost cutting.  Every window in Neiman’s used to be custom built."

"I don’t have a desk job where I sit down.  I like constant change and every day is different.  One day, I can be doing a women’s runway window.  The next day, I might be doing men’s clothing, just always changing.  I did a window when I first started with Ralph Loren.  It was the theme of Dr. Zhivago based on a Russian collection we had done.  It looked like the inside of a stately manor where the ceiling fell down and it was pouring snow.  It was so beautiful with all the drifting and the fresh floral that had been captured in first frost.  That was my favorite window."
"You can’t really learn the basics of what this job takes.  Half of the job is really creative and half is operational in nature.  When you are dealing with creative people, you manage them differently.  You are wearing so many different hats but I like that.  You can’t teach that.  You can give an idea of composition and lighting but until you are in a window with real theater lighting, working off color, shadows, intensity of light, everything to make the whole window pop and tell a story, you learn that on the job.  Each of us has a role to play in life.  There are things you can do, I can’t do.  This is something I can do that not everyone can do.  It’s about finding our place in the puzzle."

Returning every vacation to update the windows
"Everyone knows me in the building.  When I come here, people say hi and I find that very comforting.  Everyone’s very down to earth and appreciative.  I want to take it further but it’s cost prohibitive. Five years ago, I contacted the rep from the management company.  Then, she went to the trustees of the building to tell them I wanted to help.  It’s a sacrifice but not when you love something.  There are times I walk out of here and I’m covered in dirt head- to- toe with the biggest smile on my face.  It’s tiny baby steps but in the right direction.  It’s hard when you are dealing with a building of non-profits.  You know they don’t have the money.  It’s not that anyone wants the building to look like this, but no one has the capital.  There are leaks here.  The building is old, built in 1882.  It needs love.  Thousands of dollars just has to go into infrastructure – the air conditioning, the escalators, the boilers, the electric, the roof.  You never get to the point where you can deal with the cosmetic.  That’s always last because you need your infrastructure and then, if you get ahead, you can work on aesthetics."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Great article on Denholms from the Worcester Sun

Today a wonderful article was done on my work at the Denholm building from the Worcester Sun (see link below),  It highlights my dedication to preserving the history of Denholms as well as my excitement for a downtown revitalization.  I hope that you enjoy the article.

Worcester sun Denholms

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Denholms collection

 For over 30 years I have been collecting memorabilia on Denholms in order to preserve the history that it brought to Worcester.  I am presently in the process of finally being able to showcase some of the collection in my new condo.  The curated items date from 1878-1973  One room is being set aside and recreated to resemble a portion of the third floor.  I look forward to sharing pics soon of the mini-museum, and I hope that it brings back some fond memories for you all!

original 1960s Denholms mannequin restored

original hand painted signs
replicate mannequin wall

Friday, December 4, 2015

Every year, this iconic photo shows up on Facebook, and other social media sites and is shared hundreds of times over.  It is such a shame that an image that brings a smile to so many, is all but a memory.  I wish the city of Worcester would at least project the tree of lights onto the exterior of Denholms for the holiday season or even just for First Night.  Downtown needs some sparkle, some light, to help foster a festive atmosphere. How amazing would it be to have this replicated for future generations to enjoy.  Other big cities across the nation still dress up their former stores facades with exterior lights to continue the tradition, isn't it time we took a step forward and treated our own buildings with a bit more dignity, especially at the holidays.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Updated windows at the Denholm Building

This week I was able to get away from my full time job to spend a little time at the Denholm Building to update their windows.  It had been a year since I had been there last, so it was in desperate need for an update.  Very little money was spent on these windows, and I like the challenge of having to work with everyday items.  I usually choose paper as my medium, as it is inexpensive and comes in a lot of variety such as cups, envelopes, 8 x 10 sheets etc...
    I would hope that other retailers, or owners of vacant store fronts would try to put their best foot forward to create a better street-scape for the Downtown area.... It deserves it.

The is a window for the Worcester Community Action Council which is celebrating it's 50th anniversary.  The material here is journal rolls from registers swagged in various formations to create a drape like effect as the back drop.  The copy strip at the bottom is also made from seamless paper-curled and folded.
This window was created for Dress for Success and it comprised of 500 sheets of gold paper twisted and curled into different formations to create this large scale organic structure to play off the mannequins leopard scarf.  
Here is a close up detail of the varied shapes.  A chicken wire structure was used to affix the paper too.
The last window is to highlight vacant space for rent in the building.  In order to fill the space I strung 400 paper circles onto back yarn and spaced them so it resembles bubbling water.  Gels on the lights highlight the red circles.  This is a temporary install as I have to get back in to complete it once some of piping is corrected under the floors.

I always look forward to my time spent in Worcester at my favorite building.  I only hope that others appreciate a decorated window as much as I do.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Denholm's lives again in talk at Holden senior center

By Sandy Meindersma Correspondent

Posted Aug. 14, 2015 at 6:06 AM

HOLDEN - Denholm & McKay Department Store in Worcester and Auburn closed more than 40 years ago, but its patrons still remember the store with great affection.
“It was the place to be,” Jeannette Holmes said. “On Wednesday nights they would stay open late and you would work until 5, get dinner and then go. It was a happening place.”
Mrs. Holmes was at the Holden Senior Center last week for a presentation by Christopher Sawyer on the store. Mr. Sawyer, whose grandmother worked at the store for 27 years until it closed in 1973, published a book on the store, "Denholm's: The Story of Worcester's Premier Department Store," with co-author Patricia Wolf, whose father Henry Wolf led the store in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr. Sawyer said that he was only 5 when Denholm’s closed, but he was always intrigued by the store and its history, especially after discovering his grandmother’s memorabilia from the store, which he continues to add to.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s a very important piece of Worcester’s history, and it was, for more than 100 years.”
Mr. Sawyer, who is the creative director for Ralph Lauren and formerly was with Neiman Marcus, said that when the new building was built on Main Street across from City Hall, it was the first building to have air conditioning, the first to have electricity, and that the Denholm and McKay power plant also provided electricity to south Main Street.
“It was called the Denholm and McKay Power Plant,” Mr. Sawyer said. “It was the first building in the city to have escalators, called ‘escal-aires’ and they are the only ones in the world made like that.
“They are thinner, and all the mechanism is underneath. I have reached out to Otis Escalator to see if there is any way to preserve them, since they cost $40,000 a year to operate,” he said.
The Main Street building survived the great fire of 1921, thanks to the firewalls and sprinkler system that was installed when the building was constructed.
“The Knowles Building next store had to be demolished, but Denholm’s was only shut door for one day,” Mr. Sawyer said.
Originally designed by architect Jonas Clark, the Denholm building was given an Art Moderne style facelift in the early 1950s. The new facade features a lighter stone on the upper floors, with a darker base, which Mr. Sawyer said was black Belgian marble.
“It’s no longer quarried, so if a piece is damaged, it’s gone,” he said.
Mr. Sawyer said that the display windows were a key piece of the store’s advertising and often were more effective than print advertising in bringing customers into the store and educating them about the trends.
Christmas was always a special time at Denholms, and beginning in 1954, the store featured an 80 foot tall tree of light on the front of the store, made from 2,500 bulbs and a 12-foot star.
“I’d love to get that projected back onto the building for First Night,” Mr. Sawyer said. “When the store closed, Thom McAn took it over and put it up for a number of years.”
The store, which merged in 1969 with Gladdings Department Store in Providence, closed on Thanksgiving Eve 1973.
Mr. Sawyer has also created a blog on Denholm's, featuring historical photos, which may be seen at

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Happy Easter 1954

Remember the days when whole families would get all dressed up for Easter Sunday?  This photo is from Denholms in 1954 and focuses around the crispness of navy and pure white.  I love the styling of the seated mannequin with her gloves in hand as well as her structured bag.  The clam shell hat is the final touch to what was in vogue during that time.  All of these mannequins are in a simple setting of a lilac tree and scatter grass....a  typical early Denholms way of approaching display.
I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday and enjoy your families.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Denholms mannequin refinished

I recently sent out my vintage Denholms D.G Williams mannequin, and had her restored to what she originally looked like when she was brand new in 1963.  I am beyond thrilled with her outcome and look forward to adding her to my ever expanding collection of Denholms memorabilia.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Shopping Around the Common: slide show and lecture


On Sunday November 9th I will be giving a slide show and lecture  at the Worcester Public Library.  This is a talk I am giving for Preservation Worcester ( a group I care deeply about to preserve the beautiful architecture of Worcester). The presentation will be focused around the grand days of shopping in Downtown Worcester, and the various stores that became etched in our memories. 


Sunday, November 9th, 2:30 pm


 Saxe Room, Worcester Public Library.

  Free and open to the public



Shopping Around the Common:
Main and Front Streets

                                                                       Chris Sawyer, Author
                                                Denholm's: The Story of Worcester's
                                                      Premier Department Store

Friday, September 5, 2014

The debate regarding the new mural

There is a lot of talk regarding the new mural on the side of the Denholm building.  Some people love it, while others are not so thrilled with the final painting.  I personally am keeping my opinion to myself as I do not want to get caught up in all of the debate surrounding this.  Below is an article written by Janice Harvey for Worcester Magazine.
Yes, the Denholm building does not look as pristine as it once did now that it is converted to office spaces, but it is still a historic building in the downtown area. I am planning to be able to devote more of my time to beautify it and present a better street-scape and update some of the interiors.  Hopefully the building will be able to gain the respect and prominence that it once held in the downtown area again.

Brush Strokes  Written by Janice Harvey  ·  08/28/2014  ·  5:00 am

When former City Manager Mike O’Brien announced to the Worcester City Council plans to facilitate the installation of a large-scale mural on the blank wall of the Denholm building, he stressed the purpose of such a task. In a letter dated August 20, 2013, O’Brien stated that such an undertaking should be “complementary to the character and history of both the Downtown and the City as a whole.”
So much for the best-laid plans of city managers, mice and men.
The Denholm building is an iconic structure near and dear to life-long residents of Worcester. Its glory days invoke for many remembrances of a simpler time, when “Downtown” was a destination spot, when Main Street’s businesses, some established before the automobile ruled the road, still enjoyed healthy foot traffic. Denholm’s was Main Street’s sparkling gem, literally, during the holiday season, when families jumped into the station wagon and cruised downtown to view the Christmas lights that graced store windows.
For me, Denholm’s was a place that deserved my best behavior. When I climbed down from the #30 bus on a Saturday, I wore my best shoes, a dress normally saved for Sunday Mass and white gloves on my hands. At the intersection of Main and Franklin, my police officer father directed traffic wearing his own white gloves, spinning on his heels and waving his arms like a conductor facing the orchestra pit. While much has changed since then, the Denholm building still stands. Though it is no longer a department store, it serves the community well as a multi-use property. It remains a familiar anchor for many, and as such, deserves to be treated with respect.
We all have our own ideas about what constitutes “art”; there are those among us who consider anything remotely abstract to be “junk,” whose taste runs this side of Norman Rockwell. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m no art critic, but I’ve done my share of mural work. I’m what I call a decent “rip-off artist” - that is, I can copy anything well enough to get paid for it. I’ve never attempted work on a grand scale, and I commend those who try. That said, the mural that now covers the Chatham Street wall of the Denholm building is all wrong. The only part artist Caleb Neelon got right regarding O‘Brien’s letter is the “character” part. It’s a cartoon.
The mural would fit right in on a playground or a schoolyard, but it has no place on our beloved Denholm building. It makes no connection to the city’s history, and when I described it as an “epic fail” on Facebook, there was no shortage of opinions posted. Local journalist Brian Goslow was his usual diplomatic self, choosing to comment not on the art itself, rather its impact on the area residents:
“To the young children of Worcester who walk its cold, dirty streets, finally something is here that speaks to them, inspired by them.”
Sorry, Brian, but this mural is not viewed exclusively by children walking to school. If that’s the target audience, paint this on a schoolyard wall. This mural is silly and amateurish.
Said Edward Moynihan, after likening the subject to a plastic Kooshball: “The Kooshball is not constricted by gender or age or ethnicity or race…it excludes nobody…it resembles nobody. It is inclusive without hitting you over the head with a mallet.”
I disagree, Ed. Why must a city as diverse as Worcester be homogenized in paint?
From Florida, retired Worcester cop Tom Belezarian had this to say: “It’s part of Worcester history…It’s the same as the White House is to Washington. Would you paint it red or yellow and feel the same? I doubt it.”
I’m inclined to agree, Tom, and not because you were my old man’s partner.
Local artist Howard B. Johnson Jr. got into the kerfluffle – which some thought was a good name for the character depicted on the wall – and he didn’t mince words. “It always has been those with no worldly knowledge aesthetics and professionalism botching up the making of important decisions here.”
Howard’s proposed artwork was vetoed.
Former Womag cartoonist Doug Chapel chimed in with this: “This mural says a lot about how the mural committee people ignored the local talent pool for no good reason …whitewash this and start over.”
Actually, Doug said a whole lot more about being ostracized, and cast off as a rabble rouser, but you get the picture – no pun intended.
Here’s what I think should have been painted on the side of the good ship Denholm: its famous logo. The Denholm bag, with its elegant gold and white stripes and flowing, bold black script, was as recognizable to Worcesterites as the City Hall clock, the Union Station towers, and the neon wiener of Coney Island. Whether it’s art, a monstrosity or an eye sore, one thing’s for certain: the Kooshball sure caused a kerfluffle.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

New Mural on the Denholm Building

Article and picture courtesy of Worcester Magazine

Cambridge artist picked to paint mural on Denholm Building in Worcester

Worcester's Public Art Working Group (PAWG) has tapped Massachusetts native Caleb Neelon, who was recently featured in Worcester Magazine's "Two Minutes With" feature, to paint a large-scale mural on the historic Denholm Building downtown. Neelon is expected to start Aug. 4.
The large-scale mural will be put on the Chatham Street side of the Denholm Building at 484 Main St. Two other murals are being planned for next summer, according to a press release from the Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC) Thursday, July 31.
"Great cities deserve great art," Cultural Development Director Erin Williams says. "[The city] encourages and promotes the enrichment of the cultural landscape of the city through aesthetic improvements of public spaces, uniting artists and community and inspiring civic pride. This project is an important first step in that endeavor."
According to the WCC, Neelon has works throughout the state, in major American cities and in 25 countries. His projects have been done in such places as Turkey and Spain, the press release states.
"I'll be able to have an ongoing relationship with the work," Neelon says of the relatively close proximity of the project to his home in Cambridge.
The four-story Denholm mural will be among the largest Neelon has ever painted, with the artist saying, "Walls [like the Denholm's] have so much character and are exciting to paint."
Public participation is being sought for the project, which is sponsored by the city and PAWG. Funding is coming from Converse Inc. and the Worcester Rotary Club, with additional support from Consigli Construction, the WCC, the city, Economy Paint Supply and the Trustees of the Denholm Building. Anyone interested in assisting with the project from Aug. 4-15 is asked to contact Che Anderson at AndersonC@worcestermagov.
According to the WCC, a community celebration is being planned for when the mural is finished. Local youth will also be taking part in a project to complement the mural.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some more recent Denholms finds

I was so lucky to run across these old hand painted signs from Emil Grilli (see earlier post about Emil's work back-to-school-in-1964). These came from a Worcester Antique shop who's owners are related to Mr. Grilli.  I was able to acquire around 40 different signs from the store.  The original's shown below would have then been copied and placed throughout the store, or the appropriate department.  These were the days when all store signage was produced in house by hand.
 Below are a few highlights of my favorite images. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer window display July 1954

Here is a window display from July 1954 to highlight ladies swimsuits. Notice the build out of the swimming pool and the diving mannequin.  The brands highlighted are Jenzten, Catalina, and Flexees (popular brands of the era). These were all sold in the Beach Shop located on the third floor. I love the styling of these swimsuits, with the rouched bodice and sweatheart neckline.

 I hope you are all enjoying our well deserved summer!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mothers Day!

This window is a 1957 display for Mothers Day. This display revolves around popular gift items found throughout the Lingerie department on the second floor.  Chiffon peignoir sets, house coats, silk underpinnings, and stockings were what most mothers wanted to receive on their special day. Notice the large oversized book made into a shelving display holding various perfumes (Shalimar, White Shoulders, Lily of the Valley) worn during the 1950's

To all of the mothers who have done so much for us over the years, I hope that you all have an amazing day!  We wouldn't be here with you.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Recent Denholm and McKay aquisitions

I am always on the hunt for items relating to the Denholm and McKay Company.  Here are a few items that I have purchased or received as gifts within the past 6 months.  I am really building up the collection and I thank all of you who have reached out to me with items that you have found.  A reminder, please do not throw any Denholms memorabilia away!  I will save it and hopefully one day be able to showcase my collection for all of you to see.
Denholms tie from my dear friend Pat

An early 1881 almanac from the store
Backside of almanac

Early 1900's silver polish envelope

a book of poems to read during afternoon tea
Pricing ticket from my friend Kathy
Advertising flyer
Denholms box from my dear friend Pat

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

I just wanted to wish everyone the very best for the Easter Holiday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Easter shopping 1965

"Spring comes to Denholms first" reads the copy in this window display from 1965.  The display revolved around navy suits and coordinating hats, but the real focus was on the shoe assortment by "Foot Flairs"(which was a vendor sold in the women's shoe salon on the first floor).  I love the hand-painted image of the tree on plexiglass, and the scatter gravel used on the floor, and of course, the vintage mannequins. 
 Today virtually no one buys a new outfit or shoes to celebrate the Easter holiday, but back in the day, Easter would come second to Christmas for apparel sales.  
One more week till spring, and enough time to do your Easter shopping!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Worcester's first escalators

   Fifty years ago Denholms installed the first set of escalators in the city of Worcester.  Denholms was late on installing these and had plans to do so in the 1940's. With World War II going on, and plans for a facade change, the new mode of transportation would be put on hold until the 1960's.
Second floor

   In 1963 harry Wolf (President of Denholms) met with the Otis escalator company and came up with a plan to retrofit the 1880's building with two separate sets of escalators.  The plans called for a narrow glass enclosed escalator with hand screened baroque detailing on the side panels.  These escalators were custom designed for Denholms and are the only ones in existence in the United States to this day.  By the early 1960's, customers were still relying on the 8 banks of elevators of numerous staircases to access the upper floors.  The new escalators (or "Escal-Aires" as they were known for their light and airy design) would allow for up to 5,000 shoppers to reach floors 1-5 in an average of two and a half minutes.  The sixth floor and basement still required elevator or stairs to access.
Eric Hallback Display Director with Denholms shoppers

  As many people have commented, these were their first ride on an escalator and memories of gliding through the upper floors were memorable to this day.

  The escalators are still in use at the Denholm building and I encourage people to go in and have a ride.  It is one of the last things remaining of the glory days of shopping downtown.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reminder for Denholms presentation at the Worcester Historical Museum

Denholms: Worcester's Premier Department Store

History / Heritage - Lecture/Discussion
Thursday, January 16, 2014
7:00 PM-8:00 PM
Fletcher Auditorium
6:30 PM - Museum doors open
7:00 PM - Lecture

By 1961,things were looking brighter for Denholm & McKay Company Denholms was a full-service store and wanted to keep shoppers in the building as long as they could, wrote Christopher Sawyer and Patricia Wolf in their 2011 history.

Join Sawyer, Denholms historian and collector of Denholms memorabilia, as he shares stories and images of the stores expansion to High Street, the introduction of the Escal-Aires, reorganized and expanded departments, and retail as theater. Join him as we relive the 1960s glory days of Denholmsand the other great stores which populated an exciting downtown.

While Denholms was the leader of the Worcester downtown area and the grande dame of Main Street there were many stores featuring the latest in fashion and housewares. Bring your downtown shopping memories to share and any pictures for the Museum to be scanned and added into the collection (originals will be returned to you.
Cost: Free with museum admission
Public Woo Card: Swipe for Woo Points
College Woo Card: Swipe for Woo Points
Suggested Audiences: Elders, Adult, College, High School
Phone: 508-753-8278