Lost City: The Department Stores

Four stores and a very different consumer culture ago…

For our February 2017 “Lost City” issue, we remember what time, disasters, and the wrecking ball have taken away.

Department stores were locally owned places with distinct personalities—always downtown—that peddled everything from luggage to lingerie. Shoppers dressed up when they visited, and store owners “lived in the community,” says Cynthia Kuhn Beischel, author of Lost Tea Rooms of Downtown Cincinnati. “They cared about the city and their store.”

Pogue’s is legendary, and its magnitude (and window displays!) in this early 1900s shot show why.

Cincinnati Museum Center. Cincinnati History Library & Archives. General Photos. Pogues (B-82-081)

John Shillito started working in merchant goods in 1817, at age 9. By 1837, he was running his own department store. John Shillito & Company’s slogan—“Truth Always, Facts Only”—seems more fitting of a newspaper. But the brand, whose massive flagship store at Seventh and Race was modeled after Paris’s Le Bon Marché, was one of the city’s original “carriage trade” (read: high-end) department stores, says Beischel. It had a tea room and a cosmopolitan feel. The Shillito name went away after a series of mergers and consolidations in the 1980s eventually led the store to fall under the ownership of Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s). Still, elves from Shillito’s 1970s-era Santa’s Workshop live on in a Mariemont storefront each December.

A 125-year presence in Cincinnati, Pogue’s was founded in 1863 when brothers Henry and Samuel Pogue took over their uncle’s Fifth Street dry goods store. H. & S. Pogue relocated to Fourth Street, in a building that would later adjoin Carew Tower. Known for a more “select” clientele and “a better, more intimate quality of customer service,” says Beischel, Pogue’s eventually included a bridal salon and travel agency, as well as the Camargo Room restaurant (a favorite ladies’ tea and lunch spot) and the Ice Cream Bridge, which spanned Carew Tower’s arcade. (Cincinnati Magazine’s offices are located near that old space; we’d give anything to bring the Ice Cream Bridge back.) Suburban branches opened across Cincinnati starting in the 1950s, but the Pogue name vanished in 1988 when then-parent company, Associated Dry Goods, merged with a new namesake, L.S. Ayres & Co.

Alms & Doepke
Founded in 1865 by two brothers and a cousin, the Alms & Doepke Dry Goods Company lasted 90 years and once occupied a seven-story Samuel Hannaford structure on the Miami-Erie Canal (now Central Parkway) that still stands today. Its current inhabitant is Hamilton County Job & Family Services.

Rollman & Sons
The original 1867 store at Fifth and Vine sold everything from toiletries to dresses. A later iteration opened in 1956 at Bond Hill’s Swifton Center, but both closed circa 1961.


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