|"Fluctat Nec Mergitur"|
(Floats and Never Sinks)
The City of Paris Dry Goods Co.
Geary and Stockton Streets
San Francisco California
Housewares • Glassware • Pottery • Electrical Equipment • The Kiosk • Verdier Cellars • Fine Foods • Appetizer Shop • Rotisserie • Champagne Bar • Tchin Tchin Bar • Tea Room • Buffet Lunch • French Book Shop • Smoke Shop • Kennel Shop • Photographic Studio • City of Paris Box Office
Fine Jewelry • Jewelry • SIlverware • Handbags • Gloves • Umbrellas • Accessories • Shoe Salon • Beauty Bars • Perfume Bar • Charles of the Ritz Beauty Bar • Deauville Shop • Deauville Hat Bar • Candies • Stationery • Luggage • Brentano's Book Shop
Store For Men Men's Furnishings • Men's Shop • Men's Shoes
Street Floor Annex
Bath Shop • Closet Shop • Toyland • Adult Games • Overseas Gift Booth
Linens • Bedding • Yardage • Boys' Shop • Girls' Shop • Junior Girls' Shop • Hi-Teen Shop • Children's Shop • Mother and Baby Shop • Children's Shoes • Negligée Shop • Lingerie • Corset Salon
Second Floor - B
Recamier Salon • Patio Shop • Radio-Record Salon
Third Floor-Fashion Shops
Dress Shop • Sports Shop • Blouses • Midinette Shop • Midinette Millinery • Collegette Shop • Avant-Garde Shop • Suit Salon • Coat Salon • Gown Salon • Fur Salon • Bridal Salon • Parisienne Room • Third Floor Shoe Salon
Furniture • Irwin Rooms • Slumber Shop • Rugs • Oriental Rugs • Draperies
Fireside Accessories • Garden Furniture • Unfinished Furniture • Sun Shop • Gift SHop • Art Needle Shop • Lamps • Lamp Shades • Picture Gifts • Mirrors • Pillows • Art Shops • Print Rooms • Distinctive Framing • Art in Action Shop • All-American Ideal House
General Offices • Employment Office
|Stonestown Shopping Center|
|Northgate Shopping Center|
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950's - 60's, the annual trip into SF to view the massive Christmas tree in the City of Paris rotunda always marked the unofficial beginning of our Holiday Season.ReplyDelete
As a kid I loved rushing to each floor of the store to get a fresh angle on the tree and see what gifts were tucked between the branches.
So did I! And going deep into the basement fabric section with my mother to purchase French lace for my wedding dress (home made, of course!).ReplyDelete
Me too. Mom and I bought the silk satin and re-embroidered French lace for my wedding dress which my mom made in 1962.Delete
Me too. Mom and I bought the silk satin and re-embroidered French lace for my wedding dress which my mom made in 1962.Delete
Oh, the Christmas tree! It was so, so wonderful. And remember the little chamber groups they had playing Christmas music at that time of year?ReplyDelete
LOL! Once upon a time, shopping was actually fun!
I have a city of paris cigarette lighter. Any idea of how much it is worth?ReplyDelete
I lived in San Francisco from 1970 to 2010. The City of Paris could have been saved. When it went bankrupt two developers came forward who wanted to use it as is (with renovations).ReplyDelete
Future San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, then in the California Assembly also had his parallel lucrative private attorney practice and represented Neiman Marcus. Political--and who knows what other kind of--clout made the City Supervisors decide to let Neiman Marcus have the building. Neiman Marcus wanted to tear it down due to its location directly on San Francisco's Union Square AND because, of course, if people went to the old building they would think "City of Paris" and not N-M.
Under pressure and as a way to get approval, N-M saved the rotunda and moved it to the front of the building. Modernist architect Philip Johnson was later embarrassed when it was shown that his building was a virtual copy of a Russian building from the 20s.
Legendary gossip columnist Herb Caen, "Mr. San Francisco", could have helped save the building but he was good friends with Willie Brown and as so often in his lifetime receded cowardly into the background to let city history be destroyed, as he did with the Fox Theatre in the early 1960s. There was a bond initiative on the ballot for the city to buy the Fox Theatre to use as part of a convention center. Caen wrote 'who needs an old theatre' and the initiative loss by just a few thousand votes.
As for City of Paris it didn't help its survival that the San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic was Allan Temko, an enthusiastic modernist and cheerleader for despoiling the past.
As a student at SF State in the 1970s I volunteered a few weekends for the Committee to Save the City of Paris. We manned a folding table outside the building and gathered signatures from passerby for a petition. One day a pair of older women in their 60s (not so old to me now) stopped by and instead of signing the petition addressed us with a comment to the effect of "Why do you young people want to save it? We want something new on this corner." I was flabbergasted and very disappointed. I naively thought all San Franciscans would have wanted to save this landmark retail establishment.Delete
Thank you for your comments! This essay is very well stated and sheds light on how crooked (I can't think of a better word) politics didn't serve San Franciscans very well. Add a "connected" press and you've got a real version of "The Fountainhead!"ReplyDelete
I remember reading an account of the preservation hearings which stated that Philip Johnson sat and crocheted rather than pay attention to the arguments for preservation of the City of Paris, and even the installation of the rotunda in the new building was only a reluctant gesture by the retailer and Johnson to satisfy the criticism of their creation.
Thanks for reminding us of a sad but telling story.
It was 'official' even back in the 60s - the City was no longer the home of a diverse, creative population but quickly became all about profit for developers and speculators. Loved Willie, loved Herb, because they were very much a part of the City, but sadly, a part of the group of profiteers who sold us down the river.ReplyDelete
It is always sad to see grand old buildings such as "City of Paris" demolished...history up in smoke! We had a great old train station here in Bridgeport, CT which the mayor, back in the 70's, thought should be demolished...many fought to save the stately old structure with it regal clocktower...suddenly, one night, it burned to the ground...the fire station was one block away!!ReplyDelete
I have a hat with the net at front with feather and black color. Any idea what that worth?ReplyDelete
The most important component of the building was left, and that was the beautiful rotunda which Neiman-Marcus buit its store around on that location.ReplyDelete
I'd argue that the most important component was the entire building. I am sick of politicians going against the will of the people and destroying history. The new building was ugly and still is. Shameful really. Now Macy's has sold off the I.Magnin building after they destroyed it, and the company, along with The Emporium. It's infuriating.Delete
I used to visit San Francisco several times a year from the mid 60's until the late 70's when I moved from Coos Bay, Or to Portland. I was fortunate to to have been able to shop at the City of Paris and wish I could be of help with the store layout but all I remember was Normandy Lane was in the basement of the Geary building and the mens department was on the first floor of the annex.ReplyDelete
I was always puzzled why the Annex was built with floors that didn't match up with the Geary store. I realize that Stockton St sloped downhill and they wanted to have the entrance at street level but if the upper floors matched up it would have been less confusing with all the stairs between the two buildings. I guess at this point it doesn't make any difference.
My favorite memories of the store are the Christmas tree and the croissants from Normandy Lane. In the late 60's croissants weren't as easy to find as they are today so I would take home a box or two. They were heavenly.
Like so many of my generation, and of those before, I have vivid memories of the annual Christmas Tree. I also remember walking through the book department with a friend in the late 60s/early 70s. There sat Joan Crawford all by herself. She was a few minutes early for a book signing. She was gracious and lovely. Over the years, my favorite comment about NM and the shameful behavior of our politicians, I read on another blog somewhere..."Now that we have whacked grandma, let's wear her jewels" . That says it all!ReplyDelete
at least the rotunda was saved.ReplyDelete
Well said. Willie Brown and Herb Caen thought they were all-powerful, but in fact were very detrimental to San Fran re City of Paris.ReplyDelete
I worked for the City of Paris in 1972 and a year or so later Liberty House moved to their new building. I along with all employees then helped move to the new store. The dome and rotunda were just beautiful. The new store at the time was just so so but exciting. I moved in 1975 but always wondered what became of that beautiful City of Paris building. Shopping just isn't the same nowadays...ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for your blog and the comments. I lived in SF from 1955-1975 and City of Paris was one of my favorite stores. I remember the little tables by the balcony overlooking the lobby where people could wait while clothes were tried on. Thanks again for the memoriesReplyDelete
There was a City Of Paris in Vallejo, CA ~ The city I grew up in. It was a lovely city back then. Merrill's Drugs took over the empty building when it closed.ReplyDelete
I have clothing from this store, anyone know if their clothes are worth anything now a days.ReplyDelete
Well that's all that really matters right?...Delete
I remember at the City of Paris in the 60s there was a woman who was almost always in the elevator area helping people in and out of the cars - she had a little baton that she used to make sure people got out before others got in - she wore something that looked like a flight attendant's uniform.ReplyDelete
The elevator lady at the City of Paris also had castanets that she would click when the elevator was ready to load! I loved Normandy Lane in the basement and the cool champagne cellar that was there!ReplyDelete
In my memory Liberty House first took over where the City of Paris once majestically stood.ReplyDelete
I have an original Adeline Wedding Gown from San Francisco's City of Paris "1949" in mint condition. If anyone you know might be interested, please let me know. It's very Snow White looking and is in white\cream satin.ReplyDelete
Christmas for us in the 60s usually started on the day after Thanksgiving and a trip to the City of Paris - parked at Union Square - checked the Standard Oil maps in the little dispenser on the way to the stairs up to the street - then we would usually get in line at the top of the stairs on the Geary St. entrance to the City of Paris to get lunch at Normandy Lane.ReplyDelete
I would order spaghetti (because if I ordered a sandwich I didn't get cinnamon rolls, which were a *must*). My brother and I spent most of our time at the toys and books, and we would meet our parents somewhere - then we would go to other stores - like Robinson's Pets on Maiden Lane - Brooks Cameras, Macy's, or maybe Sherman Clay for sheet music. Later in the day, China Town or later in the decade Ghirardelli Square. I tried to visit that area about 10 years back - just not worth the hassle any longer.
When I was in college (early 50's) I remember going to the City of Paris and I especially liked going to Normandy Lane in the basement. At that time, I was very impressed by the champagne cellars where hundreds of bottles of champagne were kept in a refrigerated room. Also the wonderful pastries, the elevator ladies with their castanets to signal the arrival of an elevator and the beautiful rotunda and the magnificent Christmas tree they would put up. Now, that building was demolished and in its place, a very strange looking piece of architecture that houses a Nieman - Marcus (called Needless Markup but some of us locals) At least N-M preserved the rotunda and they do a beautiful Christmas tree, so I will hand them that! N-M also has a restaurant overlooking the rotunda which is pretty good with great popovers, so I guess not all is lost.ReplyDelete
I found this blog from the little tags that are stapled onto the dresses of dolls my grandma had when she was a child. My great grandmother use to go to this store and buy these dolls for about $1. So thank you for the history it has really made the researching of the dolls more fun!ReplyDelete
When I was a teenager, I worked in the Normandy Lane Team Room at the City of Paris. A grand department store. So sad it evaporated into memory, but at least it was not razed to the ground like the Fox Theater. I still have every single news article about the Fox's demise in a scrap book.ReplyDelete
I worked at the City of Paris, Normandy Lane Tea Room, when I was a teen. City of Paris was a grand department store. At least it was not razed to the ground like the Fox Theater was. I have a whole scrapbook full of articles about the Fox before it met it's demise.ReplyDelete
But it was razed to the ground!!! Neiman-Marcus (or its owners at the time) and their star architect Philip Johnson, who sat and knitted during the historical preservation committee meetings, only saw fit to re-install the rotunda in their new and very ugly building.
A critic, with a fair amount of insight, said that it was like "ripping out Maria Callas' vocal chords and putting them in another body."
I never had the chance to visit, but as you say, "very grand" and there is nothing like it around any more. Most people would ask today, "Normandy Lane, what was thaaaaat? And "City of Paris" as a name of a department store . . . no way, too many syllables!
I have so many fond memories of wonderful San Francisco,the City by the Bay. And my favorite memory was going to the magnificent and so lavish City of Paris department store.The best time to go there was at Christmas and view the tree with all its beauty and wonder.We all went there as a family,and I cherished every moment,and always will.ReplyDelete
My husband was in the Army and based at the Presidio from 1968-1972. Extra finances were not available. Our shopping came at the PX. But our last winter my husband let me buy a beautiful navy dress with a fringed shawl. Over the years I have had the dress copied but it is not the same. Since I have lost the tag and the maker I have no idea of the designer. Would anyone have a guess of the more prolific designers for women's Sunday dresses at that time? The fabric was a synthetic wool, long sleeves, A-line, & roundReplyDelete
neck [no collar]. Quite simple in design but most elegant. Each time I wore the dress [no matter how long I had it] I received compliments. If I could correctly remake it...I would ask to be buried in it. Thanks...for even considering the question. For certain it is a crazy question but thought I would ask. Over the years I have looked for a similar dress and a pattern to copy but with no success.
Anyone know of the recipe for their wonderful cinnamon rolls? Thanks.ReplyDelete
Hello! I found a lovely botanical art print at an estate sale in Detroit, MI a few years ago. Matted and framed in a rounded, gilded wood frame. Not super ornate, but nicely done with the paper on the back, aged, but still intact. You can tell by the type of hanging wire used, the way it is wrapped and attached, that is it is prior to the 1950s. At the bottom is a black and gold tag with the words "Designed by City of Paris Frame Shop San Francisco". There are numbers handwritten in pencil at the bottom right hand corner of the brown paper, "2830", but I have no idea if these are original or added to the item at some point in it's journey. Is there any way to find out the age of this particular item, maybe by the type of label on the back? Just curious. I love to research and learn everything I can about treasures that I find. Thanks!ReplyDelete
The San Fransisco of my childhood in the 1950's was a wonderland to me. I loved the flower stand on the corners. Every year we bought our Convent of the Sacred Heart school uniforms at The City Of Paris. Striped pinafores for spring and wool boleros and pleated skirts for winter and fall. Then we would eat lunch at Normandy Lane or Blum's. Who remembers New Tivoli's petit fours?ReplyDelete
I worked there in the bakery as dish washer and janitor when I was 18 for six months while the regular guy was recovering from surgery, they made the Best Croissants that people from all over the bay would come to buy, and I got to take home the day old ones along with other baked goodies. The bakers were from Bavaria and were given fresh ingredients from the farm the store also owned.ReplyDelete
Bavarians baking french croissants lol, now that's not something I expected and I'm German.Delete
Can anyone who knew this store if it catered to alot of celebrities, like Marilyn Monroe or Joe DiMaggio? I would appreciate any answers. Thank you.ReplyDelete
My parents were married in 1955. My Dad's uncle purchased an oil painting from the City of Paris and shipped it to them as a wedding gift. It hung in our house all my life and I always enjoyed it. When my parents passed I inherited it. Sure wish I could find out more about the painting (ie, the artist, the actual age of the painting, etc....)ReplyDelete
I worked for the city of Paris from 1965-1967 in the jewelry department on the first floor. My supervisor’s name was Clair Bennet. She was a elegant woman! I was hired as a Christmas extra and stayed on for two years. It was recommended to me that I watch the Christmas tree be brought into the store the night before Thanksgiving, because I would be answering questions constantly working under the tree all through the Christmas season. It was the biggest thrill of my life, and to this day brings such fond memories to me. As a child my mother used to bring me from Sonoma to the city of Paris to see the tree decorated and now I was standing under it and watching children’s eyes sparkle!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this about the City of Paris, my parents fell in love in San Francisco and married there in 1966 and I’m sure that they shopped at this magnificent department store. I can’t see to find any color photos of the store, Normandy Lane or the champagne cellar. I purchased the book Lost Department Stores Of San Francisco but there aren’t many photos. It is also very hard to find shopping bags or any memorabilia connected with the City of Paris, any ideas where to find some?ReplyDelete
My dad (Mr. Anthony) was a hairstyles at the City of Paris in San Francisco. Great memories especially at Christmas time. To watch them bring in and decorate the Christmas tree is something I'll never forgetReplyDelete
I was born and raised in San Francisco, third generation San Franciscan, and lived there from 1945 until 1965. I have many fond memories of shopping with my Mom in the City of Paris and, of course, the stunningly beautiful rotunda with its stained glass dome, especially at Christmas, with the 60-foot Christmas tree. It is truly a shame that it was razed!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your authoritative comment - with which I agree wholeheartedly. PLEASE NOTE - and this goes for anyone who wants to post a comment - that you need do it ONLY ONCE. I have to approve of comments first - ant I cannot do it instantaneously. If you could see the junk I have to go through every day to avoid irrelevant comments (selling ridiculous or offensive things) - you would certainly sympathize.ReplyDelete
Our father, Roy Taylor, had a small stamp shop, Coin de Philateliste, in Normandy Lane in the late 60's until the store closed in '74. Magical how we could hear French being spoken.ReplyDelete