City of Paris Dry Goods Co., San Francisco, California









"Fluctat Nec Mergitur"
(Floats and Never Sinks)


The City of Paris Dry Goods Co.
Geary and Stockton Streets
San Francisco California

DOuglas 2-4500


Normandy Lane
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

Street Floor
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

Second Floor
Linens  Bedding  Yardage  Boys' Shop  Girls' Shop  Junior Girls' Shop  Hi-Teen Shop  Children's Shop  Mother and Baby Shop  Children's Shoes  NegligĂ©e 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

Fourth Floor
Furniture  Irwin Rooms  Slumber Shop  Rugs  Oriental Rugs  Draperies

Fifth Floor
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

Sixth Floor
General Offices  Employment Office


San Mateo

Vallejo

Stonestown Shopping Center
1960

Northgate Shopping Center
March, 1965



27 comments:

  1. 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.
    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.

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  2. 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!).


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  3. 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?

    LOL! Once upon a time, shopping was actually fun!

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  4. I have a city of paris cigarette lighter. Any idea of how much it is worth?

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  5. 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).

    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.

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  6. 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!"

    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.

    Bruce

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  7. 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.
    RIP SF
    Native Daughter

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  8. 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!!

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  9. I have a hat with the net at front with feather and black color. Any idea what that worth?

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  10. 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.

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  11. 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.
    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.

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  12. 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!

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  13. at least the rotunda was saved.

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  14. 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.

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  15. 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...

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  16. 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 memories

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  17. 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.

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  18. I have clothing from this store, anyone know if their clothes are worth anything now a days.

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  19. 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.

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  20. 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!

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  21. In my memory Liberty House first took over where the City of Paris once majestically stood.

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  22. 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.
    Benraspail2012@gmail.com

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  23. 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.

    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.

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  24. 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.

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  25. 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!

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  26. 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.

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  27. Hello Lenny:

    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!

    -Bruce

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