Chicago holidays with Marshall Fields

Being a lifetime resident for many years, Chicago has magnificently celebrated the winter holidays with amazing, timeless displays at the building behind the clock that have become well-known throughout the country. I continue to meet people today who talk of the same tradition that they had experienced as children, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents. The Marshall Fields store on State Street that began in 1870 and renamed Macy’s in 2009 have kicked off the most treasured memories for family and friends.

During the 1960’s, it began for me in a car driven by Mom accompanied by my best friend and her Mother. Of course, we were dressed in our finest, sometimes with hats and matching gloves, but always in dresses. We parked in what was known as the Underground Parking Lot on Michigan Avenue though many took the Illinois Central to walk a short distance to Marshall Fields Department Store. And there it began before we even entered the massive 8 story building.

The store had designed animated windows that told a story and so we would begin our trip around the building to see each breathtaking display. In 1946, Marshall Field’s created Uncle Mistletoe that became so popular, it was a local television show for awhile and we would watch his adventures in one window after another. Finally, generally cold and hungry, we made our way to the 7th floor to the beloved Walnut Room established in 1907 with beautiful paneling, seating 600 guests around a phenomenal Christmas Tree always stretching our necks to see if Uncle Mistletoe graced the top of the tree. In the early 1990’s, I took my little ones to the Walnut Room as well but they seemed more impressed in the pagers signaling when a table was available.

The Walnut Room at Macy’s can still be enjoyed for the holidays. Macy’s on State Street still offers holiday windows and lunches around their Christmas tree though weekdays are the best for wait times. Holiday shoppers will receive a pager so they can still shop while waiting for a table. A breakfast buffet is also served through the holiday season. Relive your childhood or start a new tradition with your children and after lunch, visit Santa on the fifth floor. See if Uncle Mistletoe is still on top of the Great Tree.

Forgotten malls: Evergreen Plaza

From the southeast side of Chicago, my best friend and I were allowed to ride the bus at the age of 12 in 1967 down 95th street west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited at the CTA bus stop right in front of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall¬† which is still there.¬† I can remember visiting Chandlers Shoes, Lyttons, one of my Mom’s favorite stores as well as Chas A Stevens. Before Montgomery Ward on the North end and, it was The Fair. Of course, Carson Pirie Scott which was located on the far south end from 95th street. My aunt worked there in jewelry for awhile. If we had money, we headed to Walgreens for candy after our lunch. There was a Wimpy’s where we had lunch.

The Evergreen Plaza operated from 1952 to 2013 and the first regional mall in the nation; the second indoor mall. It was originally designed as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff, one of, if not, the first of its magnitude in all of Chicago land. Actually the mall was enclosed in 1966. The center also contained a Jewel supermarket, which featured a conveyor belt that carried groceries from the store to a parking lot kiosk.The mall’s Walgreens was the second self-service Walgreen pharmacy in the chain; it was also the chain’s first location in a shopping center.

Two theaters were added in 1964; fairly new for us growing up, located on the south end by Carson’s and they were huge. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid at one of them but those were closed in 1999.

Today, Evergreen Market Place is a contemporary outdoor mall replacing the former Evergreen Plaza anchoring the corner 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. It offers approximately 22 stores such as Planet Fitness, TJ Max, Whole Foods Starbucks and Petco.