Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Death of Marshall Fields and the Dissolution of The Sense of Place

Finally, the deed is done. Yesterday, Federated Department Stores announced that all of the stores of Marshall Field's, a Chicago institution for over a century and, with Wanamaker's, one of the two creators of the concept of the department store in America, would be converted to Macy stores in 2006.

From their inception, department stores were like a museum, a riverfront, a memorial, or a stadium - something that defined the unique character of a city. Now they're just roadkill in Wal-Mart America. A look at Field's recent history helps explain just how this happened, and what it may mean for the future of America's cities. Read it here.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for making a point sorely missed by the local Chicago media - that Field's did to Daytons and Hudson's just what Chicagoans are so up in arms about Macy's doing to Field's: changing the name.

Anonymous said...

The May Company has done this before. When they purchased the Goldwater's department stores in Arizona, they changed the name to Robinson's. I.E. Why keep the name of a respected local icon and presidential cnadidate when you can replace it with one associated--more than anything else--with the frustrated housewife in "The Graduate." LOL! How clueless was that?

Anonymous said...

It is most depressig to think that Macy's will take over and rename a landmark store such as Marshal Feild's.

Jordan Marsh in Boston was one of my favorite stores. Macy's has ruined it. All the merchandise is jammed into the store as if it is a stock pile. There are never any salespeople to help the customers. They are about to ruin downtown Boston's shopping on
Washington Street. Filene, which has more class than Macy's in Boston, is also being taken over by Macy's.

I really don't think the public wants all retail to be like Walmart. It seems the model Macy's is using is very much like Walmart.

Marshall Feild's is very special. The name should never go. The quality should never go. It's a Chicago landmark.

There is still room to bring new ideas and update to spark consumer interest. What happened to imagination. Ask Chicagoans what they want. it may spark business.

Anonymous said...

Macys is New York. Marshall Field's IS Chicago. Marshall Fields has
WONDERFUL FRANGO MINTS. THEY used to be made at the flagship store
on State Street. Now they're made out-of state (That's just wrong).
At Christmas Fields "DECORATES" inside and their outside window; it is
a Magical, awe-experiencing event. Now it'll be just a national chain.
I HATE national chains. It'll be the same like when Burdines - "The
Florida Store", changed its name to Macys. I used to shop there, I
don't shop there anymore-The MAGIC is Gone. It's just Macys -
a "National Chain". Is Chicago changing the Front Plaque to Macys??
Their front clock on State Street??? I know, why not just sell the whole damn chain and
change ALL the names to WALMART?....Email FIELDs - tell them what you

Anonymous said...

THINKING ABOUT IT...I used to shop at Marshall Fields downtown. NOT ANYMORE - MACYS IS NOT Chicago! I'm walking 2 blocks to Carson's Pierre Scott - they're getting MY business NOW! "CARSON Pierre Scott IS CHICAGO" - they aren't a sell out. Long ago I have fond memories standing in line waiting for Santa Clause at their downtown location. I hope THEY capitalize on the FACT Carson Pierre Scott IS Chicago. Wishing THEM the Best of financial success. I'm now a Carson's supporter!! Peace - the world needs more of it !

Earl Rodney said...

As a current resident of South Florida, I am still trying to reconcile the name change from our famous Burdines to Macy's. But being born and raised in Chicago, I am even more distressed with converting the prestigious Marshall Field name into the foreign "Noo Yawk" name of "Macy's"! Chicago and Marshall Field were always symonomous names, and I have many fond memories of that store, even up to last Thanksgiving when I revised my home town, and had such a great dinner in the Marshall Field store.
I remember all of the old, great department stores in Chicago that are now gone - Sears, Montgomery Ward, Mandel Brothers, the Fair, Goldblatts, the Boston Store, Weiboldts, but I never envisioned the loss of Marshall Field. Why, even the great Chicago Natural History Museum is called the "Field Museum"! I believe this name change by Macy's for all of the great local department stores making them into a MacDonalds or Burger King type chain, is a mistake.

Earl Rodney, Pembroke Pines, Florida.

Anonymous said...

"For at least the next five years, people are still going to be calling it Marshall Field's. And they'll invariably add "which was bought by some assholes who made it a Macy's." That's a great branding strategy!" – Wendy (comment from another blog that I found)

I agree with Wendy, that was almost verbatim what I was thinking when I read they were changing the name. It's a Chicago icon. Ever since I was about 4 (earliest I can remember) we've been going to Fields, especially at Christmas. And my mom always told me that if I ever got lost to go to Marshall Fields and stand under the green clock, and she would comee find me. She has continued telling me that for 22 years now. And what's going to happen to the green clock?! I think we as Chicagoans are very protective of our icons, landmarks and sports teams. I mean the Bears haven't won a super bowl in 20 years, but they still pack Soldier's Field. Why? Because they ARE Chicago. Just like Marshall Fields IS Chicago.

I for one am boycotting Macy's. It's about time we stood up for our heritage and our history in this city.
I know there's a petition out there that you can sign about keeping the Marshall Fields name. Tell all your friends!

Atul said...

"In the end, if the alternative is to make things available more cheaply and efficiently, unique local character may seem an anachronistic luxury, but its loss is an assault on America's future. Creativity comes, not out of uniformity and constricted choice, but out of the range of possibility that only variety can provide."

Perhaps I'm missing the point here, but my general impression has been that variety has just been moving to new venues, rather than being wiped out. Niche online retailers like, the smaller retail stores mentioned like Gap and Express, as well as even some large retailers like Ikea seem to provide consumers with lots of variety and creativity, if you ask me. If I were to look only at department stores to fulfill my needs, sure I'd think that the consumer landscape was bleak, but I rarely actually shop at department stores.

In other words, I think variety is out there and thriving--you just have to know where to look.

Anonymous said...

And that is what makes me so mad about the name change: Lundgren is an idiot for not realizing what makes a huge dept store on State St viable still: it's unique name. Field's is a movie star, Field's is history, Field's carries unique merchandise, Field's draws the tourists. I was recently in the Macy's Union Sq., only because I was looking for something, not because I sought it out. Without the tourists drawn to it because it is Field's it is nothing more than a building. And, as you said, it will never be the same. Macy's should have learned from the May Company mistake back when they changed the name of Wanamaker's to Hecht's. People stopped coming. The name was key to the store.

Anonymous said...

I think you are being overly sentimental. The avg american worker makes less than 10 dollars an hr. This erosion of the middle class has everthing to do with the decline of most internal workings of inner-cities. Though Chicagos downtown is vibrant... many Urban centers down-towns are blighted.
What has killed most Department stores is Suburbanization. Urban spraw, spending money on homes spawning a new area unplanned and unresearched is the cause of most of americas ills. Decentralization of humans from a communal village off to their islands of aloof sanctuary. The american dream killed the chance of living one. There are many Direct correlations that i could bring to you about people in prison poverty homelessness and suburbanizations role in all of it. Want to change corporate america, the current united state, kill the suburban myth. Home ownership, the kind dervied in the late 20th century helps to build walmarts and other such chains. Blame the car on the promotion of this life style choice to. The car replaces mass-public ownded transit at a very high cost. The relationship between car, oil, consumer prices, and suburbanization are all linked closely. The more single family homes built in the squalor of spraw increases the number of miles driven to work, it increases the build up of shortly lived infrastructure. It usurps monies that could be save or concentrated on group living and instead spends it on building roads to connect yet more distant suburbs.
If this tide does not turn soon the situation will become dire.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Why does federated department stores want to alienate the customers. With the name change from Marshal Field & Company to
macys. When Your in New York people want to shop at Macys. When Your in Chicago You want to go to Marshal Field & Company. By combining on Department store from Coast to coast, the customer is the looser. Because less choices in merchandise equates to less sales. Is this not the bottom line for being in business. Stores are in business to lure the customer to purchase goods or services from them. By upsetting the customers is not good business practice in any type of business. If Federated were to have Marshal Field & Company side by side with Macys it would be a better decision, competation is good for business and both stores would be Winners. With Marshal Field & Company with a strong name, why would a poor business decision be made to drop the name.

Anonymous said...

I will boycott Macy's when they officially open in Chicago and I hope many Chicagoans will join me! We need to speak out and let the "Enemy" know that we want them to keep Marshall Fieldsas it is! Marshall Fields is an icon and a big part of Chicago and its history. Frango Mints, the Field Museum and the Christmas decorated windows are just to name a few.

Anonymous said...

Price Scanners mounted to columns, Cardboard and Steel signs hanging from the ceiling declaring "Customer Service", something Federated knows nothing about. As a young man (I am in my 30's now) I would travel with my family to visit relatives in Chicago and every trip meant a stop at Marhall Field's on State.
As a young woman my mother worked at Flo's Restaraunt at 7 West Randolph, she said to herself "One day I'll make enogh to shop in that store", and indeed she did.
As an adult and now with my own family I still visit Chicago and every time a trip to Field's on State is in order we spend the day the last trip AMEX was inclined to deliver $3,500.00 of my hard earned money to Marshall Field and Company. The problem here is that we ALL used to be idealists, we made conscious decisions about where to spend our money, not supporting any business for whom we had no respect. But that is gone, the values we used to require from a business have declined. I can honestly say I simply do not shop at Federated Stores, why I can serve myself at K-Mart. Macy's and Bloomingdale's are not even shadows of what they once were, and Marshall Field and Company is going all together. Forget about the outlying stores State Street is an INSTITUTION if only someone could explain that to Mr. Lundgren. Sometimes it's not just about the bottom line, Sometimes it is about being the best. An opportunity is looming here to take a truly great name in retailing and return it to the top, make it your Gump's in San Francisco, your Hall's in Kansas City. Sometimes in our lives we are given a chance to be Great, well Terry this is your chance. People still travel from all over the world to Chicago to visit Marshall Field and Company on State Street, let's get them coming in droves. Then one day when Terry Lundgren is dead and buried people will say "boy it's too bad about Macy's and Bloomingdale's I had almost forgotten about those stores what was his name Lungren? He sure wasn't a merchant, but hey he did save Marshall Field's! Yeah tahnk goodness my family has been shopping there for 6 generations. Say are you going to the 2060 Christmas Window Displays? Sure am Haven't missed it in 60 years." If I were Mr.Lundgren I would leave something beautiful behind to be remebered by! Well I guess we will see, you know the 2005 Department and Speciality Store Service Ratings were just released #1 Nordstrom #2 Marshall Field's Macy's and Bloomingdale's did NOT make the list. Well it looks like we are going to be hearing a lot more of "I'd Rather be Shopping at NORDSTROM!"

Anonymous said...

Tell you friend Wendy I feel sorry for her. Macy's superior? Compared to Wal-mart, barely, but to Marshall Fields, no one ever came close. Marshall Field loved Chicago so much that he built a retail Palace, what did R.H. Macy do, built a pig-sty. And to prove New York's inferiority, he built an addition just to make the claim "Largest Store in the World." Why do you think so many EAST COAST residents opened Marshall Field accounts in the 20's, 30's, and 40's? Federated has killed the department store, and this time next year Terry Lungren will be out of a job.

Anonymous said...

Where is this petition one of you mentioned? I'll sign it. In fact I'll come back to Chicago to protest the name change if that'll help. I was born and raised in the city of Chicago. Field's State Street store wasn't just a place I visited. I shopped there regularly. I took my kids to the Walnut Room every Christmas. It is a very special place. It TRULY is CHICAGO.

I'm so mad - does anyone out there think we can honestly do something? If so, count me in. This CAN'T be happening!!

Anonymous said...

What is going on? I still see Marshall Field website on the internet. What are they advertising if there is not store on State Street?

I knew something was "in the wind" when the "Bon Marche" depatment stores in the state of Washington which Marshall Field once owned a controlling interest in became Macy's. I did not, however, think the executives at Federated would dump the qality name of Marshall Field for the so-so name of Macy's!
Federated's action has relagated the name Marshall Field to graveyard of State Street department stores like The Boston Store, Mandel's, Goldblatts, etceteras. As a youngster, I was alway intregued by the clerks aending payments by over-head conveyor system t a cwntral cashier. I can still hear the clicking of the carriers.
If Field's has gone, the next time I'm in Chicago from Calgary, I, too, will go to Carson's!

Anonymous said...

Bravo...thank you for so eloquently describing the status of Marshall Fields. I just resigned from being an interior designer at one of the home stores. I will sum up the experience as a ship lost at sea. The pirates have taken off with the booty.(The notorious Norman Rockwell gone missing from the wall) Those greedy pirates took the mast, sail, and rutter too. Lundgren will go down with this ship unless he finds another sucker to quickly buy it.

My heart will sink when they put up those ugly MACYS signs. Goodbye to the values and innovation of the original Marshall Fields but, it has been long gone for many years. No surprises here. Chicago has a bad habbit of stewing in denial over many subjects, Tolls, Mayor Daley's political scams, historical landmarks disappearing off the streets.

Beware Chicago your beginning to resemble your tattered sister city Detroit.

Department Stores and Oil fueled autombiles as we have known them are DEAD. To feel alive one should seek out alternatives to them.

Anonymous said...

At age 12, on a visit to Whiting, Indiana,(in 1942) I was allowed to go to Chicago alone and check out a bunch of stores. One was Marshall Field. In all my life I never saw anything so big, and so stocked with unimaginable goodies. There was a Sears Roebuck depot in North Philadelphia off of Roosevelt Blvd (U.S. #!) that was huge, too; but that was a mail order facility, and not a retail. Well, I learned today that Marshall Field, and another Chicago giant, Carson Pirie Scott, are closing down, being shuffled off to speculators, etc.

Well, Good Bye, dear old M.F. Sorry to see you become history!

Anonymous said...

do you realize you are talking about a store? we have much more to worry about than a store.

What about foie gras in Chicago, now that is a crime

Larry said...

Good Bye

After moving to Chicago and working for a few years for Potter Palmer, Marshal Field bought into a partnership with Mr. Leiter to purchase the store. By 1882 Marshall Field had bought out Leiter of Field, Palmer, and Leiter, changed the firm's name to Marshall Field and Company, Suvived the Great Chicago Fire, and prospered in large part due to Chicago's rapid population growth.

Throughout the years, Field's became a symbol of Chicago. The flagship State street store found it's way to postcards, snapshots and a famous Norman Rockwell illustration. Family's made a tour of the store»s window displays a yearly part of their Christmas holiday. Times changed, the brand acquired other department stores, and it»s self was swallowed whole. But through it all Field's was still Field's.

From the Field Museum, to the yearly sponsorship of the 4th of July fireworks,
Field's has had a deep connection with heart of Chicago. When Macy's announced they were stripping away the name Chicagoans were up in arms.
Macy's corporation issued statements like,

"From a shopping standpoint, customers will have the best of both worlds in major markets like Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit. They will continue to benefit from regional buying that remains attuned to local preferences and lifestyles, plus enjoy the distinctive merchandise and shopping experience that»s part of the Macy's brand," Lundgren said.

"We have great respect for the legacy and traditions of Marshall Field's, and we carefully researched customer preferences and studied alternatives before making this decision to incorporate Marshall Field's into the nationwide Macy's brand," Lundgren said. "While the store's name will change, much of what customers love will stay the same, including Marshall Field's traditions and its outstanding record of community and charitable giving. As part of this name change process, we will do everything we can to honor the Marshall Field's heritage, particularly in its Chicago birthplace."

I understand the desire for Macy's to have a "National advertisement campaign, but I can't help be sadden by the loss of a major piece of Chicago history.

Anonymous said...

i shall never forget marshall fields. it holds memories of me and my grandmother and other family shopping together! Chicago was proud of marshall fields!


it's sooo sad!!! i just don't know what to feel--i'm a very balaced person of many veiws, but after getting into it with some big project's help,it's been trough a LOT. but there are always those with different veiws--yes, things go away in time, but it's just too sad to see so much history just suddenly collapse--:( there's more stufft to life, but i just want it for a little longer--COME ON--JUST THE NAME FOR GODD'SSAKE!!!!!!!!!!!! (SORRY IF IT WAS HURTING YOUR FEELINGS IN ANY WAYS)

AF (from the previous blog) said...

hello again! well, it's really sad & i'm never going there--it's hard--i've got a dress from there that i've never even worn before to tell that it was from an amazing part of history--from where i live,or just simply "marshall field's"--it's truly really sad. to so many like me, it's just as important as the sears tower or navy pier--it's just like,"ANOTHER CHUNK OF HISTORY IS LOST--NOW, NOT EVEN MY CHILDREN WILL EVER KNOW IT AS THE WAY IT REALY WAS--IT'S JUST NOT THE SAME--"MACY'S" SOUNDS SOOOO CHEAP! BUT MARSHALL FIELD'S IS AUTO. A NAME, SO IT CAN TELL OF IT'S GREAT PAST--THAT'S NOW SOOOOOO GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!":(:(

angela fong said...

after each website i go to, i just get sadder & sadder--so much work, so much revolution it caused, so many affects, just such a sad story to know,put aside tell of. this is so due to my history fair project--know, i know so much of this beauty that is now a very unfortunate thing-i can't stop being sad or mad at macy's--am i an emotional wreck right now? (sorry:)--by the way--what's with the "word verifacation" thingy?

Anonymous said...

It is good post. It is very good place.I love to shopping there.CouponAlbum one of the my favorite site.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad that Macy's has no sentiment for tradition. How would they feel if someone renamed the Thanksgiving day parade. Myself and many others refuse to ever step foot in a Macy's store ever again.

Anonymous said...

This is a well-written article and true from many perspectives; however, I loved shopping at Marshall Field's long after it's "glory days" in the 50s thru 70s which I never knew.

I shopped there- and modeled for them in the early 80s, then resided in NYC for 10years. Upon my return I found the gloriously rehabbed store (by the Target folks) and merchandise that would've been the envy of ANY NYC dept. store. I shopped there faithfully and with great satisfaction until Federated took over with the macy's name. From that time forward, merchandise, service and decor took gigantic steps backwards. I've never spent a sent there since.

Anonymous said...

that should have been "cent", not sent. Mea culpa.