Sunday, April 6, 2008

Department Store Building of the Week, No. 3

The three-story building with cornice at the center of this photo is emblematic of how small-town department stores looked, at least in the Northeast, around the turn of the century. Robert G. Dunn's store at 323 High St., Burlington, N.J. was the town's leading store until the Depression, which hit Burlington hard -- not only did it lose most of its established retailers, it lost its daily newspaper, and it was two decades until another one appeared. This lack of "progress" means that most of the buildings in downtown Burlington have been there for more than 100 years. Most of the stores on High Street were built to have the store downstairs and the owner's apartment upstairs; Dunn was one of the few in Burlington who prospered enough to live elsewhere. His name once filled the round device at the center of the cornice; the building's current owner now has his or her name there. Dunn's is certainly gone from memory and never was anything other than a basic small-town store for fabric, ready-to-wear and notions, but many department stores can be traced back to something that looked like this.

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