Meier and Frank Company History


Meier & Frank was founded in Portland, Oregon in 1857, and acquired in 1966 by May Department Stores. May operated it as a separate division for nearly forty years, expanding the chain to Utah in 2001, as a result of a conversion of May Company's Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution or ZCMI stores purchased in 1999. In 2003 it was consolidated with North Hollywood, California-based Robinsons-May, but retaining the historic Meier & Frank name in the Oregon, Utah and Washington markets.

May itself was acquired by Federated Department Stores on August 30, 2005. On that day the former May Company divisions were dissolved and operational control of the Meier & Frank stores was assumed by Macy's Northwest. The Meier & Frank name was eliminated in favor of the Macy's name.

The company's flagship store was the historic Meier & Frank Building. This location is now called Macy's at Meier & Frank Square. The building is in the process of being completely restored. The lower five floors and basement are now occupied by Macy's. The nine upper floors are being converted to a luxury hotel, The Nines. The hotel will be owned and managed by Sage Hospitality of Denver, Colorado under a franchise from Starwood Hotels, The Luxury Collection brand. Renovation work of the downtown store for the Macy's portion was completed in October 2007. Work continues on the hotel portion.

The Meier & Frank Building is a fifteen story, glazed terra cotta building located in downtown Portland, Oregon, across from the northeast corner of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The building is the former flagship store and headquarters building for the Meier & Frank department store chain and has now seen its lower floors be remodeled into an updated Macy's department store. Upper floors of the building are set to be a luxury hotel known as The Nines.

The building site is a full block bounded by SW Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Morrison and Alder Streets. The present building was constructed in stages, starting in 1909 with major expansions occurring in 1915 and 1932. It replaces an earlier Meier and Frank store built in 1898.

The project was the first major commission for prolific Portland architect, A. E. Doyle. Although the original commission was an annex to the original building, Doyle took a trip to Chicago with the company's co-founder Sigmund Frank to survey department stores. Frank was very impressed with what he saw, and plans for the building changed into a full-block fully modern department store. Frank's death in 1910 ended those plans and resulted in the building's construction in piecemeal segments over several decades, which led to anomalous differences in which elevators and which stairways reached which floors. However, A.E. Doyle first used glazed terra-cotta in this building, resulting in later use of it in many other Portland structures by his and other firms.

The building hosted the corporate headquarters of the Meier & Frank chain. After the acquisition of Meier and Frank by May Department Stores in 1967, the chain became a division which was based out of the former corporate offices.

The interior of the building has been modernized over the years with few interior historic elements remaining. However, several notable exceptions to this were the Georgian Room restaurant and seasonal Santaland, both on the 10th floor (highest retail floor in the building). The historic Georgian Room had remained virtually unchanged for at least the last 50 years. Santaland, which closed after the 2005 Christmas season, was an annual holiday favorite for generations of Portland families. Santaland operated a "kiddie"-sized overhead monorail around the ceiling of Santaland (also at least 50 years old), a holiday model railroad layout and Santa Clauses. Pneumatic tubes were used throughout the store to convey messages and money from upper to lower floors and back again. The remnants of this system could still be found in some stairwells and back areas.

The Meier & Frank Building featured the first escalator installation in Portland, and housed the company's own radio station. KFEC signed on the air October 19, 1922. The studio was on the 5th floor and was also used as the library and reading room for employees. The transmitter towers were atop the building. KFEC operated until March 22, 1929 when it was sold and moved to Yakima, Washington which still operates today as KIT. The building has two primary lower levels and a third service level beneath these. The first lower level was used for retail space until the mid 1980s. The levels beneath that were used for storage and various seasonal needs. The bank of hand-controlled elevators originally operated by store associates were closed off with the construction of new automatic elevators, but continued to function as stock elevators into the 1990's outside of public view.

At its peak, the store housed everything from a pharmacy to a pet store. Actor Clark Gable worked in the store's tie department in 1922. Several delis and food vendors operated out of various levels. As demand for these services declined, the store changed focus. During the 1980s the store began to concentrate more on soft lines such as clothing, as well as small goods such as house wares. Several floors were modified to serve as corporate offices. Other floors were simply shut down and turned over to cold storage. The store was able to operate in this configuration until finally doomed by the development of the nearby Pioneer Place mall and increased competition from its stores and anchors, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

In 2005, the May Company was acquired by Federated Department Stores, corporate parent of Macy's and other chains. The Meier & Frank stores were renamed Macy's in September 2006. That same year, construction began on a project to turn the top nine floors of the building into a 330-room luxury hotel called The Nines, A Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel. The former Meier & Frank store in the lower floors of the building was set to be turned into a Macy's and remained open until December 30, 2006, before being closed for the remodel. The new Macy's at Meier and Frank Square reopened on October 26, 2007. The hotel is scheduled to open in late summer, 2008.


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