Lazarus Memories

Lazarus storefront decorated for Christmas, ca. 1955. Via Ohio Memory.
Lazarus storefront decorated for Christmas ca. 1955, via Ohio Memory.
"Alice's Tea Party" window display, ca. 1950, via Ohio Memory.
“Alice’s Tea Party” window display ca. 1950, via Ohio Memory.


As the holiday season wraps up, many of us have spent the last few weeks recalling fond memories of years past. One Columbus institution that stirs up happy recollections more than almost any other is Lazarus, whose flagship store (seen above) was located at the corner of High and Town Streets in downtown Columbus. But while the iconic building remains, the Lazarus department store of bygone days exists only in the vivid memories of its former visitors.

The company rose from its 1851 founding as a men’s clothier, in a 20×40-foot room downtown, to its position by 1965 as a member of the country’s largest department store chain, Federated Department Stores. For over a century and a half, the Lazarus name was a familiar one to generations of shoppers–residents of central Ohio and beyond can describe in great detail their experiences at this Columbus landmark, both during the holiday season and year-round, during the many years that it stood as a downtown fixture.

Dining area at the Chintz Room, Lazarus' fifth floor restaurant, in 1953. Via Ohio Memory.
Dining area at the Chintz Room, Lazarus’ fifth floor restaurant, in 1953. Via Ohio Memory.


Reflections of Lazarus can be found in many places online–including WOSU’s program “Many Happy Returns to Lazarus,” the Department Store Museum blog, and even a Facebook page for the Lazarus Talking Tree!–and Ohio Memory is lucky to have a great selection of historic Lazarus images from the Lazarus Family Collection, held in the Ohio Historical Society archives. Many important aspects of Lazarus history are represented, including the toy department, the Secret Gift Shop, the baby animal farm, teen grooming courses, the store’s Wall of Air and elaborate window displays, and much more.

Record department on the fifth floor at Lazarus, ca. 1950-1959. Via Ohio Memory.
Record department on the fifth floor at Lazarus ca. 1950-1959, via Ohio Memory.

We were thrilled to see a recent comment by an Ohio Memory user identified only as “Baltimore Kid” on a photograph of the music department at the Columbus downtown store. In it, the user describes the magic of visiting the Lazarus flagship, which was “like the North Pole, Oz, and Mecca all in one.” This comment brings alive the atmosphere and mystique of Lazarus that is remembered and cherished by so many. The “sparkling revolving doors” and “elegantly attired personal attendants” were just some of the elements that made the store “the apotheosis of shopping nirvana” and an unforgettable Ohio landmark. Sidenote: the comment also kindly corrects the date we’ve provided for the photograph, based on the instruments and accessories that can be seen in the shot. This correction has been made, and we always appreciate input from visitors to Ohio Memory to help ensure the accuracy of our image descriptions!

2014 will mark the ten-year anniversary of Lazarus’s closing in 2004, when the company stores were absorbed into the Macy’s brand. But memories of Lazarus are still alive on Ohio Memory and in the hearts of many who visited this important spot in Ohio history. We invite you to share your Lazarus memories with us below, or by using the comments feature on Ohio Memory. Many happy returns!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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