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After decades in stoarge, animatronic Christmas displays reemerge at the Davenport Grand Hotel

December 1, 2018

Nova Kelly, 8, gazed at the animatronic deer, rabbits and moose moving in a winter scene behind a window of the Davenport Grand Hotel.

It’s the same display that her grandmother stared at more than 50 years ago.

“My feet are where her feet were,” the 8-year-old said. “Now that is weird.”

Kelly was one of about 50 people who came to the reveal of the six Christmas window displays Friday night. Half a century ago, the spectacle of intricate mechanics and Christmas magic drew crowds of thousands.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership pulled together volunteers to fix up the old displays, which have been collecting dust in the basement of the Crescent Building – an early and iconic Spokane department store – on Riverside Avenue and Wall Street.

“For those who grew up and knew the department store, it was the premier place for Christmas displays,” said Elizabeth Hooker, marketing and program director for the DSP. “Going to the Davenport Grand will be like going to the Crescent building for the next generation.”

Lauren Wittstruck hadn’t seen the displays in decades, but remembers going to the Crescent building every year as a child to see them.

“I think our noses were just pressed against the glass. We were always looking for something new in the displays,” she said. “This is a big treat for us.”

The Crescent department store opened in 1889, a day after the great fire of that year burned down half the city. Because the Crescent building was made out of brick, it survived. It moved locations several times until it landed at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Wall Street, where it thrived as a staple in Spokane’s shopping scene. In 1988, the Crescent’s name was changed after changing ownership years earlier.

Jonna Kelly, Nova’s mom, is a volunteer who helped restore the old displays to make them look museum-quality. She said there are plenty more displays that they plan on fixing up and putting in the windows in coming years.

“It’s going to take a lot more volunteers to get them out,” she said, but she’s confident it will happen. “People are craving these types of things.”

The six displays include a nutcracker scene, a North Pole scene, a sugarplum ferries and a forest creature scene – Nova Kelly’s favorite because of the animals.

“I like them because they’re furry,” she said. “It has bunnies and stuff.”

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