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Then and Now: The Palace and J.C. Penney

December 31, 2018

The Palace Store was founded as a small business in 1890 by Reuben Weil. The store grew steadily in at least two other locations before moving into a modern six-story building at Post Street and Main Avenue in 1909. The store competed directly with the Crescent department store.

The new store was framed in steel, allowing for longer spans inside, large glass display windows and uncluttered interior displays.

The store flourished, expanding to fill the large building. The store was the very template of a modern department store, carrying fashionable clothing, linens, housewares, hardware and even carpet.

Weil died in the early years of the new century and his wife and family sold it to Spokane Dry Goods, which owned the Crescent department store, in 1912. Kemp and Hebert, another premier department store, bought the Palace, which was mired in debt and lawsuits filed by investors and creditors, in 1930.

Still in debt, the 60-year-old Palace was sold to the new Bon Marche store a few doors down Main Avenue in 1951. On July 1, 1952, the store closed and inventory moved to The Bon Marche.

The old Palace building got a complete makeover in mid-century style for the incoming J.C. Penney store. Windows in the upper floors were eliminated and the two sides facing streets were faced with pink marble and cream ceramic panels. The whole building was to be air-conditioned. The makeover included escalators.

J.C. Penney, a store chain that started in 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming, opened its first Spokane store in 1918 in Hillyard, before moving downtown in 1928.

The shiny new J.C. Penney store opened in May 1953. The store stayed there until a new store was built across the street and a block west in 1972. Once emptied, the old Palace building was once against repurposed, this time for a new Nordstrom store in 1973.

When the River Park Square was completely redeveloped in the early 1990s, a new Nordstrom was built and the six-story Palace building was torn down in 1999.

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