City of Paris Department Store, 1850-1972
Established in 1850 as a mercantile business, the City of Paris was San Francisco's oldest department store before its closure in the early 1970s. The local chain's headquarters and the signature store was established at this location in 1896, one of the original upscale Union Square department stores that replaced the previous residential area. The building survived the earthquake and fire of 1906, while the building weathered the Great Depression. However, the store fell victim to the nationwide trend of local department store closures and announced their departure in 1971. Despite several attempts to save the historic building, including a case heard before the California Supreme Court, the building was demolished in 1981 to create room for the current Neiman Marcus department store. As a result of the preservation fight, Neiman Marcus agreed to save the old department store's glass dome and incorporate the City of Paris' signature rotunda into their building.
Backstory and Context
Verdier named his business the City of Paris Dry Goods Company in honor of the ship he had used in 1850 and as a reminder that he was the premiere importer of European luxury items. In 1896, the company opened a new store at this location. After the building had been damaged as a result of fires spread during the 1906 earthquake, management decided to redesign the sales floor around an opulent rotunda capped by a dome made of stained glass. As part of their celebration for the re-opening of the store in 1909, the company placed a large Christmas tree in the middle of the rotunda. Other department stores around the nation would follow this trend.
Like most other downtown department stores, the City of Paris ceased to be profitable by the late 1960s and management announced their plan to close the store in 1971. The Hawaii-based department store chain Liberty House attempted to operate out of this location for a couple of years but likewise decided to close the business. In 1974, Neiman Marcus purchased the property and announced their intention to build a new store at the location. Over the next few years, concerned citizens attempted to thwart Neiman Marcus's plan. Although the building was recognized as a California Historical Landmark and was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Neiman Marcus's property rights. The company demolished the City of Paris building in 1981.