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Window Shopping at Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co.

December 1st, 2012

An exterior view of Sibley's as seen at nighttime and decorated for Christmas. 1939. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Do you remember window shopping at the big downtown department stores? Freezing cold holiday shoppers all pressed up against the plate glass like moths to a porch light. Dreams of sugar plums and reindeer and presents under the tree were fueled by these sparkling menageries of the latest and greatest stuff. The displays themselves were an art form; and pulling people in off the street was the ultimate goal. In all but our largest metros, scenes like these have been lost as retailers gradually moved to suburban malls. This series of pictures from the Rochester Public Library documents some of the windows at Sibley, Lindsay and Curr Co. department store in downtown Rochester more than 70 years ago…

A Sibley's window display at Christmas, featuring mannequins in skiwear and showing other winter outerwear as well. 1932. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A Sibley’s window display at Christmas, featuring mannequins in skiwear and other winter outerwear. 1932.

A Sibley's Christmas time window display with the theme of English carolers in a village. 'In Merrie England. The Christmas Carolers on Their Rounds Through the Village. The Spirit of Christmas in is in the air.' 1925. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A Sibley’s Christmas time window display with the theme of English carolers in a village. “In Merrie England. The Christmas Carolers on Their Rounds Through the Village. The Spirit of Christmas in is in the air.” 1925.

Sibley's window display of women's hats modeled by a mannequin and mannequin heads. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A women’s hat tree thingy. 1940.

The same 'tree' theme from the window continued inside the department store. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
The same “tree” theme from the window continued inside the department store. 1940.

A Sibley's window display showing a modern kitchen. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A modern kitchen. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring an old fashioned kitchen. Note: The old fashioned kitchen and the modern kitchen were displayed side by side. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
An old fashioned kitchen. Note: The old fashioned kitchen and the modern kitchen were displayed side by side. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring various kitchen items. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Various kitchen items. 1940.

A Sibley's window display showing mannequins in scuba diver gear in an underwater scene with treasure chests. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Scuba diver gear in an underwater scene with treasure chests. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins wearing back to school fashions. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Back to school fashions. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins wearing back to school fashions. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Back to school fashions. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins wearing back to school fashions. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Back to school fashions. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins in wedding fashions. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Wedding fashions. 1940.

A Sibley's window display at Christmas time showing an array of silverware. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
An array of silverware. 1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins wearing raincoats, pictured with umbrellas. c.1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Raincoats c.1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins wearing raincoats, pictured with umbrellas. c.1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
More rain gear c.1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring a mannequin seated at a piano; also a second piano, a saxophone and an accordion. c.1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A Sibley’s window display featuring a mannequin seated at a piano; also a second piano, a saxophone and an accordion. c.1940.

A Sibley's window display of women's shoes. c.1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Women’s shoes. c.1940.

A Sibley's window display featuring mannequins dressed in bathrobes in a bathrooom setting. 1941. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Women’s bath attire. 1941.

A Sibley's window display showing mannequins in fashionable clothing in a picnic setting. 1941. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Fashionable clothing in a picnic setting. 1941.

A Sibley's window display of women's hats. 1941. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Women’s hats. 1941.

'Eat Plenty of Bread for Health and Variety. Bakery Main Floor.'
A Sibley's window display featuring loaves of bread. 1941. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
“Eat Plenty of Bread for Health and Variety. Bakery Main Floor.” 1941.

'Welch's Grape Juice. Refreshing Anytime!' A Sibley's window display featuring stacked bottles of Welch's grape juice. 1941. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
“Welch’s Grape Juice. Refreshing Anytime!” 1941.

A Sibley's window display at Christmas, featuring mannequins in skiwear and showing other winter outerwear as well. 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
Skiwear and other winter outerwear. 1940.

A Sibley's window display at Christmas time showing a variety of wreaths and artificial trees. Also features a copy of an oil painting by William L. Taylor based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 'Home Keeping Hearts are Happiest.' 1940. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A variety of wreaths and artificial trees. 1940. This window also features a copy of an oil painting by William L. Taylor based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Home Keeping Hearts are Happiest.” external link

Visit RochesterSubway.com again tomorrow and we’ll cross over to the other side of Main Street; to do some more window shopping at another local holiday favorite.

About Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co.
Department Store…

The store was founded by partners Rufus Sibley, Alexander M. Lindsay and John Curr, who opened their first dry goods store in 1868 at 75 East Main Street external link in Rochester. This business was so successful that between 1877 and 1880 they bought properties at 69-73 Main external link and also the old Osborne House hotel and expanded. In 1893 they built the Granite Building external link and moved their store to that location, where they stayed until the disastrous Sibley Fire of 1904 destroyed the interior of the building. Within a month they had relocated to the old Empire Theater external link building, and in 1904 their new store external link opened on Main between Clinton and North. Sibley’s was a Rochester institution, and enjoyed great financial success. The store was modernized in the 1930’s by John R. Sibley, son of Rufus. In the 1950’s the company expanded into the suburbs. In July of 1986 the company was purchased by May Department Stores, which renamed the stores under the Kaufman’s name in 1990 and eventually closed the downtown Rochester landmark store.

Happy Holidays and Shop Local!

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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 1st, 2012 at 10:12 pm and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Window Shopping at Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Co.”

  1. marian says:

    While I don’t go back as far as the 30’s, I remember the 50’s very well. Those holiday windows were magical, and being outside in the snow looking in made them even more so. We never got tired of them, partly because they didn’t appear until after Thanksgiving!

  2. Jason Haremza says:

    Wow. Shows what a lost art retail display is…and one that needs to be revived.

    Any information on the connection, or lack thereof, to Hiram Sibley of Western Union fame (also Hiram Sibley Building at East and Alexander and Sibley Music Library at ESM)? I’ve heard they aren’t related, but seems to be some confusion in this town on that point.

    Also, can anyone remember the specific date Sibley’s closed the downtown store?

  3. Jim Hall says:

    The fond memories of the ‘train floor’ in sibleys was the highlite of my younger age, where we stayed for hours to watch, look and wonder, while my grandmother did some shopping in the grocery type store in Sibleys. Each christmas we did all that, and maybe thats where I got my love for trains and subways from. “Downtown” was magical back then, McCurdys was always decked out, Nisners always smelled like peanuts, while as I got older, we never missed going to the ‘Record Ranch”. RKO theater was close by, and Midtown Plaza was in the future. Yes Rochester has its own magic to me.

  4. Bonnie Allen Hisgen says:

    Met someone at Christmas dinner who graduated from Eastman. I was raised in Roch, my Dad graduated from Eastman. She mentioned the Sibley Library and that brought back a flood of memories from my child-hood. Then I looked at this website and could remember so much. It was wonderful going down Memory Lane for me. We shopped at Sibley’s when I was a kid.

  5. dennis mcgovern says:

    It was a joy to shop and eat at Sibley’s. I worked there briefly in th early 70s and the staff and management were wonderful. Nothing like it at the suburban malls.

  6. Jim Hall says:

    Sibley’s was a different sort of store to go to, and visit the trains at Chrismass, sit on Santa’s Lap, view the windows which were in competition with McCurdy’s across the street. My grandmother shopped in the grocery area, and as her age increased, she could shop by phone and have a daughter pick it up. Again todays shopping malls could learn a few things from them as well as how a customer was a joy to work with.

  7. Meriel says:

    I remember as a child waiting in a long line to see the Christmas window displays, Oh how magical it all was, I think that is why Christmas is all Glitter and sparkles, and Snowflakes, Christmas Caroling, every thing that goes with it, I am 70 years old and I still miss that so much, Computer has brought that memory back to me, Thank-You and Merry Christmas in 4 months,

  8. I have about 70 of each of the Sibley Lindsay & Curr gift coin tokens…The $10 Silver ones and the $25 Bronze colored ones….Can you tell me anything about these or who might be interested in them? Thank You Anita Spalick Pittsburgh

  9. Tom Stadtmiller says:

    I was born and raised in Rochester. Started to work at downtown Sibley’s when I was 16 and got my social security number and also my driver’s permit. I went to Aquinas and I worked there part time over a 7 year period ( 1965-1972. I was what used to be called a “stock boy” and work the main floor Notions Dept. The stock room was on 3rd floor. I loved it around Christmas time with the trains and decorations. The old restaurant had great food and cheap even for the standards of that era. I used to go to McCurty’s and Srantom’s Bookstore. I moved away from ochester in mid-1970’s but still have family there. I live in Syracuse NY now and get to Rochester when possible. But like most of old “rust belt” cities, downtown shopping and living is a shadow of its former self. Abbott Ice Cream used to be downtown as well. Things change over time and there is not much we can do about it but reminisce the old days. I still love the Central (Rundel) library downtown. It’s much bigger and extensive in scope that the main library in Syracuse or Buffalo for that matter. We used to drink “pop” not soda, ate Red (or Texas) hots or White ( or Poker) hots at Schaller’s and Don & Bob’s at Seabreeze. Nostaglic old days.

  10. Noris says:

    Fascinating history. I have a Sibley, Lindsay, & Curr Co. Armoire from estate sale. The store id tag is stapled to the back of the armoire and the drawer has an engraved name “Dixie”. I’d like to get an appraisal and possibly sell it.

  11. Bobie A Panici says:

    I has VOL. 1 thru 4 Views of Rochester Beauty by home photographers from Sibley,Lindsay,& Curr Company.. publishers. I was wondering if they have any value or if anyone is interested in them. Thanks

  12. Joan Schaller says:

    My mother was a cashier in the grocery in Sibleys; when the great power outage came that one evening, by mistake her register “money bag” got put into someone’s grocery sack, and my mother was almost accused of stealing! In a day or so when power was restored the customer brought back the money bag and mom (Francis Schaller) was cleared.
    Great memories of the grocery, the meat man liked “Frannie” and would give her goods cuts for her family. I also remember the cheese bread they would bake in a coffee can, you could see the rings.Wonderful store!!


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