Wanamaker’s Department Store & Christmas Memories

John Wanamaker’s “Crystal Tea Room”

John Wanamaker’s Department Store (now Macy’s) in Philadelphia, PA, is part of very precious memories from my childhood.  It’s Crystal Tea Room was our destination for special occasions with my mother, my sister, and myself.  At that time (yes, back in the day) we dressed up to go into the city. That meant Sunday-best dresses and shoes and our best party manners.

Like all good memories, these are gilded with warm emotions, slightly hazy details, and maybe some longing. Hardly anybody gets “dressed up” anymore – no matter the occasion, or the specialness of the event or location.

The Crystal Tea Room was an opulent and impressive room to a child – with warm dark wood
paneling, linen tableclothes and napkins, china place settings, the soft murmur
of conversation accompanied by the musical clink of dishes. And of course, 
those enormous sparkling crystal chandeliers!

We had tea or lunch, visited Santa and the toy department, and always
watched the holiday show from the grand rotunda on the main floor. It included
a light show narrated by John Facenda and a musical concert performed on
the Wanamaker organ accompanied by dancing fountains that moved in time to the
Christmas Carols being played. Magical!

Today, we take our children and grandchildren to Philadelphia to see a shortened version of the Christmas Spectacular and to enjoy a visit to the huge train display in Reading Terminal. We end the day in the Italian Market busily gathering special foods for a traditional feast and have dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.

John Wanamaker is considered a visionary by many who strive to protect and share his legacy.  The opulent department store he created is a precious part of my childhood memories…and, no doubt, part of the fond recollections of many others. I hope our grandchildren have similarily warm recollections of our annual Christmas trip to Philly.

Carol & Gus, Innkeepers
Scarborough Inn
an Ocean City NJ Bed and Breakfast

4 thoughts on “Wanamaker’s Department Store & Christmas Memories

  1. I really enjoyed finding your post about Wanamaker's Tea Room. Growing up in the 50's and 60's in Philadelphia, Wanamaker's was always a very special place. Also my family would vacation in Ocean City every summer, so finding a Wanamaker memory on an Ocean City Blog made me smile. I also have a blog about growing up in the Philadelphia Area in the 50's and 60's, if you or any of your readers are interested. It's called "Two Half-Lives in Philadelphia", and can be found at http://rosemary69.blogspot.com/.

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