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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Window displays bring historic holiday spirit of the Crescent store to downtown Spokane

Historic Christmas window display figures have been uncovered and given new life at select locations in downtown Spokane this Yule season.

The figures are among those featured in department store window displays over the years at the historic 1917 Crescent store at 707 W. Main Ave.

People would flock to downtown each season to see the innovative and elegantly designed displays.

Elisabeth Hooker, marketing and program manager for the Downtown Spokane Partnership, heard reports that the figures were being held in storage and tracked down the display items in the basements of the Crescent and nearby Lincoln Building garage.

The current owner and manager of the Crescent agreed to resurrect the items for this holiday season, and to participate in a longer-range plan to restore and conserve the pieces for annual displays, she said.

A group of six rotating figures of the Nutcracker Suite are on display in the window of the Davenport Hotel gift shop. Next door at the Davenport flower shop is a more whimsical display of three mice figures that were part of the Nutcracker theme display.

Whiz Kids on the third floor of River Park Square in suite 320 next to Nordstrom has a third display of a gingerbread house in a candy cane workshop with elves doing different activities, such as roasting marshmallows.

A fourth display of whimsical woodland creatures was set up Wednesday on the second floor of River Park Square.

“It’s an absolute honor to have something like this in my window,” said Jan St. George, owner of Whiz Kids. “It is just magical.”

Some restoration work was done prior to this year’s showings, Hooker said.

“We have had such a positive response from what little we’ve done,” she said.

She said she hopes to form a committee to oversee and undertake further restoration, including help from experts in fabric arts and repairing electrical motors and circuits.

“We are trying to bring the appropriate people together,” Hooker said.

She said she is hoping that local residents with knowledge of the displays will step forward to help in the effort.

In one example of needed restoration, two of the elves in the display at Whiz Kids have inoperable electric motors, rendering them immobile. The other elves are moving with separate concealed motors.

The costuming of fine fabrics will ultimately have to be conserved.

The figures on display this year are a part of a larger collection that includes another workshop scene, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, children, more animals, gnomes and one large moose. They date possibly to the 1950s through the ’70s to the early ’80s, Hooker said. The Nutcracker group may be the oldest.

The historic window displays became a well-known attraction each holiday season, and large numbers of people would visit the Crescent to see them as part of their holiday traditions, much as people visit neighborhoods to see holiday decorations today.

St. George said maintaining the beloved old window displays of period pieces will give Spokane another element of continuity with its past.

Hooker said, “We would love to bring that feeling to the next generation.”

The fact that many of the figures move is part of the attraction. She said children are captivated by the figures.

This holiday, part of the Crescent department store history is acknowledged in a 1993 nomination to place the building on the Spokane Register of Historic Places.

“Known for its Christmas decorations, the Crescent used extensive lights, window decorations and two large wreaths that hung from the roof on the east side of the building to reflect the spirit of the season,” according to the nomination.

To contact Hooker and the Downtown Spokane Partnership about the restoration and conservation effort, call (509) 456-0580.