Quite a cache — Pizitz family items donated from flagship building

This rendering of a rejuvenated Pizitz Department Store building on 19th Street North and Second Avenue in Birmingham is the latest offered by developers Bayer Properties.

This rendering of a rejuvenated Pizitz Department Store building on 19th Street North and Second Avenue in Birmingham is the latest offered by developers Bayer Properties. Credit to KPS Group.

Louis Pizitz, a Russian immigrant who gave up rabbinical studies for retail, built and stood at the helm of Birmingham’s leading department store chain throughout much of the last century. The business passed to his son Isidore and eventually, in 1987, was sold to McRae’s, which summarily closed the flagship building on 19th Street North and Second Avenue. The historic structure with the decorative terra cotta facade was purchased in 2000 by Bayer Properties and is slated for a $59 million redevelopment into apartments and first-floor shops.

Twenty six years later, a mini-trove of Pizitz items left behind during the McRae’s closure was donated to the Birmingham History Center. The donor was a contractor hired to clear out the building’s contents; the donated material was removed from a single office. Here are pictures of just a few items donated, followed by a summary list of the other objects and papers.

Recordings labeled "Louis Pizitz," "Pizitz Opening" and "Legend of Louis Pizitz" in 10-inch (78s) and 12-inch formats. We haven't listened yet to what is recorded here.

Recordings labeled “Louis Pizitz,” “Pizitz Opening” and “Legend of Louis Pizitz” in 10-inch (78s) and 12-inch formats. We haven’t listened yet to what is recorded here.

This oil portrait of Louis Pizitz, signed N. R. Brewer, was donated Sept. 20 by a family member of the contractor who cleared out a Pizitz building office in the 1980s.

This oil portrait of Louis Pizitz, signed N. R. Brewer, was donated Sept. 20 by a family member of the contractor who cleared out a Pizitz building office in the 1980s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unidentified photograph of a young Louis Pizitz?

An unidentified photograph of a young Louis Pizitz?

 

One of several unidentified photographs donated with Pizitz memorabilia and artifacts this month.

One of several unidentified photographs donated with Pizitz memorabilia and artifacts this month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ad insert from Sept. 30, 1934. combined Birmingham News & Age-Herald Sunday edition announced the "revival of business and better times" in the midst of the depression. Silk undies sold for $1.78 and a pair of women's gold or silver evening slippers for $2.50.

This ad insert from Sept. 30, 1934 combined Birmingham News & Age-Herald Sunday edition announced the “revival of business and better times” in the midst of the depression. Silk undies sold for $1.78 and a pair of women’s gold or silver evening slippers for $2.50.

1969 was an, ahem, unusual year for men's fashion. This page taken from a Pizitz Christmas catalog that year.

1969 was an, ahem, unusual year for men’s fashion. This page taken from a Pizitz Christmas catalog that year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other donated objects include:

1) Photographs and picture postcards of an unidentified Pizitz family member;

2) Newspaper advertising sections from the Birmingham News, Birmingham Post and Birmingham Age Herald for the years 1928, 1929, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1950, and 1969;

3) A 1975 “key to the city” of Homewood to Louis Pizitz son, and business successor Isidore Pizitz;

4) Deeds and mortgages on Georgia property and residential property in Mt. Brook;

5) Pizitz annual reports and several Christmas catalogs from late 1960s;

6) A copy of a 1970s (?)-era spoof of a Pizitz catalog with mixed race models and entitled Christmas with Contrast;

7) A folder documenting Louis Pizitz research into, and rejection of, a nomination to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places.  

As much interest as there is in the Pizitz name and building, the road to redeveloping the iconic building has been a rocky one. The plans for office and retail hit a major snag with the Great Recession, and the first office tenant to commit, in 2010–law firm Baker Donelson–backed out later that year. The city of Birmingham is now assisting Bayer with $1.9 million in streets improvements and facilitating efforts to land a federal HUD loan and tax exemptions. Construction hasn’t begun.

For more information on the Pizitz building and the history of its prominent entrepreneurial family, read bhamwiki’s account at http://www.bhamwiki.com/w/Louis_Pizitz.

For questions or comments on the donation, write bjhm@bham.rr.com.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s