Friday, July 1, 2011

Muir's Department Store

above photo courtesy of Pat Quinn

In the first half of the 20th century, East Orange was considered one of the premier suburbs of the New York City metropolitan area and, like today's suburbs, had little industry, serving mainly as a bedroom community for Newark and NYC. New York's retailers noticed and followed with branches of their main stores, and Central Avenue became the equivalent of Manhattan's 5th Avenue in some respects, catering to the higher income citizens of the Oranges and surrounding areas. For those of more modest means there were many alternatives, and East Orange's Muirs Department Store was a smaller version of NYC's Macy's and Newark's Bamberger's. The four story addition shown in the photo below was built in 1926.

My family often shopped at Muir's, also shopping at Robert Hall on Central Avenue and the large Sears, Roebuck store in Newark; but Muir's had a fine toy department and it was always emphasized that Muir's had the only "real" Santa.

above left: Stockton student Pat Quinn and Santa, Muir's, Dec. 1955 (part of Old Brick Church seen through window above wreath, photo courtesy of Pat Quinn); above right: future Stockton student Jeff Smith and Santa, Muir's, Dec. 1951 ( Pat's Santa looks like the real deal; mine, not so much)

Above: Drew Smith and Santa, Muir's, 1959 

Above: 1953, Don and Ginny Bayard

Below: 1952, Don Bayard (photos courtesy of Ginny Bayard)

Muir's was founded in 1882, closed in 1974, and the vacant building burned in 1989.   

Below: Muir's Christmas ad from 1945


  1. I remember Muir's-spent many times in the toy department while mom shopped upstairs.We used to get our hair cut at the beauty parlor above the shopping area-I think one of the stylist's name was Mr. Friend(only I remember it didn't feel so friendly-he hurt when he washed my hair ;().

  2. Great stuff! I work for a landscape architecture firm that's been hired by the City of East Orange to work on a Parks Master Plan for the whole city, including the East Orange Oval. Our community meeting for the Oval and for Francis-Haire Park is this Tuesday, March 26 from 6-8 PM at the Fellowship Civic Center. If you or your friends/family could come that would be great! We are on Facebook too - just search for 'East Orange Parks Plan'.