|Leonards Department Store founders Marvin and Obie Leonard (front) inaugurate the first private subway system in the world, which took customers from a parking lot on the Trinity River to Leonards in downtown Fort Worth. Photos courtesy Leonards Department Store Museum.
The Arts Voyager, 10-28: Department store art
You can find it at Leonards... Department Store Museum
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2010 Paul Ben-Itzak
FORT WORTH, TX -- It's hard to imagine that in a mid-America where
the shopping mall has wiped out much of the landscape, a museum that celebrates a department store would prove one of the city's most fascinating cultural destinations, but then Leonards, celebrated with a cornucopia of artifacts by the Leonards Department Store Museum on Carroll Street off White Settlement Road, was no ordinary department store. And the community-minded mentality of its founders, Obie and Marvin Leonard, has little in common with today's generic cookie-cutter mall stores, often owned by faceless out-of-town corporations. It took up six city blocks and, when the crowds became so large they created a downtown parking problem, Leonards didn't stop at building a parking lot; in 1963 it introduced its own free subway system to get customers from the lot on the Trinity River to the store, the first of its kind in the nation. Such was Leonards' investment in the local community that when President Roosevelt declared a banking holiday in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, Leonards responded by issuing its own store scrip, cashing paychecks for a combination of money and scrip -- which other area shops decided to honor.
Subscribers click here to read the rest of this Article. (Not a subscriber? Click on the PayPal 'Subscribe' button below to get full access to all archived and new articles for just $29.95/year. Prefer to pay by check? Click here to e-mail us and we'll let you know how.)