While shoppers today fulfill their holiday gift lists online or by visiting a mall, many longtime residents in the region still recall the festive atmosphere that once existed along Main Street in the City of Poughkeepsie.
With small retail shops and large department stores such as Wallace and Luckey Platt, and holiday lights hanging above the street, shopping in downtown was quite the pleasurable experience.
Luckey-Platt Department Store opened in 1869 on the southwest corner of Main and Academy streets and through the years became the largest and most visited retail outlet in the region. Families came from miles around to shop for everything from clothing, household goods, rugs and furniture.
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Charles Luckey was just a boy when he started his apprenticeship at a local dry goods store owned by Robert Slee. Ambitious and hard-working, Luckey elevated his status over time to become a partner in the business.
Similarly, Edmund Platt got his start in retail in 1859, working at the W.S and H.W Crosby store. Robert Slee and Company was eventually succeeded by the Luckey, Vail and Mandeville partnership and in 1869 Platt acquired Mandeville’s share of the larger operation and set the stage for what became the mainstay department store.
Innovative and trend-setting, Luckey-Platt introduced a “set price” policy in 1872, one that had each piece of merchandise accompanied with a price tag. Six years later, the store initiated telephone service for customer shopping at home. Then located at 328 Main St., the store expanded when 334 Main St. was acquired; shortly after, 336 Main was also added.
In 1882, the latter two stores were equipped with elevators, becoming the first such service in the city. As business increased, in 1901 the combined stores were converted into a five story joint enterprise.
Many of the furnishings and floor coverings incorporated into the new Dutchess County Courthouse in 1903 came from Luckey-Platt’s store. That same year, representatives of the store brought many of its products to the Dutchess County Fair, displaying them in booths and buildings on the grounds.
Frequent advertisements kept the sprawling department store in the forefront of shopper’s minds and the operation quickly became the “go-to” destination for people throughout the Hudson Valley.
The furniture department experienced such a boon that in 1910 a separate building for that department was built on Academy Street. More than 15,000 people attended its opening day ceremony.
In the early 1920s, the old building was demolished and replaced at the same location with a new and improved department store. Opening in 1924, the new structure was designed by leading Poughkeepsie architect Edward C. Smith and occupied approximately 4½ acres of floor space, including 43 departments and employing nearly 400 people.
Store officials claimed to have the equivalent of 30 stores under one roof and 175 sales clerks eagerly assisted customers from behind two miles of counter space.
“I remember going shopping on Main Street with my mother in the 50s and 60s,” said Hyde Park’s George Siegrist. “Normally the stores there closed at 5 p.m., but on Thursdays they were open until 9 p.m.
“My mother loved going there because coming from the Bronx it reminded her of shopping in the big New York City stores.”
During the holidays, the store and its windows were decorated with large exterior Christmas displays. It became an annual tradition for many to visit the area.
“I worked at Luckey’s when I was in high school,” said Joan Dow. “The store decorators had an office on the fourth floor and during the holidays they set up a huge model train display there and Santa Claus met with children.
“It was like a winter wonderland.”
Facing severe competition and enhanced parking from newly opened malls during the 1970s, Luckey-Platt finally closed its doors in 1981. The building remained vacant through 2006, when a developer acquired it and transformed the structure into a mixed commercial/residential use.
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This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Holiday shopping at Luckey-Platt Department Store was a Poughkeepsie tradition