The 129,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus building sits on the busy corner of Main and Ervay. Listed on the United States’ National Register of Historic Places, and the only remaining original department store still serving Downtown, this building represents more than a luxury shopping experience. It’s also an important signifier of the longstanding success retail giants can experience in Dallas.
The History of the Neiman Marcus Building
The Neiman Marcus building was built in 1914 in order to replace the original structure on Elm Street, which burned down a year prior. The new building was four stories, fireproof and made of red brick and white stone; however, it didn’t take long for the structure to begin what would become a long history of additions and renovations.
In 1926, Neiman Marcus leased the land just adjacent to the building and built an identical, four-story addition that extended the store to Commerce Street, thus doubling its retail space and replacing the exterior brick veneer with a white terra cotta. The design of the building soon took on a distinctive Renaissance Revival look, a 19th century Italian architectural style, complete with sweeping double staircase inside.
More changes followed throughout the mid-20th century. In 1941, every floor of the building was remodeled. Between 1951-1953, two floors were added, bringing the building to six. More land was also acquired—this time to the west along Commerce and Main—again doubling the size of the store. In the late 1950’s, a seventh floor was added.
The Great Dallas Department Store Fire
But the expansions weren’t without challenges. In the early-morning hours of Saturday, December 19, 1964, a massive fire broke out on the building’s second floor. By way of the escalator openings, it soon spread upward to the fifth story, consuming almost everything in its path. The fire burned for a total of five hours, bringing more than 400 firemen and 25 fire trucks to the scene.
Due to the busy holiday season, the store was especially stocked with high-value merchandise. It’s estimated that over 7 million dollars’ worth of property loss resulted, making it the largest dollar-loss building fire in the country at the time, and still the costliest blaze in the history of Dallas.
Miraculously, the building itself was not destroyed and reopened only 27 days later. Because of the fire, store officials installed a comprehensive system of central-station supervised automatic sprinklers.
In 1983, the Neiman Marcus Building underwent its last expansion, adding two final floors and bringing the complex to a total of nine stories.
The Neiman Marcus Building Today
Today, the Neiman Marcus building continues to be a prime shopping destination for Texans. It is currently the flagship store of the Neiman Marcus Group, which also owns the Bergdorf Goodman department stores, and also serves as its corporate headquarters.
In addition to designer brand clothing, jewelry and accessories, the building is also home to the Zodiac, a popular fine-dining restaurant located on the sixth floor that serves lunch every Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other building amenities include an espresso bar, salon, alterations department, fur services and bridal salon and registry.
The Neiman Marcus building is also known for its elaborate holiday decorations, which accompany the release of its famous Christmas catalog each year. The exterior of the building is covered in thousands of holiday lights and special window displays are unveiled to the public in what has now become a bona fide Dallas tradition.