For over seventy-five years, the Palace Department store was the Grand Dame of DeSiard Street. People came from miles around to do their shopping inside its walls. Many long time residents mourned its passing when the doors closed in 1982. For twenty-seven years the building sat empty and barren. The building received new life and has the doors opened again to allow one and all to enter. Just what is the history of this building?
Sig Masur first opened the Palace Department Store in February of 1903. At that time it was a two story building with two display windows. You could buy men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, shoes and accessories. A patron of the library once told us that her mother would drive up to the door of the Palace in her carriage and send for a salesperson. When the person came, she would tell them what she wanted. A few minutes later, the salesperson would come back with items for inspection. The lady would pick out the ones she liked, pay for them and drive off, never having to get her feet muddy! Now that was customer service!
The little building did a booming business and by 1914, Sig decided to expand. The adjoining property was bought and a brand new two story building was added. The new addition added 7,800 square feet of floor space. In this building, Sig added a new marvel. It became known as the first elevator to serve the retail trade in Monroe. The men’s clothing department was dropped except for shoes. The women’s department was expanded. Also around this time, a buying office was added in New York. This way, when the latest fashions hit the New York runways, the Palace buyers would get them for their Monroe clients. Monroe would be one step ahead of most of the country!
Two years later, the Palace was experiencing phenomenal growth. Sig decided to expand yet again. Another two story building was added, adding 8,920 square feet of floor space. By 1923, Sig began plans for yet another addition. This would be the biggest expansion yet. The original 1903 building was sold and beside the two additions was built a six floor building. This added 22,080 square feet to the building. A 1935 article describes what was on each floor: The street floor was divided into fifteen departments consisting of gloves, gifts, women’s shoes, children’s shoes, women’s hose, children’s hose, women’s underwear, bags, jewelry, linens, toilet goods, dress trimmings, notions, stationery, bedding and silk, wool and cotton piece goods. The mezzanine of the first floor was converted into a ladies rest room and an auxiliary stock room for the street floor. The second floor became a women’s ready-to-wear floor and had a barber shop and beauty parlor. In 1933, Sig added the first air conditioning in Monroe on this floor in the women’s fitting rooms. It was quite a novelty to try on winter coats in the middle of summer and not get overheated! The second floor mezzanine became office space. The third floor was known as the “Economy Floor” where discounted items were sold. House furnishings were sold on the fourth floor, along with luggage and art needle work. An interior decorator was always on hand to help with your selections. The fifth floor was where you could find the children’s and infant’s department. According to the News-Star, “Here may be found everything to wear for the infant, the girl up to sixteen and the boy to fourteen.” The sixth floor was used as a stock room.
The Palace became Monroe’s largest retail institution. The money that came flowing in was reinvested into real estate which employed everyone from architects to plumbers. All materials to build these homes were purchased in Monroe. Sig Masur took great pride in the fact that money spent at the Palace stayed in Monroe.
The Palace would further expand during the 50’s and 60’s into the Palace Annex and a building called the Palace Northeast. This was located at the corner of DeSiard and Filhiol Streets to cater to the college crowd. It didn’t do very well and closed quickly. By the end of the seventies, the Palace clientele became distracted by shopping malls that were quickly appearing in Monroe. It was the beginning of the end of downtown Monroe and the Palace. On December 22, 1982 the Palace closed its doors for the final time after seventy-nine years in business. Seven years later, the 1914 and 1916 buildings were condemned and torn down. The remaining buildings have been saved though. Monroe Housing Authority bought the annex building and has restored it to its former glory. Just a few years ago, it was announced that the Portico Church had bought the main six story building. It is now their new home. Long live the Palace!