Historical Treasure: High Fashion a Longtime Order for Terre Haute

Recently I did a little springtime shopping. I couldn’t help but notice all the colorful outfits on display for the season. Springtime has long been the time of year for making purchases. Just as early flowers are blooming and the signs of new growth surround the Wabash Valley, trends for springtime fashions and new purchases are quick to follow. I think there’s just something about this time of year that makes a person look forward to new beginnings — both outside and in the closet. 

For this week’s Historical Treasure I want to share with you a couple of exquisite hat boxes from Terre Haute’s own Root’s and Meis department stores. The boxes are part of the Museum collection and date circa the 1940’s. One tidbit of information I’ve always found interesting is that even during war time, Terre Haute was home to many prospering businesses.

The Root’s Department Store was once Terre Haute’s favorite downtown shopping destination. It opened at its primary location on Wabash Avenue in 1896. At that time the massive six story structure was the tallest building downtown. Men and women of high class found all the latest in fashion accessories at Root’s. The department store also offered house goods and other kinds of merchandise all under one roof. Each year at Christmastime, elaborate toy displays drew crowds of Terre Haute shoppers, young and old alike, to gaze through the front windows with wonder.

In 1924 the Meis Department Store joined the downtown shopping scene. Like Root’s, Meis was known for its attractive window displays and haute fashion.

Downtown shopping eventually fell out of vogue over the years. Shopping centers like Honey Creek, Plaza North, and the Meadows became the new retail areas. Roots Department Store closed its downtown location in 1977 and Meis followed shortly after.

The Vigo County Historical Museum will open at the new History Center at 929 Wabash Avenue in late June. Volunteer applications are now being accepted. Follow Vigo County Historical Society and Museum on Facebook or join the mailing list online at www.vchsmuseum.org to stay up to date on the progress.  

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