If Dayton’s was Macy’s, Donaldson’s was Gimbels. The two stores faced each other across the intersection of Nicollet and 7th for most of the 20th century. Donaldson’s was the older store - founded in the 19th century by a couple of Scottish immigrants. It owned its block as Dayton’s did, adding wings to an old store until the original shop was overshadowed. Dayton’s had a bargain basement? So did Donaldson’s. Dayton’s went to the suburban malls to court the exurb dollar? Donaldson’s was right there fighting. It was war.

Donaldson’s lost.

Its name and its buildings have been completely expunged from this town - a self-inflicted injury, probably, but it’s hard to pin the blame. At the turn of the century, though, Donaldson’s was the store in town: its Glass Block was a marvel of the day, bringing a Continental flavor to the cramped dim retailing style of the time. At night, the store sang with light; in the day, the dome on the corner of Nicollet and 6th made the Midwestern shopper think she might have wandered into the Bon Marche of Paris. They built a tall structure in 1904, then planned an overhaul of the entire block that would have been the most spectacular store in town. (A drawing of this building - very rare, and not found in any local history books as far as I know - is displayed on a subsequent page.) When the war came, they dismantled the dome for scrap, and after the war, they mauled the facade with a blunt modern face.

That’s the only Donaldson’s I knew. When I came to Minneapolis, it was the also-ran, the Other Store, strong and prosperous but a slight cut below Dayton’s. Its name sounded somewhat dorky. Its bags had a lesser cachet than a Dayton’s bag. When the City Center project was announced, Donaldson’s jumped across the street into the big blunt bunker, leaving its historical home behind.

Bad karma, I guess: the old block burned down shortly thereafter, and took down a century’s worth of brick and steel. Donaldson’s had a run in the City Center, but was eventually sold to Federated (owners of Macy’s, ironically) and renamed Carson Pirie Scott.

This name meant nothing to anyone. The stores all died, and there’s nothing left but pictures and some clothing with the house-brand name on the washing instruction tag.

They’ll say the same about Wal-Mart some day. But they won’t have pictures like these.