The Dayton’s department store was central to the lives of Minnesotans in a way matched today probably only by its offspring, Target. And in the days before data breaches, smartphones, and streaming video, there was no beacon of the holidays like Dayton’s. Its downtown Minneapolis window displays were fairy-tale fantasias and toy-time wonderlands, along with the annually changing eighth-floor exhibits starting in 1963 that brought Santa, the Nutcracker, and an array of characters and folklore from Peter Pan to How the Grinch Stole Christmas to generations of children. While today Macy’s carries on the tradition in less ambitious form, when the Dayton’s brand departed in 2001—the famed Santa Bear, who also took a new form annually, bowed out in 2007—it took with it decades of Yuletide memories.
Santa’s elves give the boss a beard trim in this holiday workshop window display in the 1940s
Toys, lights, dolls: a 1950s kids’ dream come true seen from a downtown sidewalk
Dickens’ Village in 1967 and a Victorian holiday on the eighth floor
The funky ’70s: a visitor to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory goes down the tubes
Famed Twin Cities costume designer Jack Edwards adjusts a Puss in Boots costume in 1992
Holiday wizardry: Harry Potter brings the holidays into the 21st century in 2001