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The Libraries pays tribute to the Dayton’s Holiday Show and Costume Designer Jack Edwards

By December 20, 2023No Comments
Jack Edwards' Colorful Characters display.

Jack Edwards’ Colorful Characters display.

The archives are coming alive with holiday magic, with some help from Exhibit Designer Darren Terpstra, at the “Holidays on Nicollet” in downtown Minneapolis.

Terpstra was among 10 local artists selected to transform 14 window storefronts along Nicollet Avenue into enchanting, holiday displays. Each pays homage to the historic Dayton’s Eighth Floor Holiday Show.

Darren Terpstra with one of Jack Edwards' designs.

Darren Terpstra with one of Jack Edwards’ designs.

To provide historical context, the mpls downtown council — along with the Hennepin Theatre Trust, The Dayton’s Project, and the City of Minneapolis’ department of Arts and Cultural Affairs — approached the University of Minnesota Libraries to create four “museum windows” using materials from the Performing Arts Archives.

“I was like, ‘You know what? We need to do this.’ Because I just feel like we don’t always get great opportunities to get outside of the UM bubble that are really unusual or different,” Terpstra said. “I want to go someplace where people don’t see us, and don’t know what we have, and don’t know what we do.” 

Having these displays in public places helps educate people about the Archives and Special Collections (ASC). When Terpstra explains his job and ASC to people, many respond with “I didn’t know that existed.” And their next question is, “Can I go there?” 

“We have a wealth of material that is literally meant to be used. If we get out more and we can touch the Minnesota populace more, then more people can access these resources and benefit from them,” Terpstra said. 

A magical place, like walking into a new world

700 Nicollet Mall — home to Dayton’s, Marshall Field’s, Macy’s, and now The Dayton’s Project — has been a fixture of downtown Minneapolis since its construction in 1902. 

Originally it was a six-story department store on the corner of 7th and Nicollet, but soon saw a 12th story addition at 8th and Nicollet in 1916, followed by several renovations throughout the decades.

Built in the Renaissance Revival style with Greco-Roman columns, art deco accents, and awe-inspiring chandeliers, the building was grand and magical. The Dayton’s department store had entire floors dedicated to men’s clothing, women’s clothing, furniture, housewares, and more.

“It was one of the few retail spaces downtown you could walk into and feel like, “Oh wow, I’m in Chicago or New York,’” Terpstra said.

UMN Libraries faculty and staff take a field trip to see the display windows.

U of M Libraries faculty and staff take a field trip to see the display windows.

Besides business, the Dayton family — who owned the parent Dayton Corporation, later rebranded as the Dayton-Hudson Corporation in 1967 and as the Target Corporation in 2000 — were also invested in arts and philanthropy. 

Instead of merchandise, the eighth floor of Dayton’s housed an auditorium, the perfect venue for their annual spring flower exhibitions, fashion shows, and the Holiday Show. 

The Holiday Show, originally called the “Christmas Show,” first started in 1963. Every year had a different theme with classics like The Nutcracker, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Grinch, and The Polar Express. 

It had a show and walk-through path with extravagant lights, costumes, and animatronics, wrapping up with a small shop for cookies and hot chocolate. Between the Holiday Show and the Holidazzle Parade, downtown Minneapolis was the place to be.

“It was amazing. It was just walking into a new world,” Terpstra said. 

The 53-year-old Holiday Show takes a bow

The Holiday Show was a constant through many corporate changeovers. In 2001, Target Corporation rebranded Dayton’s under the Marshall Field’s nameplate, which had more national recognition. 

Target Corporation sold Marshall Field’s to May Department Stores in 2004, which merged with Federated Department Stores, the owner of Macy’s, the following year. All Marshall Field’s stores, including 700 Nicollet, were rebranded as Macy’s.

Under Marcy’s management, the Holiday Show had one constant theme from 2008 to 2016: A Day in the Life of an Elf. 

But eventually, the curtains permanently closed as Macy’s shuttered its downtown location in 2017, bringing an end to the 53-year-old tradition. 

Macy’s sold 700 Nicollet to 601W Companies, a real-estate development firm based in New York City, for $59 million in 2017. The firm converted the building into “The Dayton’s Project,” a mixed-use office, dining, and retail space. 

The Dayton’s Project development team — led by 601W Co. and Telos Group, a marketing and consulting firm based in Chicago, and various other firms — have sought to preserve the building’s history, from reviving the Dayton’s nameplate, to retaining and restoring its original features, and adding it to the National Register of Historic Places.

“Holidays on Nicollet” is another step of historical preservation, using the location’s history to envision the future of downtown Minneapolis. 

Jack Edwards: The Dean of Costume Design

Which brings us back to the Terpstra’s “museum windows.”

Terpstra had only a short window of time, from September to mid-Novmeber, to create the four displays. Hennepin Theatre Trust Archivist and Curator Tim Carroll helped him comb through the archives, and PAA Archivist Deborah Ultan provided assistance for the project.

The Hennepin Theater Trust and Carroll wanted to showcase the Dean of Costume Design himself, Jack Edwards, who designed for the Holiday Show, and whose papers reside in the U of M Performing Arts Archives. 

Before moving to Minnesota, Edwards spend 17 years in New York City, working on a myriad of Broadway and off-Broadway productions, like Richard Burton’s “Hamlet” in 1964, the 1969 musical “Coco” based on Coco Chanel and starring Katharine Hepburn, and 1970’s “Applause,” which won the Tony Award for Best Musical. 

In Minnesota, Edwards designed for the Children’s Theater, the Minnesota Opera, the Minnesota Ballet, and the Minnesota Dance Theatre. Later in his career, he would design for the 1992 Super Bowl halftime and pre-game shows, Prince’s 1993 “Ulysses” tour, and for pianist Lorie Line and her orchestra.

And for 12 years, Edwards was the man behind the magic of the Eighth Floor Holiday Show — as well as the annual flower exhibitions and the first five Holidazzle parades. 

Terpstra used the Edwards collection of photographs, designs, character sketches, and costume research to build out each display window. 

The archives are alive with holiday magic

The first window shows elves, drawn and sketched by Edwards, coming alive with holiday magic and emerging from their slumber in archival boxes, as they prepare to build the Eighth Floor Holiday Show. 

The second window peeks into Edwards’ workshop, an atmosphere not too dissimilar from Santa’s. It conveys his creative process, from concept to creation, as he works on the Pinnochio-themed Holiday Show. A figurine, partly transformed into a donkey, sits among posters, advertisements, and other designs. 

To give a break from the previous information-dense windows, Terpstra designed the third window around Edwards’ colorful characters, from the Blue Fairy and Mother Goose, to ballerinas and harlequins. All things glittery, sparkly, and magical. 

For the final window, Terpstra shows Edwards’ time at the Guthrie Theater, where he served as a costume designer from 1971 to 1989, working on productions like “A Christmas Carol,” “The Misanthrope,” “Private Lives,” and “Great Expectations.” Terpstra hopes this window gives people a greater breadth of the materials in PAA. 

“These windows, I just see them as a little appetizer. Most of our exhibits I see as appetizers,” Terpstra said. “There’s a lot more where this came from, just come on down.”

“Holidays on Nicollet” will last until Jan. 5, 2024. It also features shopping locations at 50 South 6th Street, City Center, IDS Center, and U.S. Bancorp Center with about 70 vendors. Locations for the holiday display windows are:

  • 60 South 6th Street, City Center (2 locations)
  • Gaviidae Common
  • IDS Center
  • Meet Minneapolis Visitor Information
  • The Dayton’s Project
  • U.S. Bancorp Center
  • Young Quinlan (Strive Bookstore)
Adria Carpenter

Author Adria Carpenter

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