Historic Structures

Lovemans Department Store, Birmingham Alabama

Date added: May 24, 2019 Categories: Alabama Department Store Commercial

The Loveman's Department Store (circa 1934), formally Loveman, Joseph and Loeb, is located on the southeast corner of 19th Street and 3rd Avenue North in Birmingham. This is the historic location of Loveman, Joseph and Loeb's second retail store built in 1890 and subsequently expanded in 1899 and 1916. On March 11, 1934, a catastrophic fire destroyed the four story 1890 and 1899 buildings and severely damaged the seven story Annex (circa 1916) on 3rd Avenue. The present Art Deco Department Store and the rehabilitated 1916 Annex opened for business on March 20, 1935. Forty-five years later in August, 1980 the Loveman's stores in Alabama were liquidated by City Stores, Incorporated.

Loveman's Store was found in 1870 by Mr. A. B. Loveman, in Greensboro, Alabama. In 1887, Mr. Loveman,attracted by the booming commercial opportunities of the "Magic City", moved his business to Birmingham. Between 1888 and 1889 Mr. Loveman attracted two partners, Mr. M. V. Joseph and Mr. Emil Loeb and the business name became Loveman, Joseph and Loeb. By 1890 the firm had expanded the business to a full scale department store and moved into a new four story building at 212 19th Street. In 1899, the 19th Street store was expanded by a larger addition extending to the corner of 19th Street and 3rd Avenue North.

In 1909, Loveman, Joseph and Loeb was incorporated. By 1911, the store was recognized as the "largest and most magnificent" department store south of the Ohio River. In 1916, the company constructed a seven story reinforced concrete Annex to the east of the 1890 and 1899 stores on 3rd Avenue North. In 1919, Loveman, Joseph and Loeb joined the City Stores Company with national headquarters in New York City. The City Stores Company grew rapidly from 1920 and became one of the most powerful department store groups in the United States comprised of over 30 stores in New York, Memphis, Louisville, Miami, New Orleans, Boston, Philadelphia, Trenton, and Hartford.

By 1926, Loveman, Joseph and Loeb's control of retail merchandising in Birmingham was being challenged by Pizitz Department Store on the Corner of 2nd Avenue North and 19th Street, one block to the south. These two stores continuously aspired to maintain the number one position as Alabama's largest and most desirable commercial retailer. From 1926 to the closing of Loveman's by City Stores in April, 1980, these two stores competed by expanding their dowtntown facilities and establishing branch stores in the suburban malls and in other major cities within the State. The benefits of this stiff competition accured to the City of Birmingham and its residents in many forms. These two stores quickly became the foundation for the downtown commercial district and guaranteed its success. From the 1950s to the 1970s Loveman's employed between 1,500 and 2,000 persons. The decision of City Stores to close the Loveman's Alabama operations, ended an Alabama empire in commercial retailing that extended over a period of 93 years, from 1887 to 1980.

In 1944, with the founding of the Scholastic Arts Awards Contest, Loveman's initiated the first of many civic projects that would aid school children City wide and bring Loveman's national recognition for its community service.

In 1947, Mr. 0. W. Schanbacher, a native of St. Louis, became the president of Loveman 1 s. Mr. Schanbacher quickly attained prominence in the business community and was named as a director of the Community Chest and the the Executive Board of the Committee of 100. However, his civic interests were equally concentrated in the Arts and Education. While serving as president of Loveman's, he was one of the founders of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the organization's president three times. Loveman's, in turn, through its contributions and civic leadership helped to found the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Youth Concert program in 1947.

Loveman's also introduced creative dramatics to the school children of Birmingham through a program of in-service training for teachers and workshops for students. Mrs. Robert I. Schwartz, a child drama specialist, was engaged to conduct this program. Loveman's sponsorship of the dramatics program won a citation for the store from the classroom teachers of the Alabama Education Association. The award for "service to public education" was presented in April, 1958. Loveman's was nationally recognized in 1962 for its contribution to the arts when the store received the Monte Meacham Award from the American Theater Association for "Enriching the lives of children through the Arts". This was the first award of this type to be presented to a department store chain. In the same year, Loveman's also won an award from the National Retail Merchants Association for its arts programs.