Going, going, gone

The fourth-floor women's restroom of the former Dayton's department store on Nicollet Mall is a hidden gem — hidden from men, at least. Photo by Linda Koutsky
The fourth-floor women's restroom of the former Dayton's department store on Nicollet Mall is a hidden gem — hidden from men, at least. Photo by Linda Koutsky

I know, you’re probably tired of reading about the downtown Macy’s closing, but you only have a couple weeks left to visit one of the finest Art Deco spaces in Minneapolis.

Well, you women readers do. Sorry guys, you can’t visit this one.

The fourth-floor women’s restroom is one of my favorite places. Fifteen years ago, when I started writing the Lunchtime Tourist (now the Weekend Tourist), it was my seventh column.

Shopping in downtown department stores was a special event. Restrooms were a place where women could take time out to relax and converse with other shoppers. Since the Oak Grill and Sky Room have closed, the 12th-floor restroom probably won’t be accessible anymore.

That was really a “rest” room, or what was often called a “lounge.” Walking in was like walking onto a 1940s movie set. Sweeping curves, a muted color palette, a built-in banquette for lounging, a line of chairs and makeup mirrors worthy of Hollywood and a circular hand washing room covered with mirrors that reflected a person’s image into infinity. It was the epitome of glamor.

But tucked away on the fourth floor’s lingerie department is the restroom I’ll miss most.

Go through the round porthole-windowed door, up a few tiled steps and enter the Art Deco era. Classic features of the style define the space: shiny pigmented glass walls, mint green porcelain sinks and Art Deco typography spelling out FREE TOILET.

The coved ceiling with indirect lighting makes everyone look beautiful in the beveled mirrors. A series of 12 glazed pottery tiles featuring lily pads and lotus flowers are interspersed between the sinks. Bathroom stalls are divided with thick, swirling marble slabs. Solid wood doors are painted black and accented with decorative hardware. To lock the door, flip down a heavy metal locking device and it turns into a nifty ledge for your purse.

Why don’t they make those anymore? It’s so handy!

When I was a child in the 1960s, my sister and I went to a special Cap’n Crunch breakfast in the Skyroom. I remember the giant elephant slide in the kids’ shoe department. I shopped for fabric with my grandmother in the basement notions department. The 8th-floor Santa made good on all my requests.

Last week I bought a vintage Dayton’s garment bag on eBay out of grief. I’m hoping for the best. But I’ll really miss that restroom.

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Mint-green porcelain sinks surrounded by decorative tile. Photo by Linda Koutsky
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The latch on the stall door doubles as a purse-rest. Photo by Linda Koutsky
  • Juana Gaviota

    Thanks for this. How about a spread on the 12th floor restroom? And are the men’s restrooms distinctive as well?

  • mbee

    Great article! I had forgotten about the slide in the shoe department. A new pair of black, patent leather shoes every Easter! Sigh. The memories linger on…

  • TG

    The men’s restrooms are nothing special.

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