The Opening of Selfridge’s Department Store

The famous London store opened to the public on March 15th, 1909.

Christmas at Selfridges, 1944. Photo: Ministry of Information. Imperial War Museum/Wiki Commons.

London's Oxford Street has a long history going back to its original incarnation as a Roman road. The Tyburn gallows at present-day Marble Arch was its most celebrated feature from the 16th century until the 1780s, when public hangings were transferred to Newgate Prison. It developed into a shopping street during the late 19th century. One of its most handsome and celebrated sights today is Selfridge's department store.

Gordon Selfridge believed that it was 'the duty of the great business house to unify beauty with its effort' and his architects provided him with a colossal exercise in Edwardian Baroque grandeur, which took years to complete. Work started in 1908 and the eastern bays were opened the following year, but the building was not finished until the 1920s. Occupying an entire block of Oxford Street it was the West End's biggest department store and the façade, with its massive and richly decorated neoclassical columns and imposing main entrance, has been described as an 'extraordinary temple of the retail business'.

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