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Former Bon Marche (Bon Marche - Russell's)

Downtown Eugene, OR

Thanks to some help from the folks at the reference department of the downtown Eugene Public Library, I've discovered what store preceeded the Bon Marche in downtown Eugene. The 1951 Eugene phone book lists "Russell' - Eugene's Own Store" at 64 E Broadway. This is on the south side of the street between Willammette and Oak Streets. Different sources say that the Bon Marche store in downtown Eugene was built between 1954 and 1956 at 175 W Broadway. This is on the NE corner of Broadway and Charnelton St. The city directories in the mid-1950s list this address as being the Bon Marche but the department store section of the telephone directory yellow pages list this store as Bon Marche-Russell's. The hyphenated name appears in the phone book into the mid-1960s. By 1970, the store is listed simply as The Bon Marche.

Eugene was one of those cities that turned its main shopping street into a pedestrian mall in order to try to keep major retailers downtown. The downtown Eugene pedestrian mall opened in 1971 along Broadway from Charnelton to Oak. Portions of Olive and Willamette Streets were also closed to vehicles. A large fountain was built at the intersection of Broadway and Willamette. Valley River Center, a suburban enclosed climate controlled mall originally anchored by Meier & Frank and JC Penney, had opened three years earlier.

At first the mall was successful in keeping some department stores in downtown. JC Penney operated stores both downtown and at Valley River until the late 1970s, when Penney's closed its downtown store. Montgomery Ward moved from downtown to a new wing of Valley River by the late 1970s. The Bon Marche and Sears stayed in downtown for nearly two decades after the downtown mall was built.

By the late 1980s both The Bon and Sears decided to leave downtown. Sears moved to Gateway Mall northeast of the I-5/I-105/ORE 126 interchange in 1989. The Bon opened a new store at Valley River Center in 1990. This store was rebranded as Macy's in March 2005. The software company Symantec occupied the former Bon Marche building for about a decade but has since moved. The windows on the second and third stories of the former Bon were added after The Bon Marche had left. The streets that had been converted into a pedestrian mall have been reopened to motor vehicles. The former Sears store, on the block south of the former Bon, was vacant in early April 2005.

This photograph was taken in April 2005 facing northeast.

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