We fell head over heels while touring the newly renovated Miller & Rhoads building in historic Richmond, now the Hilton Richmond Downtown. The department store, known for it’s incredible window displays, was open for over a century and the building still features original marble flooring, detailed wainscoting, large display windows and 30′ ceilings. We fell in love with the way they blended modern elements so beautifully with the historic charm of the building. Two of the original display windows remain, so we were ecstatic when Kathryn from the Hilton asked us to design them! We chose classic elements with a dramatic and modern flare to pay tribute to both the building itself as well as the decades of fashion that it represented. We can’t wait to get some fashion models in these display windows for a fun shoot.
Miller & Rhoads was a staple department store in downtown Richmond for over 100 years. It all started shortly after the reconstruction of Richmond, which was mostly destroyed in the Civil War. In 1885, 3 businessmen opened a dry goods store with the name Miller, Rhoads, and Gerhart. A few years later, Gerhart left to open a store elsewhere and his surname was removed, leaving it Miller & Rhoads.
A lot was happening at the turn of the century in Richmond. The store made great strides in growth which mirrored the city’s growth as well. By 1920 Richmond was home to 171,000 people and the iconic department store had expanded from Broad and Sixth to Grace and Sixth. Miller & Rhoads continue to experience exponential growth WWI and the Depression. In 1935 they installed air-conditioning and an escalator system which was almost unheard of during that time. They used their display windows during WWII to promote the sales of war bonds. (We’re using those same windows, how cool!) Miller & Rhoads was also the first of their kind to integrate in 1961. This decade brought along changes in the capital. Many families began to enjoy suburban life over being in the city which lead to Miller & Rhoads building stores in malls like The Chesterfield Mall and Regency Square. The mall stores began to outsell the flagship pretty quickly.
While this growth was great for the counties that surround Richmond, it was not so great for the landmark Miller & Rhoads in downtown. Customers were happy with going to their local malls and did not want to travel to downtown to shop anymore. With this change in landscape Miller & Rhoads suffered several mergers and buyouts and after 105 years in business, closed permanently in 1990. This started a chain reaction in downtown. Other stores started closing and moving which left downtown empty and undesirable.
Now, the old Miller & Rhoads building is occupied by the Hilton and the downtown corridor has become the center for music and theater in Richmond. The Hilton has renovated the space and added a grand ballroom (great for weddings) while the iconic Miller & Rhoads sign is still adorning the building, reminding Richmond of it’s history.
We would like to thank the Hilton Richmond Downtown for letting us showcase our services and to the wonderful vendors who brought our vision to life.