What will happen to Seattle Macy’s iconic holiday star?

Oct 1, 2019, 11:30 AM | Updated: Oct 2, 2019, 7:27 am
Macy's downtown Seattle...
Macy's holiday star in downtown Seattle. (Tracie Howe, Flickr Creative Commons)

UPDATE: Macy’s previously stated that it will transfer the holiday star to the new owners of its downtown property, “to inspire the reimagined star for 2020.”

Late Tuesday, Macy’s vice-president of media relations Andrea Schultz rejected speculation that the star had already been disposed of, but denied KIRO Radio’s request to see the star in person or see current photos. Regarding KIRO Radio’s questions about where the star is currently is being stored, and what it might cost to repair in time to be displayed for the 2019 holiday season, Schwartz wrote:

“I appreciate your desire to see the star and your request for additional information. However, as we are in the process of a sale there is nothing further that we can offer at this time.  While the star is unfortunately in disrepair and is not usable, I can reassure you that the star is being safely transferred, along with the research that has been conducted, to the new property owners who will reimagine and rebuild to continue the star tradition in 2020.”

Meanwhile, KIRO Radio will attempt to identify the new property owners to contact them to gauge their interest in preserving the old star (rather than creating a new one), and will continue to seek Macy’s further cooperation in fully understanding the current whereabouts and condition of the old star.

The classic downtown Seattle holiday star has been on display for decades each Christmas season, situated on the side of the Macy’s department store on 4th Avenue and Pine Street. Now, though, its fate could be very much up in the air.

Report: The downtown Seattle Macy’s is closing

The Seattle Times first announced on Saturday that Macy’s would be closing its nearly century-old downtown store in February 2020. The article also mentioned that the old holiday star – a fixture of downtown holiday celebrations since the 1950s – would not be displayed this year, because it was “in need of repairs.”

I received emails and Facebook messages from KIRO Radio listeners over the weekend suggesting that I look into the feasibility of the star being repaired, so that it could be displayed this year (which would be the final holiday season for Macy’s at that location).

I was fortunate to meet the late Bob James, designer of the star, and produce a profile of him for the Seattle Channel during the star’s 50th anniversary in 2007.

With gathering information about the star’s condition in mind, I left phone messages and then exchanged emails Tuesday morning with Andrea Schwartz, Macy’s Chicago-based vice-president of media relations.

Schwartz asked me to put my questions in an email. I said the following:

I’m interested in learning as much as possible about the condition of the current star–so these would be my specific questions:

Where is it currently located?
What repairs are necessary?
How long might the repairs take?
What is the estimated cost of the repairs?

Also, I’d love to be able to get a look at it in person, if possible, and speak with any vendor(s) who might have already taken a look to assess its condition, estimate the cost of repair, etc.

Several listeners have reached out to me over the past few days to ask these kinds of questions, and I’m not yet committed to doing a story until I learn more.  It feels to me as if there is a definite possibility that some kind of “Save The Star” campaign might emerge. Seattle, as you probably know, is in a phase of massive change lately with many local icons going away–and local people love local traditions like the Macy’s star, and the idea of it not being on display this year has definitely touched a major nerve across Seattle and King County, and many demographics, near as I can tell.

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Schwartz responded:

As you know, Macy’s has announced the sale of its store and will close Feb 2020.  There is not much more to say.  However, the new property owner has committed to displaying a reimagined star for the Seattle community to enjoy beginning next year. Again, thank you.

The complete disregard of my fairly innocuous questions, and use of the phrase “There is not much more to say” is what got me speculating that the iconic holiday star may have already gone to the dump. Perhaps it was a mistake, or was related to construction in the old Macy’s building, that now has other tenants in the upper floors.

When disassembled, it’s possible that the star just looks like a pile of metal and light bulbs. Again, this is speculation on my part.

I’ll have more tomorrow on Seattle’s Morning News.

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What will happen to Seattle Macy’s iconic holiday star?