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Monday, November 28, 2011

Rike's Dept. Store Christmas Displays

The famous animated Christmas window displays that delighted children of all ages in the old Rike’s department store at Second and Main Streets in downtown Dayton actually migrated here from New York City.

The display, now shown each December at the Wintergarden in the Schuster Center, first appeared in the windows of the NCR offices in New York City in 1943.

According to research done by author Curt Dalton of Dayton, and one of the interesting stories in his latest book of little-known facts about Dayton, the display is based on the Charles Dicken’s story “A Christmas Carol.”

Dalton said each scene of the original display was painstakingly researched and the Dickens-like characters were dressed in period attire and set against three dimensional backgrounds built by carpenters of NCR here in Dayton.

The display was such a hit in New York that in 1945 Frederick Rike, owner of the Rike-Kumler store which later became Rike’s, negotiated and was given permission to erect the Christmas display, including the moving characters, in the windows of his store in Dayton.

It soon became the focal point of Christmas in downtown Dayton, and nearly every family would bring children downtown each December to enjoy the magnificent presentation with dancing elves, and starring Santa Claus.

When the complex that housed Rikes was eventually razed in November of 1999 many of the little figures of the display were placed in storage in an empty store. Eventually they were resurrected, repaired, and now are displayed each Christmas in the windows of the Wintergarden.

The story that explains the history of the Christmas windows at Rike's is one of about 80 interesting tidbits about Dayton’s history that are included in Dalton’s book which is titled “Gem City Jewels.”


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