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A timeline of the Filene’s site

1851: The first store by W. Filene & Co., a small tailor shop, opens a short distance from the current location in Downtown Crossing.

1890s: The company creates an unprecedented system of employee empowerment, appointing a “welfare director’ to oversee the well being of the work force. A health insurance policy is later instituted.

1909: Filene’s Basement is introduced as “Tunnel Bargain Basement,” named for its proximity to the Washington Street subway tunnel (today’s Orange Line). It’s novelty is the practice of marking down prices 25 percent every six days. After 30 days, the unsold goods are donated to charity.

1912: On Sept. 3, the company holds the grand opening of the flagship Downtown Crossing store. The event draws 235,000 people, representing one third of Boston’s population at the time.


1920s: Filene’s rapidly expands , eventually occupying an entire city block.

1973: The final addition to the store is built, a three-story structure at the corner of Franklin and Washington streets that further expands the sales space.

2005: Federated Department Stores Inc. buys the parent company of Filene’s and announces plans to close the Downtown Crossing location and sell the buildings.

2007: Developer’s John B Hynes III and Vornado Realty Trust demolish the 1973 building – as well as part of the original Filene’s store – to make way for a mixed-use tower.

2008: Construction stalls on the tower due to financial problems

2012: Millennium Partners takes control of the project and gets approval for a 625-foot residential tower and the restoration of the 1912 Filene’s building.

Sources: Boston Landmarks Commission, Boston Globe Archives