Lunchtime tourist

Updated: April 26, 2007 - 2:10 pm

Women’s Restroom

Fourth floor, Macy’s, 700 Nicollet Mall

First it was Goodfellow’s Drygoods then Dayton’s then Marshall Field’s — but now the building on the corner of 7th and Nicollet wears a Macy’s sign. As fashion changes, so has everything else for this once-local retail giant. Now white marble floors, expansive dressing rooms and clusters of mannequins grace Downtown’s largest department store. Over the years, the exterior’s remained true to its 1902 Beaux Arts style architecture, while the interiors have changed just like hemlines.

However, not everything inside has changed. Up on the fourth floor is a perfect relic of Art Deco design. Unfortunately, this week’s location can be toured only by women, but don’t despair male readers — to see photos of this destination, along with many others of historic urinals, visit the latest intriguing exhibit “Places to Go: Bathrooms of the Twin Cities” at Hennepin History Museum (2303 3rd Ave. S.).

The Macy’s women’s restroom was designed in a time when shoppers enjoyed luxury as well as fine design. Although it doesn’t have lounging sofas typical of “rest rooms,” the design of this public bathroom has renewed and invigorated shoppers for years. A green tile mosaic floor sets the tone and soft lighting is provided inside gently curved cove moldings. Mint green porcelain sinks hang on the walls. Above them are beautiful, ceramic relief art panels featuring lily pad designs. Beveled mirrors hang on walls of pigmented glass. Popular in the 1920s through ’40s, Vitrolite glass was an architectural material used on both interiors and exteriors. It was installed like ceramic tile and was very durable. Walls in the restroom alternate in bands of creme, red and black. Stall doors are black wood with chrome metal accents including fun metal ledges that turn into a purse shelf as the door locks.

There was a time when it used to cost a dime to use public bathrooms. But this retail establishment knew how to keep their shoppers happy: “FREE TOILETS” is spelled out in classic Art Deco typography. This space is truly public art — well, public women’s art. Excuse yourself for a visit here today.

LUNCH TIP: Enjoy popovers with lunch in the formerly men-only Oak Grill restaurant on the store’s 12th floor.

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