Sunday, January 5, 2003

A history of Closson's

1866: Asa Burton Closson Jr., a former New England farmer, founds the company as an art gallery on West Fourth Street. Closson also sold picture frames, art supplies and prints of Civil War generals.

1907: After being diagnosed with a fatal disease, Mr. Closson travels to Europe for one final trip. But his illness is cured during the trip and he embarks on a shopping spree, sending tapestries, antiques, china and furniture back to Cincinnati. He continued these yearly shopping trips through 1929.

1920s: Store expands beyond an art gallery to include housewares, decorative items and interior design services.

1933: Store moves to 421 Race St., a six-story former schoolhouse built in 1870. It later became the site of Saks Fifth Avenue.

1951: A. Burton Closson, then-president of Closson's, chairs the United Fine Arts Fund campaign to raise funds for Cincinnati's orchestra, Cincinnati Art Museum and various other organizations.

1964: Phyllis Weston takes over operation of the art gallery and becomes a champion of local and regional artists such as Michael Scott, John Ruthven and Frank McElwain. All had their first shows at Closson's. Ms. Weston now is considered a foremost expert on American Impressionism, and Closson's relocated art gallery at Hyde Park Square will include her name.

1966: Closson's celebrates 100th anniversary with an art retrospective that includes work from Frank Duveneck, Robert Henri, Edward Potthast, Henry Farny and Elizabeth Nourse. Of the works for sale, the priciest was an oil painting called "Edge of the Emerald Pool" by J.H. Twachtman, listed at $7,000.

1967: Closson's moves to Fourth and Race streets. The 37,000-square-foot store includes furniture, giftware and rugs on the first floor and the art gallery, framing department and interior design department on the second floor. At the time, A.B. Closson told the Enquirer: "We had been in this neighborhood more than 100 years and felt it was essential to remain near stores of comparable quality."

1989: Longtime president and chairman A. Burton Closson Jr. dies of heart failure.

1993: The Closson family sells to Stuart B. Sutphin III, a Cincinnati native whose grandfather founded Hudson department store.

1996: Closson's has an exclusive showing of 47 watercolors painted and signed by Charles, Prince of Wales.

1997: Its new store opens in Montgomery.

2000: Paul Darwish joins Closson's as president.

2002: Closson's downtown store is flooded by a water-main break on the Skywalk and is closed for two weeks in the spring. The art gallery and furniture showroom receive a complete makeover, with new paint, ceilings, carpet and more.

Sources: Closson's and Enquirer research

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