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Brigham Young formed ZCMI (Zions Cooperative Mercantile Association) in 1868. this mercantile grew to 156 stores across 24 Utah counties. This large downtown store was completed in 1876 is considered by many to be the first true department store in America. The ornate building was adorned by a decorative cast-iron facade that was restored in the 1970s. The LDS church sold its interests in the store in 1999 to Macy's. In 2007, the facade was restored once again, this time being removed, restored, and placed on the Macy's storefront in nearly the same location as it stood a century prior.

The ZCMI facade in 2011.

The ZCMI facade in 2011.

A close-up of the ZCMI logo which remains long after the cooperative was sold

A close-up of the ZCMI logo which remains long after the cooperative was sold

A view of the original building in 1967 prior to the first restoration of the facade.

A view of the original building in 1967 prior to the first restoration of the facade.
The Zion Cooperative Mercantile Incorporated (ZCMI),  often regarded as America’s first department store, was founded by Brigham Young in Salt Lake City in 1868 and then constructed a central, downtown location in 1876.  By 1880, ZCMI boasted of 156 stores spanning 24 Utah counties and 126 cities. The downtown ZCMI store stood three stories high and enjoyed an interior chiefly lit by skylights in addition to this unique cast-iron facade. Restored and re-applied to the building where it originally stood, the facade now greets visitors as they enter the modern-day Macy's storefront.

During the 1870s, conflicts arose among Mormon and non-Mormon businesses, resulting in the creation of ZCMI. The cooperative worked as early Mormon settlers invested in a cooperative merchandising effort to manufacture, acquire and sell goods to one another and share in the profits. Rather than employ the use of cash registers, customers followed the honor system and placed money in large, Black kettles that were emptied and counted once they were full. to steal from the cooperative was nearly unthinkable for members owing to their deeply-held religious beliefs and the fact that many customers were also investor-owners. 

Non-Mormon businesses regularly compared the ZCMI cooperative program to an unfair retail monopoly. Indeed, a few early founders of The Salt Lake Tribune lost their church membership after siding with Gentile (non-members) in a local dispute. At this time, church leaders made it clear that they would excommunicate those who did not actively support the store. 

In 1973, plans to create a mall near ZCMI resulted in a plan to restore the decaying facade. Steven T. Baird, a young preservation architect, was commissioned to complete the project. Regarded as the first restoration of a cast-iron facade in American history, Baird's research on classic architectural cast iron architecture inspired several other inner-city developments. The project's success allowed Baird and his team to develop Historical Arts & Casting, Inc., a firm dedicated to keeping alive the history, tradition, and craftsmanship of architectural cast metal ornament.

In 1999, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) sold off its majority stock in ZCMI. For a short time, stores operated under the Meier & Frank name but later switched to Macy's. In 2007, the ZCMI cast iron facade was disassembled and stored before demolition and excavation for a new twenty acre commercial and residential development, City Creek Center, which was financed by the LDS (Mormon) Church. The Macy's store existed as part of that project, and the facade was placed on its storefront. Though the chain of stores is no more, its legacy remains with the restoration of the facade, notably as the ZCMI name remains atop the ornate feature.
Davidson, Lee. "Whatever happened to ... ZCMI?." The Salt Lake Tribune(Salt Lake City), November 25, 2016.

Goodman, Jack. "Old Mormon Store Is Getting Face Lifting." The New York Times(New York), August 25, 1973.

Hamilton, C. Mark. Nineteenth-Century Mormon Architecture and City Planning. New York: Oxford, 1995. 

Lee, Jason. "ZCMI facade back on Main Street." Desert News(Salt Lake City), August 25, 2011.

"National Register of Historic Places in Salt Lake City." NoeHill Travels in Utah. Accessed February 05, 2018.

Smith, Melvin T. "Nomination Form: Z.C.M.I. 'Cast Iron Front.'" National Register of Historic Places. May, 1970.

"Zion Cooperative Mercantile Incorporated Building (ZCMI) - 1973 AND 2010." Historical Arts & Casting, Inc. Accessed February 05, 2018.

Photo Sources

June 18, 2011: NoeHill Travels,

Aug. 24, 2011: Ravell Call, Deseret News,

Aug, 1967: By P. Kent Fairbanks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,