Did you know the famous Rike’s Christmas window displays in the Schuster Center's Wintergarden originated in New York City?
The famous 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.
Cover photo: Decked out for the holiday season, the Rike's Department Store at the corner of Second & Main Streets, Downtown Dayton, 1952. Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, Wright State University.
The "Rikes Winterland Wonderland Windows" 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 book of little-known facts about Dayton, the original display was 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, some of the badly deteriorated figures were purchased by Downtown Dayton Partnership, donated and restored.
Fast forward to 2019, the iconic windows got a makeover this year when Oakwood native Adam Koch saw a campaign to revamp the holiday windows in the Dayton Daily News. Now based in Brooklyn, Koch contacted the Victoria Theatre Association offering his design services.
The result is the addition of four new whimsical holiday scenes: “Woodland Forest,” “Silent Night,” “Snow Day” and “Christmastime.” The new windows still have the elves and animals from the original Rikes windows, as well as new elves recently discovered and donated to Victoria Theatre Association.
“I live in New York now, but as a kid, one of the most exciting parts about Christmas in Dayton was pressing my face against the glass downtown at Rike’s to see that wonderful blend of theater, puppets, music and animatronics. I loved those windows!” said Koch.
A critically acclaimed theater set designer, Koch has created stage designs for theaters around the country and around the world.