We maintain that the most beautiful staircase in the world is in this bookstore in Portugal. But a close second, if it were still standing, would be the grand staircase in this now-defunct 19th-Century Parisian department store.
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This was the interior centerpiece of Les Grands Magasins Dufayel, a massive structure unlike other Parisian department stores of the 1800s in that it was located in a working-class neighborhood. The egalitarian concept here was that non-elites, not just the bourgeoisie, ought be able to shop in style. Entrepreneur Georges Dufayel's department store offered this radical new thing called "credit," where a buyer could put down 20% up front for an item, then pay it off in installments.
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At its peak, Dufayel had some 15,000 employees serving 3.5 million customers. After World War I the department store declined, and it closed its doors in 1930. In the decades since, parts of the massive building were demolished, and today the building parts house a bank and several retailers. It's not clear if the staircase survived, but given the fact that there are no modern-day photos of it, we assume it met the wrecking ball. And that's a damn shame.
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