Ignatius J. Reilly statue

The holiday shopping season brings memories of one of the icons of Canal Street's heyday as a merchandising mecca: D.H. Holmes. Although its flagship department store on Canal Street was the best-known, by the time it closed in 1989, the Holmes name was on 18 stores across the South.

The company was founded in 1842 by Daniel Henry Holmes, an Ohio native who was orphaned at age 2 and took a job with a dry goods merchant at 16. After a few years, he came to New Orleans and opened his own store on Magazine Street. In 1849, Holmes opened a much larger store — one of the country's first department stores — in the 800 block of Canal Street.

The four-story store became a local landmark. Like other Canal Street stores, its decorated display windows enticed shoppers at Christmas. The clock outside became a local meeting point, immortalized in John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces." Outside the building, there is now a statue of Ignatius J. Reilly (as portrayed by actor John "Spud" McConnell).

By the 1980s, the Holmes chain included stores in the Lakeside, Oakwood, Esplanade and Belle Promenade malls. Dillard's bought the chain for $40.4 million in 1989. The Canal Street store was converted into a hotel, now known as the Hyatt Centric French Quarter.