Glasgow, socially, culturally, and architecturally, is a palimpsest, with each generation adding their own layers of stories, memories, and monuments to the city’s slowly changing face. That one name – Fraser’s (nobody ever calls it House of Fraser) – should echo down several generations is testament to the store’s staying power.

Architect James Sellars’ magnificent building (more on him later) still stands sentinel on Buchanan Street – the last outpost of Glasgow’s Victorian and Edwardian department store heyday, when such names as Copland & Lye, Daly’s, Watt Brothers, Trerons, Paisley’s, and the Polytechnic Warehouse were bywords for quality and service, the happy hunting grounds of the city’s fashionable and moneyed classes. Lewis’s, although much-loved, was late to the commercial fray, with its Art Deco store – like a giant Clydebuilt liner – only arriving on Argyle Street, on the site of the old ‘Poly’, in 1929.

Today, still in its good suit, but now slightly worn and a wee bit threadbare, Frasers stands as the last of those famous names. It won the High Street battle, but, by God, it went through the wars – every war in fact since 1849, when entrepreneurs Hugh Fraser and James Arthur opened a small drapery shop on the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street.

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The interior of House of Fraser on Buchanan Street, Glasgow in 2009, the year of the department store's 160th anniversary

What followed was a meteoric commercial success, with the company, and a succession of Hugh Frasers – four to be exact – taking the company name to the very top. It’s worth remembering that the Fraser group once owned such famous stores as Harrods, Barker’s, Binns, and Dickens & Jones.

But back to Glasgow, and ‘our’ Frasers. From that first corner site the business expanded north up Buchanan Street, taking over the building Gorbals boy Sellars had designed for high end furniture makers, Wyllie & Lochhead (Wyllie & Lochhead still work with wood, only today their business is in coffins and funeral care).

Sellars had need of their services in 1888 when, after stepping on a rusty nail at Glasgow’s first Great Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park, he developed and died from blood poisoning. He’s buried in Lambhill Cemetery, for which he had designed the entrance archway just eight years previously.

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Who hasn’t stepped through those doors – just as our parents and grandparents did – and looked up in awe at that fabulous galleried atrium, which is even more impressive when the Christmas decorations go up.

Believe it or not, but in the 1960s, a car showroom was set up on the ground floor, with buyers able to take their pick of the latest models.

Speaking of models, the store also used to stage lunchtime and teatime catwalk fashion shows, with gallus Glasgow girls strutting their stuff in the latest fashions from France, Italy, and America. Sometimes, they even set up a catwalk on Buchanan Street, where wee wifies would whisper: ‘Poor girl will catch her death, she’s hardly got a stitch on!’.

The store was also the haunt of visiting stars, who would pop in while playing at the Glasgow Empire, the Theatre Royal, or the Citz. A little stardust goes a long way in attracting customers, and I’m sure the last Sir Hugh was as generous with the store’s stock as he was with the company’s money. Famous for his fast cars, cigars, glamorous girlfriends, and casino wins (and losses), he was the last of the family clan to make his mark on the business.

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Frasers stands as the last of Glasgow's great department store names

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Fraser's Outdoor Fashion Show on Glasgow's Buchanan Street, 1975

After that, the company went through a succession of owners – most with no knowledge of, or loyalty to, Glasgow – the slide had begun. I recall one sad visit in the late 1980s when the carpets looked shabby, and beyond the eye-watering reek of the perfume department, I could smell damp.

It’s always painful to see an ‘old friend’ hit hard times.

After that, first with online shopping, and then the takeover by Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley (sports socks, two fur a poun! Er, yer sports socks, two fur a pound), it looked as if the famous name was about to go the way of all flesh, leaving only memories – and a gaping commercial hole in the heart of Glasgow’s most famous shopping street.

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So, Friday’s news, that Ashley's Frasers Group is seeking permission for a multi-million-pound makeover of the flagship store is to be welcomed. He’s putting his money where his mouth is, and I wish him, and Frasers, good luck.

If, as a keen shopper, and a lover of the city’s grand commercial architecture, I can offer him some words of advice, it would be this. Frasers didn’t grow great by aping its competitors, it did things its own way, offering shoppers style, quality, and service in fabulous surroundings. It made shopping an experience, a day out, a treat – from a good coffee in the instore café, to a rummage on the bargain rails, to a one-off outfit for a special day – there must be something for all, and for all pockets.

I, for one, want to waltz through those grand doors once again, gaze up in wonder, and feel I am that most important thing, a valued customer.

Here’s to making more memories.

Norry Wilson is a journalist and digital content creator who runs the highly successful Lost Glasgow Facebook page, 'dedicated to the documentation, discussion and appreciation' of the city's history. You can find and follow Lost Glasgow here.