Friday, October 16, 2009

If it's 80 years old, is it still considered retro? Perhaps there's a different word for it. In any case, this Sears store is very old. It is the oldest continously-operating Sears store in the United States, tied with a store on the south side of Chicago on 79th Street (I will get down there to photograph it some day.) Both stores were built in the mid-1920s and both opened on the same day, November 1, 1925. Before that, there was only one Sears store, the very first, at Homan Ave. & Arthington, on the original Sears corporate campus on the west side. That store closed long ago and the campus has been mostly demolished. However, its old power house was renovated to become a new charter school, Power House High, this year.

Originally, as it is today, this store was surrounded by houses and urban streets, so it's now one of the smallest in the system. But, since Sears has never put out the money to fully renovate or replace it, it remains a cornerstone of the neighborhood, deeply embedded within it. Sadly, the enormous windows through which light once streamed abundantly into the massive warehouse-like space have been boarded up, and with vinyl siding no less, and the cornice has been removed (actually, it's hard to tell if there ever was one - look closely at the old picture - but something has been removed or massively changed at the top of the walls.) The only (most likely) original features remaining on the exterior are the fire escapes and the mosaic tile patterns in shades of brown featuring the old Sears & Roebuck Co. logo. It is a compliment to Sears that they have avoided covering the exterior with too much unnecessary modern signage - only one new Sears logo hangs near the front door. Yet, despite its physical devaluation over time, it's hard not to imagine this building's former beauty.

The interior is much like the exterior, once probably beautiful, nowadays far less so. I don't have pictures of it yet because employees were everywhere the last time I was there, and I prefer to ask forgiveness rather than permission. However, some original features are intact, including a beige escalator that is definitely old, though perhaps not original to the building. Because of the closely-spaced interior columns, the retail areas tend to be carved up in odd ways, and the store restaurant/coffee shop is located on a strange low-ceilinged third floor added later as a loft above part of the second floor. Again, though, it is possible to imagine the awesomeness of the space with light shining through the massive windows lighting up brand new appliances eyed by people seeking to spend their newfound wealth accumulated in the roaring 20s.

Posted by Posted by The Loosh at 2:17 PM