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Sears, Roebuck & Co. Englewood Retail Store
Life Span: 1934-1976
Location: 63rd and Halsted streets
Architect: Nimmons, Carr & Wright
Chicago Tribune December 20, 1933
Chicago is to have a new $1,500,000 five story department store, which will be one of the largest Sears, Roebuck & Co. retail units in the country, employing 1,000 persons. It will replaced the old Becker-Ryan store at the northeast corner of Halsted and 63d streets, and it is claimed will be the first bug department store in this city to have an air conditioning plant which will cool the atmosphere during the summer months.
Wreckers will start demolishing the northernmost sections of the old building on Jan. 2, while the main section of the present store will remain open until shortly after the first of February. From then until about the first of November, when the entire new scheduled to be finished, the oresent store temporarily will be out of business.
Eventually Eight Stories.
The new store, which will front 266 feet on Halsted street to Englewood avenues and which will have 124 feet of frontage on 63d, extending from Halsted east to the alley, will have a fifty foot tower at the corner of 63d and Halsted.
In addition the building will have foundations capable of carrying three more floors, so eventually the big department store will comprise eight stories and a basement, according to L. B. De Witt, in charge of Sears’ construction department.
The announcement of the new store, made last night by Ge. Robert E. Wood, president of Sears, Roebuck & Co., followed the signing of an agreement completing arrangements by which a big food store, bakery, and restaurant will be established by the Hillman company in the basement.
Nimmons, Carr & Wright, Chicago architects, designed the above $1,500,000 five story department store to be erected by Sears, Roebuck & Co. at the northeast corner of Halsted ands 63d streets. It will replace the present old Becker-Ryan department store, which wreckers will start removing on Jan. 2. The new store will be ready for business about Nov. 1, 1934.
Confident of Future.
Gen. Wood said:
Our confidence that the improvement in business conditions will continue was the major factor in our decision to make this investment. If the business of Sears, Roebuck & Co. is a reliable index the upturn definitely is arriving. We venture to believe that the nation’s progress made thus far will be consolidated and advanced during the next year.
In addition to this we regard the south side of Chicago one of the finest business areas not only in this city but in the entire country, and have every reason to believe that the acceptance gained by Sears, Roebuck & Co. there will be greatly extended by the creation of this modern retail unit.
The new Sears retail unit will carry complete department store lines, and in addition the hardware, automobile tires, and accessories and electrical equipment lines featured by Sears which do not appear in most department stores. The stock, Gen. Wood stated, will comprise approximately 48,000 different items of merchandise.
Will Have Escalators.
The first, second, third, and fourth floors will be used as regular sales floors for the department store. The Hillman food store in the basement will resemble the food store operated by the Hillman company in the basement of Sears’ State street store.
Escalators with a capacity of 4,000 passengers an hour will connect the basement, the first, second, third, and fourth floors. The fifth floor will be used for store offices and stockrooms. The bakery for the Hillman unit also will occupy part of the fifth floor.
Of Modern Design.
The new store will be built of Indiana limestone, with black granite trim. The architectural treatment both inside and out will be essentially modern. According to Gen. Wood work has been progressing for some time on plans which when executed will make the new unit the showplace of the entire Sears-Roebuck retail system.
The building was designed by Nimmons, Carr & Wright, who have been architects for Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the erection of many retail stores, as well as the company’s mail order plants. Martin Schwab, for twenty years consulting engineer for Sears, will be in charge of the mechanical engineering.
Becker-Ryan & Co. were bought by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in September, 1929. The capital stock of the firm, which has been in operation since 1905, was acquired at that time by Sears from a syndicate which had operated the store for four years.
Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1934
BY AL CHASE.
Real Estate Editor.
Chicago is to have the world s first great windowless department store. Radical changes in the original design of the big $1,500,000 Sears, Roebuck & Company’s Englewood store, now being erected at the northeast corner of 63rd and Halsted streets, will eliminate the conventional windows on the four selling floors, thereby shutting out dirt, dust, soot, and noise. Regulation windows will be installed on the fifth floor which is to be used for offices and storage.
The entire store will be artificially lighted and completely air conditioned. This is the first direct result on a large scale of the example set the world by A Century of Progress, where windows are conspicuous by thelr absence. It also is claimed that this will be the first application of modern functional design to depart- ment store architecture.
Daylight for Inspections.
The nearest approach to wall openings for natural light in the floors used for selling will be four towering columns of glass rising vertically above the four entrances to the roof. These were included in the design because divisional merchandise executives insisted that daylight be provided at certain areas for customers who wanted to inspect fabrics.
The store will be a pioneer in complete air conditioning, It is claimed. According to the architects. Nimmons, Carr & Wright, this will be the world s first department store to be entirely air conditioned from sub-basement to roof.
A third Innovation will be the almost complete substitution of moving stairways for elevators. There will be only one elevator unit in the entire structure. All other vertical transportation will be by means of modern escalators, capable of carrying two persons side by side, and with an estimated capacity of 4.000 passengers an hour. Of course there will be stationary stairways.
In addition to being the first windowless department store building it probably will be the first ever equipped mechanically at the time of Its erection in such a way as to insulate its interior from its physical environment. Its air conditioning plant will control temperature, humidity, and air purification and movement.
Quieter and Cleaner.
According to L. S. Janes, national director of display and store arrangement for Sears. the fact that air conditioning will be able to operate at greatly Increased efficiency is only one of many advantages that will result from the elimination of windows.
Mr. James said:
One very practical factor will be the tremendous reduction in depreciation of merchandise through dirt, dust, and grime, nine-tenths of which enter a store through the windows.
The elimination of windows will add about 15 per cent to the floor space on the sales floors, as allowance will not have to be made for windows in the arrangement of counters, showcases, and other fixtures.
Of course the store will be much quieter, being sealed from the outside noise and hubbub of street traffic.
In every way It will be a more healthful place in which to work-and, of course, to shop. There will be very little variation in the store s tempera- ture in summer and winter. The air will be much purer than in the ordinary window lighted and window ven- store, for it will be changed from four to ten times an hour.
Windows of Little Use.
George Carr of Nimmons, Carr & Wright, architects of the store, declared that windows are of little actual use in the modern department store.
Mr. Carr said:
Such a negligible percentage of the total floor area is affected by daylight in the average building of this type that they are not worth consid- ering as a source of light. Their only possible use in this regard Is for the examination of textiles and style merchandise, and only a small percentage of customers, I’m told, insists on this method.
Otherwise, windows actually operate in conflict with a store s lighting system, mixing daylight with artificial light in a confused and unpleasant way. They also interfere with the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, setting up counter currents and counter influences that militate against the efficiency of these systems.
Stirs Up Argument.
To put the lighting Issue more specifically—if the walls of a department store were entirely glass and if there were no obstructions to the passage of light, such as shelves, counters, and showcases, natural illumination would be effective only thirty feet from the wall.
When one considers the barriers to the passage of light in the average store and also the small proportion of wall surface that actually is occupied by windows, one must conclude that daylight is an Inconsequential factor in the average store.
Already the idea of a windowless department store is stirring up an argument among local architects. Some declare that the new Sears Englewood establishment will point the way to a revolution in store design and will have an effect on all public buildings.
Others contend that the new store is too essentially a compromise between the functional and the traditional to be of great importance. All recognize, however, that it will be an interesting experiment.
DIRT, DUST AND DIN KEPT OUT BY SOLID WALLS
As a result of sweeping changes in the design of the Sears, Roe buck & Co.’s Englewood unit, now under construction at the northeast corner of 63d and Halsted, the above building will be the world s first great windowless department store. It also will be the first application of modern functional design to department store architecture it is claimed. The only natural illumination in the floors devoted to selling will be through. four towering shafts of glass over the entrances. The fifth floor used for offices and storage will have regulation windows throughout.
The building, of steel and concrete, will be faced with Indiana limestone, with black granite trim, includng a skyline of that material. All of the five stories, the basement and subbasement, and a roof unit to be used as a bakery, will be completely air conditioned. The new design was created, by Nimmons, Carr t- Wright, architects, from suggestions by L. S. Jancs, national director of display and store arrangement for Sears. The B-W Construction has the general contract. Completion is set for Nov. 1. S. Chester Danforth made the above perspective.
Sears, Roebuck Englewood Store
November 23, 1934
63rd and Halsted
Excerpted from Architectural Forum, May, 1935
The window dies hard. For fifteen hundred years it has been a fundamental unit of architectural design. The nearest approach to a windowless structure for other than storage or manufacturing is Sears Roebuck’s new retail store in Chicago.
The windowless store is not an advertising stunt. On the contrary it represents a definite advance in the technical planning of the retail department store. The original impetus came from Mr. L. S. Janes, Sears’ director of display.
Interesting by-product of the construction of a completely sealed building was discovered in a test of air conditioning apparatus. This showed that the building retained its heat at night, even in the coldest weather, for a much longer than normal time. The natural corollary is that it will retain cool night temperature much longer in hot weather. In either case savings are indicated in operating costs even greater than expected.
63rd and Halsted
Chicago Tribune, January 4, 1976
By Stanley Ziemba
It’s too early to tell but Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s decision to close its store in Englewood Saturday could signal the beginning of the end for the much-heralded shopping mall at 63d and Halsted streets.
This is the reaction of at least some of the more than 100 merchants who occupy stores in the 6-year-old mall to Sears’ surprise announcement of the closing.
“Sears was the largest retailer and major drawing power in the shopping center,” lamented one merchant, who asked not to be quoted by name. “Now that it’s gone, it won’t be long before the rest of us are forced by economic circumstances to pack up and leave.”
Richard Drew, executive director of the Englewood Businessmen’s Association, however, cautioned against premature predictions of the mall’s demise.
“Yes, the loss of Sears was a terrible blow,” he said. “It’s a terribly serious matter whenever the major retailer in a shopping center leaves. But Sears is just one of more than 100 stores here. Even without Sears, we’re still an awfully large shopping center.”
Drew admitted that the loss undoubtably will hurt the community and business in the mall for a while at least, but added that he did not envision a mass exodus.
The Sears building at 6233 S. Halsted St. is seven stories with a gross area of 290,000 square feet. Sears, which had operated the store in Englewood since 1934, also closed its 19-stall automotive service center in the mall.
According to Sears officials, the major reason for closing the store was declining sales in recent years.
Drew noted, however, that most other stores in the mall reported having a good sales year in 1975 despite problems in the economy.
“Some of the stores even reported that their sales this last year were terrific,” he added. “That’s what made Sears’ decision to close that much more of a shock.”
If the loss of Sears results in the mall’s demise, it would represent a $17 million dollar loss to the city, the federal government, and to private investors. That’s how much they sank into building the Englewood shopping mall in the late 1960s in an attempt to give an economic shot in the arm to the deteriorating Englewood residential and business community.
The mall, which extends from 62d to 65th streets along Halsted, and between Union and Peoria avenues along 63d Street, was the largest urban renewal program ever undertaken solely for a business district.
When it was dedicated in 1969, it was hailed as the outstanding example of what could be done to save a deteriorating inner-city community.
Because business boomed after the dedication, the mall’s story was widely publicized as a Horatio Alger primer.
The news for Englewood mall merchants last week wasn’t all bad. While Sears was announcing its closing, Hillman’s Fine Foods, which leases the basement of the Sears Englewood store, was making plans for additional remodeling of its store and for remaining open longer hours.