Sears Roebuck & Company grew from a mail-order catalog businesses in Chicago to a juggernaut of corporation, with Julius Rosenwald becoming among the City’s most active and remembered philanthropists.
Across Chicago and across the country, Sears, Roebuck & Company was “Where America Shops,” as the jingle once advertized. These stores were built by a variety of forward-thinking and modern architectural firms, with many designed between 1927-1942 by George Nimmons and his firms, and under the direction of Robert E. Wood, Chairman of Sears Roebuck. This included a network of factories, stores, distribution centers and mills all unified and developed under Wood’s leadership.
From its Chicago headquarters in the North Lawndale community, built in 1905 at Homan and Arthington Streets and designed by Nimmons & Fellows, Sears began a large campaign in 1925 to develop stores nationally and converting mail order distribution facilities, built in the teens and twenties, into stores. In Chicago we had seven stores by 1934, all designed by Nimmons, with the only exception being the State Street Flagship.
These stores were located at:
• Homan and Arthington – 100,000 sq ft in 1925 (demolished in 1995)
• Lawrence Avenue and Winchester Street, 1925 (still operating as a Sears Store)
• 79th Street and Kenwood Avenue, 1925 (now closed and mothballed)
• Western Avenue and 62nd Street, 1927 (store now closed and reused)
• 403 S. State Street, 1932 (converted Leiter II Building/ former Siegel & Cooper Store, closed in the 1980s and now Robert Morris College)
•63rd and Halsted, 1934 (demolished)
• Irving Park Boulevard and Cicero Avenue- also known as “Six Corners,” 1938 (still operating as a Sears Store)
In all, there were 84 “A” stores constructed between 1927 and 1942 across the country. 28 have been demolished, with many others currently vacant and many altered. In 2006, preservationist and historian Richard Longstreth detailed the stores’ status in an article in the Society for Architectural Historians Journal, “Sears Roebuck and the Department Store, 1924-1942.”
Noting that the 63rd and Halsted and Homan and Arthington Stores have been previously closed and demolished, Preservation Chicago wishes to protect other company stores from neglect and loss. Also, recognizing that the Sears Complex on Homan Avenue has been Landmarked, and noting that other buildings by Nimmons located elsewhere in Chicago have been recognized as designated Chicago Landmarks, we feel that these buildings would qualify for a landmark designation.
With the possibility of additional Sears stores closing across Chicago and across the country, we would like to see the remaining stores and buildings, at Lawrence and Winchester, 79th and Kenwood, Western and 63rd and Irving Park and Cicero-Six Corners – four buildings in total – be considered for further protections and Landmark Designation, and that these four buildings be considered as one “thematic district” for historic preservation.