THREATENED: Last Chicago Sears Store to Close (Chicago 7 2016)

Six Corners Sears Roebuck & Company , Photo Credit: N adig Newspapers.com

Sears Roebuck & Company established as mail-order catalog business in 1892, opened its first retail stores in the 1920’s. Sears announced it is planning to close its last Chicago store. The iconic Art-Moderne store at Six Corners in Portage Park will close in mid-July.

“With the store’s demise, Chicago is losing one more reminder of the heyday of a hometown company that was once the world’s largest retailer.” (Zumbach & Olumhense, Chicago Tribune, 4/13/18)

Sears Roebuck & Company grew from a small Chicago-based mail-order catalog business into a major national corporation lead by Richard Sears, Alvah Roebuck and Julius Rosenwald. Rosenwald would become one of Chicago’s most active and best remembered philanthropists.

Across Chicago and across the country, Sears, Roebuck & Company was “Where America Shops,” as the jingle once advertised. These stores were built by a variety of forward-thinking and modern architects with many designed between 1927-1942 by George Nimmons and his firms.

From its mammoth Chicago headquarters in the North Lawndale community, built in 1905 at Homan and Arthington Streets and designed by the Chicago architecture firm Nimmons & Fellows, Sears began a campaign in 1925 to shift its primary business model from mail-order distribution to bricks and mortar retail. They developed stores nationally and converted a national network of mail order distribution facilities into stores.

In Chicago there were seven stores by the 1930’s, all designed by Nimmons, with the exception of their State Street flagship which was located in the remodeled historic Leiter II Building designed by William LeBaron Jenney in 1891.

The grand opening of the Six Corners Sears, Roebuck & Company Store was celebrated with great fanfare on October 20, 1938. The 127,000 square foot building cost over $1 million to construct. According to Sears, its towering two-story corner display window overlooking the Six Corners intersection was the largest in the city at the time.

The Six Corners property is currently owned by Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate investment trust. The property is listed for lease, but possible demolition and redevelopment plans have also been reported.

Preservation Chicago has advocated for a thematic Chicago Landmark District designation for the former Sears Store buildings to provide protections against neglect, loss and inappropriate modifications. They include:
Lawrence and Winchester
79th and Kenwood
Western and 63rd
Six Corners at Irving Park and Cicero

Noting that the 63rd and Halsted, and Homan and Arthington Stores have already been demolished. Also, recognizing that the Sears Complex on Homan Avenue has become a Designated Chicago Landmark, 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.

“I think that it would be a double tragedy to lose the retail institution as well as this really wonderful building,” said Preservation Chicago Executive Director Ward Miller. (Zumbach & Olumhense, LA Times, 4/18/18)

Additional Reading

What’s That Building? The Former Real Estate Legacy of Sears, Morning Shift WBEZ with guest Dennis Rodkin, April 25, 2018

Sears to close last store in Chicago, the city that helped launch its growth into a major retail presence, Lauren Zumbach and Ese Olumhense LA Times, April 18, 2018

Sears to close last store in Chicago, the city that helped launch its growth into a major retail presence, Lauren Zumbach and Ese OlumhenseChicago Tribune, April 13, 2018

VIDEO: 130 years of Sears: Timeline of iconic Chicago Business, Jemal R. Brinson, Chicago Tribune, April 13, 2018

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