Sears Santa Monica
Marking commercial development's shift in focus from pedestrian traffic to automobile centers, Sears Santa Monica is a rare and intact example of Late Moderne style and captures the era's feeling of optimism and growth.
When Sears, Roebuck and Company built its Santa Monica department store in 1947, it did so at an interesting time for commercial development. Shopping areas were starting to shift away from pedestrian-oriented storefronts with designs tailored to walking, moving toward automobile-oriented centers with large parking lots and façades for catching the motorist’s eye.
The Sears building, designed by noted local architect Rowland Crawford, managed to capture that time of transition: it has a 200-car parking lot situated at its rear and side, and a primary entrance that opens onto the sidewalk on Colorado Avenue. Crawford’s Late Moderne design also captures the era’s feeling of optimism and growth, with a large scale and stylish architectural touches that advertised Sears as a forward-looking company.
The two-story building is rectangular and horizontal, with a flat roof and two entrance elevations in addition to the main one on Colorado. It features patterns of horizontal and vertical striations in its reinforced concrete façades, with horizontal window bands at its top and curving, cantilevered canopies shading its entrances. The main entrance has dramatic window bays and the largest of the canopies.
These decorative elements, plus stylized plaster bas-reliefs and original signage, mark the department store as a rare and wonderfully intact example of the Late Moderne style and as a building more than worthy of its Santa Monica landmark status.