A Long Time Coming

by Don Friedman on March 27, 2017

This article on the adaptive reuse of Sears Catalog Warehouses rang two bells for me. First, as I’ve been harping on lately, adaptive reuse is in my opinion the best way to save old buildings. They have to have a use or we’re saving them as over-large sculptures, or monuments to our egos, or something equally ephemeral.

Second, I was tangentially involved with the failed attempt to redevelop the Memphis warehouse circa 1999. I did a preliminary investigation of the building to see if there was structural damage, and then I was done. There was no damage worth talking about. In fact, the entire 35 acres of interior floor space was in good condition after (at that time) some six years of complete abandonment. That’s a testament to the solidity of the original concrete flat-slab construction and to the fact that, prior to abandonment, Sears had maintained the building.

The building was constructed in stages as the need for more space grew over the course of the twentieth century. The construction changed from section to section, keeping the same basic layout but simplifying the concrete details as the materials used got stronger.

The earliest sections had round columns, capitals, and drop panels:

The later sections had rectangular columns without capitals:

I’m glad it’s found a use.

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