Building of the Day: 2307 Beverley Road, Flatbush’s Art Deco Sears Store

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    Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.

    Brooklyn, one building at a time.

    Sears is one of the nation’s most recognizable store names. This landmarked building has been a shopping destination for Brooklynites for over 80 years.

    Name: Sears, Roebuck & Company Department Store
    Address: 2307 Beverley Road
    Cross Streets: Corner of Bedford Avenue
    Neighborhood: Flatbush
    Year Built: 1932, addition added in 1940
    Architectural Style: Late Art Deco
    Architect: Nimmons, Carr & Wright, with Alton Craft
    Other Buildings by Architect: NC & W — in Chicago, various Sears stores and private homes for Sears execs
    Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (2012)

    Sears & Roebuck, Mail-Order Giant to the Nation

    It’s hard to believe, but this store, which has always been a Sears, has been here for over 80 years. Just like its neighbor, the recently revived Kings Theatre located directly behind it, this Sears has been a Flatbush institution.

    Sears started out in the 1890s as a mail-order catalog that sold a huge variety of goods to customers in rural areas who had little to no access to stores and shops. Its first retail store was built in 1925. Based in Chicago, Sears & Roebuck expanded all across the country.

    Because of its dealings with Manhattan’s garment center, Sears was a presence in NYC long before its bricks and mortar stores were in place. When the company sought to expand its retail presence in the New York City area, Flatbush was seen as an ideal location.

    2307 Beverley Rd, Sears catalog, 1897, Amazon.com 1

    1897 Sears catalog via Amazon.com

    Sears & Roebuck in Brooklyn

    This was not the first location of a Sears & Roebuck store. The first, located near Ebbetts Field, was built in 1930 and demolished in 1960. Part of Automobile Row, that store sold mostly automotive parts, tools and hardware.

    This new and much-larger store would be different, with a more expansive selection of goods. The land was purchased, and existing homes and small businesses were demolished.

    The site, bordered by Beverley Road and Bedford Avenue, was was supposed to appeal to both pedestrian and motor traffic. Flatbush was chosen because it was both urban, with public transportation, and suburban, with surrounding neighborhoods with houses equipped with garages and cars.

    Studies done at the time showed that department stores appealed to women, but there were more men driving cars. This location would bring everyone in. The store was built with a large parking lot, a marketing strategy that proved to be very successful.

    2307 Beverley Rd, Sears construction, BE, 1932

    Under construction, via Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1932

    Sears Had Its Own Architects on Staff

    The architects for the new store were a Chicago firm. Nimmons, Carr & Wright had a long affiliation with Sears and built many of its stores and warehouses across the country. They also built a couple of Chicago-area homes for Sears executives.

    Sears liked to pair with a local firm and chose Alton Craft, a New York–based architect, to work with them here. This store, like many of its stores, was designed in the Art Deco style, which was especially suited for department store design.

    One of the firm’s trademarks was the use of a tall central tower, which here functioned as the tallest structure in the neighborhood, advertising Sears & Roebuck all across Flatbush. The tower also had the practical purpose of hiding the water tower, as well as heating and cooling machinery.

    2307 Beverley Rd, Sears, Bedford Entrance, CDBrazee, LPC 2

    Bedford Avenue entrance. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee for Landmarks Preservation Commission

    A Future First Lady and a Grand Auditorium

    The store opened November 5, 1932, in the middle of the Great Depression. The guest of honor and keynote speaker was Eleanor Roosevelt in her last public appearance before her husband became president.

    In spite of the economic hard times, this branch of Sears soon became one of the chain’s top stores. The company had initially hired around 300 people; in eight years, another addition and more employees would be added.

    The store had a large auditorium called “Sears Hall” on the third floor, which was built to show Sears’ commitment to Brooklyn. It held 650 people and was available to local Brooklyn groups without charge. Maria Fisher LaGuardia, the mayor’s wife, attended the opening in 1936.

    In 2005, Sears merged with K-Mart. The facade has seen many alterations over the last 30 years. Prior to 1989, all of the original display windows were filled in and then painted over. Many of the other windows have been changed, and most have been covered with plastic panels with an Art Deco motif on them.

    2307 Beverley Rd, Sears, 80s tax, Muni Archives

    1980s tax photo: Municipal Archives

    The entrances were revamped, too, with only a rear parking lot entrance in use now. The original Art Deco entryways on Beverley and Bedford are closed. But in spite of all of the changes, the Art Deco Sears store remains pretty much intact and the Art Deco tower still rises over Flatbush.

    When landmarking was proposed for the store, Sears backed the designation, asking only that the parking lot not be designated. It was not. The building was designated as an individual landmark on May 15, 2012.

    2307 Beverley Rd, Sears, Bedford Entrance, CDBrazee, LPC 1

    Bedford Avenue entrance. Photo by Christopher D. Brazee for Landmarks Preservation Commission

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