Sears Roebuck Building
Photograph taken at the grand
opening of Sears Roebuck on May 5, 1949
On May 5, 1949, Mayor Herbert H. Baxter joined civic leaders, including
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce president J. Norman Pease, and Sears
officials at opening day, ribbon-cutting ceremonies for a large Sears
Roebuck and Co. retail store and parking lot on North Tryon St.
Sears officials explained at a private banquet held the night before
at the Queen Charlotte Hotel that the new Charlotte store was part of a
major expansion into the South that Sears had launched immediately after
World War Two. R. E. Wood, chairman of the board of Sears,
explained that the company’s expansion
“had been planned several years ago and that as of V. J. day, the concern
decided to go ahead with it.” The Charlotte Observer
quoted Jackson F. Moore, a Sears official from
Atlanta, as saying that Charlotte had been selected for a new store “after
a careful analysis of the opportunities which it offers for business
Mayor Herbert Baxter cutting
the ribbon opening Sears for business.
Two searchlights were placed in the parking lot to draw attention to the
building while the banquet guests toured the new Sears Store that same
night. A special feature of the interior décor was a mural painted by
Chicago artist Eugene Montgomery depicting major events in the history of
Mecklenburg County. Historian LeGette
Blythe had advised Montgomery on the project. “As the guests toured
the building, they heard played on a wire recorder
accounts of various historical highlights, interspersed with
music,” reported the Charlotte Observer.
Mayor Baxter cut the ribbon opening the new store, which was managed by W.
S. Lupo, with scissors engraved with the
words, “Sears Charlotte. 1949.” Baxter
drew special attention to the ample parking that Sears had provided for
their customers. “Here we have been worrying about the parking
problem downtown,” he said. “And these smart people come in and
provide a parking lot for 600 cars.” Throngs of enthusiastic
shoppers meandered through the store throughout the day. Cars
jammed the parking lot, and off-duty policemen were hired to direct the
traffic. Guy Lombardo, a nationally-known musician, visited the
music department and autographed his phonograph records.
These photographs show the dramatic transformation from and urban to
The architecture of the building was similar to that used in other new
stores that Sears was opening in the South.
The architect of the Sears store was the firm of Schutz and Armistead of
Atlanta, Ga.6 Meager in terms of exterior ornamentation, the building, like Sears stores
throughout the country, was fashioned from the inside out, meaning that
its essential form resulted from the need to market and display
merchandise. The relocation of Sears from its former location on
South Tryon St. to the new site on North Tryon St. represented the
introduction of an essentially suburban model into uptown retailing. That
effort was doomed to ultimate failure, because uptown Charlotte retailers
could not provide the amenities, especially the amount of parking,
available in the suburbs.
Charlotte Observer, 6 May, 1949.
Charlotte Observer, 5 May, 1949.
Ibid. The historic mural was
moved to the library of South Mecklenburg High School when Sears Roebuck
vacated the building. It is still there.
Charlotte Observer, 6 May, 1949.
This writer visited the Sears Store in Winston-Salem as a child.
The architectural design is similar, causing one to believe that Sears
hired architects to develop similar styles for their stores.
6. Charlotte News, June 23, 1946.