Above photos by Jim Weber. The vacant Sears Crosstown Building in Memphis. In the first photo the building is reflected in a shop window containing a mannequin, at the Cleveland Street Flea Market.
Some other photos of the building. Two from inside:
Construction in the mid 1920s:
The front of the building:
An aerial view from 1930:
Here are some more photos from the inside.
Several life-long Memphians I've met over the years used to break into the building at night as kids. What an urban gothic adventure that must have been. I suppose adventure might be the key term, as in adventure vacation, or something else adventure-wise that connotes trendiness and status, as all of the people I met who claim to have broken into the building have been white. I once asked a black guy I know, who lives closer to the building than any white person I've ever talked to about it, and he told me that only white people break into the building for fun, while "the black folks who break in there are all crackheads." Not sure what to make of that. Perhaps black teenagers living in the neighborhoods around the building have more to fear if caught by the police during or after a break-in. It's hard for me to imagine kids of any sort not taking advantage of this obvious target.
One guy explained to me that the place is so big someone could hold a party with a couple hundred people at one end and you might never know about it if you were at the other end of the building. Not all of the trespassers in the building were non-violent, of course, and so there was some danger running around the place at night - no doubt that thrill made a break-in all the more enticing.
The tower as been vacant since 1993 but most of the building has not been used since 1983. Finished in 1927, the physical structure of the Memphis Sears retail and catalog center is one of 7 remaining, of the original 9 of these behemoths that were built. The six others that remain are in Minneapolis, Boston, Kansas City, Atlanta, LA, and Dallas. The demolished were in Philadelphia and Kansas City (the city had 2 and the larger one was demolished - I suppose the central location of KC made it ideal for catalog centers). Memphis' is the only one that remains vacant. Some of the others have been renovated and gentrified into chic bobo magnets. Atlanta's building uses 20% of its space for city municipal departments and the rest sits empty. The Memphis building is 14 stories tall and has 1.45 million square feet. There have been potential buyers and renovation prospects for the Memphis Sears Crosstown Building but as of yet none of them have come to fruition.
I used to drive by this building all the time when hauling copper scrap for work. I drove past it the other night for the first time in a month or so. I wish I had some night images of the building but I didn't have my camera on me. It makes an impression.