April 06, 2005

Bullock's Pasadena

The National Trust's Preservation Online reports that the Macy's Department Store building in Pasadena, designed by architects Wurdeman & Becket in 1947, has been restored to its original late Art Moderne design. The successful completion of this project follows a six-year effort to scale down the store and to contain proposed development in the surrounding area.

The existing building was constructed in 1947 as a Bullock's Department Store. Located on South Lake Avenue, promoters touted it as the "store of tomorrow" and Arts and Architecture magazine described it as "one of the world's most modern buildings." In fact, the design was recipient of an AIA Merit Award in 1950.

Postcard of Bullock's PasadenaBoth the design and merchandising of the structure were carefully crafted to appeal to the emerging "carriage trade," or those shoppers driving automobiles. Located off Pasadena's Main Street, Bullock's Pasadena stood in contrast to many older department stores in that it oriented to a motor court behind the structure rather than the street. The parking lot itself was an unheard of 6 acres in size.

In addition to the building itself, Wurdeman & Becket oversaw the design and installation of all aspects of the store's interior, ranging from the wallpaper, to display cases, to the unique mechanical conveyor system that delivered purchases directly to the parking lot. This attention to detail reflected the architect's philosophy of "total design," where the entire structure - inside and out - formed a cohesive whole. The department store was purposely crafted to evoke an atmosphere of a "home" or that of an exclusive country club, in keeping with the company president's vision.

Just as important, Bullock Pasadena's elegance and prestige was the impetus for a surge in commercial development on both sides of South Lake Avenue following the Second World War. Previously a residential street bounded by houses, the street was soon dotted with upscale shops, boutiques, national retailers and restaurants and became known as one of the premiere shopping destinations in the San Gabriel Valley.

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