Sears Building (Boyle Heights)

(1927)* - Construction of the Sears store on Soto Street and Ninth Street (later Olympic Boulevard), Boyle Heights, on May 4, 1927.  


Historical Notes

In December 1926, Sears, Roebuck and Company of Chicago announced that it would build a nine-story, height-limit building on East Ninth Street (later renamed Olympic Boulevard) at Soto, in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. The building, intended to serve as a mail order distribution center for the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast states, was constructed by Scofield Engineering Company. Architectural work was handled by George Nimmens Company.^




(1927)* - Exterior view of the Sears store on Soto Street and Olympic Boulevard, Boyle Heights, with cars in the parking lot and the doors open.  


Historical Notes

The building was erected in just six months using materials that were all made in Los Angeles County, with the exception of the steel window sashes. To accomplish the feat, the contractor had six steam shovels and a large labor force working night and day shifts. It was reported that rock and sand for the cement work were being delivered to the site at the rate of twenty carloads daily. When the building was completed in late June 1927, the Los Angeles Times reported that the construction was believed to have set a record: “All records for the erection of a huge structure were believed to have been broken when last week the Scofield Engineering Construction Company turned over the new $5,000,000 department store and mail-order house at Ninth street and Boyle avenue to Sears, Roebuck & Co., having completed this height-limit project in 146 working days, or 171 days of elapsed time.” ^




(1927)* - View showing the Boyle Heights Art Deco Sears building with cars in the parking lot, 2650 E. Olympic Blvd.  


Historical Notes

Sears, Roebuck & Company Mail Order Building was built as a distribution center for the company's mail order department. The building served that function until 1992, when Sears closed its Los Angeles distribution center and sold the building. Though Sears still operates a retail store on the ground floor, the rest of the enormous complex has remained vacant since 1992. The 1,800,000-square-foot  complex, considered one of the iconic landmarks of LA's Eastside, has been the subject of several renovation proposals since the mid-1990s. In 2007 and 2008, Boyle Heights native Oscar de la Hoya made two bids to acquire the property, with plans to convert the complex into retail and residential space.^




(ca. 1929)* - Exterior view of the Sears store on Soto Street and Olympic Boulevard, Boyle Heights. It has camping supplies for sale, with tents erected in the parking lot. In the foreground is a vacant lot at a level higher than the street. It has a sign, "Elect Werner City Attorney."   


Historical Notes

From 1927 to 1991, the building was operated both as a mail order distribution center serving the Western United States and as a retail store operating on the ground floor. The sprawling mail order distribution center was a marvel of modern technology when it opened, with employees filling orders by roller skating around the enormous facility, picking up items and dropping them onto corkscrew slides for distribution by truck or rail. The building was one of the largest in Los Angeles, and it attracted more than 100,000 visitors in its first month of operation, not including shoppers at the ground floor retail store.*^




Then and Now

(1950 vs. 2022)* - Looking West on Olympic Boulevard near Soto Street with the Sears Building in the distance.  


Historical Notes

In 2004, the Boyle Heights Sears building was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 788 (Click HERE to see complete listing). It was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 21, 2006 - #05001407.




(2017)^ - Artist rendering showing front view of the Sears building with its iconic illuminated sign after a proposed remodel and redtrofit. Rendering courtesy of The Shomof Group  


Historical Notes

Developer Izek Shomof wants to transform the historic Art Deco tower and the vacant 10-story distribution center that’s attached to it into a lively mixed-use campus with a food hall, offices, event space, rooftop restaurant, and more than 1,000 live-work units.

The sprawling Sears structure encompasses an entire city block on Olympic Boulevard, and the new renderings show that architecture firm Omgivning plans to carve nine “light courts” into the former distribution center to flood the spaces with air and sunshine. Throughout, there will be an abundance of windows, plus concrete and exposed ducting for a distinctly industrial vibe (it matches the designs of what’s being built in the nearby Arts District.)

Shomof is dubbing the project the Mail Order District in honor of the building’s history. It was one of nine distribution centers that Sears erected from 1910 to 1929 to fulfill catalog orders, and it once employed more than 1,000 workers.

Penthouses will be added to the top of the tower, and the 12th floor rooftop of the former distribution center will become a restaurant with a pool and outdoor patio. The 11th floor rooftop will be devoted to amenities for residents, including a separate pool and spa, plus basketball and volleyball courts and a gym.

Surrounding the building will be outdoor dining, a park, and old rail cars that will house boutiques and an “artisanal” cafe.^



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