Memphis Trivia Tuesday: Sears Crosstown tower opens for business

Crosstown in 1964 (Photo Source: Memphis & Shelby County Room)
Crosstown in 1964 (Photo Source: Memphis & Shelby County Room)
An aerial of Crosstown, no date on picture (Photo Source: Memphis & Shelby County Room)
An aerial of Crosstown, no date on picture (Photo Source: Memphis & Shelby County Room)

(WMC) - Memphis workers set a record in industrial construction for completing the Sears Crosstown tower in 180 days this week in history. The diligence allowed for one of the largest Sears, Roebuck & Company stores to open on August 27, 1927.

Thousands joined the celebration on North Cleveland Street and North Parkway as the then Memphis Mayor Rowlett Paine turned the key that opened the Sears-Roebuck retail shop for business.

According to G. Wayne Dowdy's book "On This Day in Memphis History" the entire ground floor was packed with curious shoppers.

A report from the Evening Appeal quotes Board of Sears and Roebuck Chairman Julius Rosenwald saying, "millions we have already spent here will seem as nothing compared to the millions more the establishment of this enterprise will bring to Memphis."

The center flourished for decades until it ceased operations on September 30, 1983. For 20 years, the 14-story building sat a vacant giant.

During that time, a variety of businesses filled a handful of other Sears buildings—all nearly identical in architecture—across the nation. One of the most well-known transformations is the property in Seattle, which now serves as the Starbucks world headquarters.

Under the leadership of the Crosstown project, Memphis' tower joins the trend as renovations began in June.

Several organizations—including the Church Health Center, ALSAC St. Jude, and Methodist hospital—committed to moving into the space and raising the capital to refurbish the building.

Before Memphis City Council approved $15 million in funding for the project last year, $160 million of the $175 million needed was already secured.

Developers say the 1.5 million square-foot former warehouse, distribution, and retail facility could potentially create more than 800 new jobs once redeveloped.

Many Crosstown residents and city leaders believe this renovation will help the area thrive economically like it did when the tower first opened.

Click here to see a slideshow of vintage photos of Crosstown.

WMC Action News 5 brings you a week of history every week with Memphis Trivia Tuesday. Join the conversation with #MemphisTriviaTuesday on Twitter or Facebook. Learn more about Memphis history here.

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