Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Presenting in Pictures - PASADENA DEPARTMENT STORES - Each Distinct in Their Chosen Architectural Loveliness

This is a page from the Pasadena Independent, Wednesday, January 1, 1947, celebrating all things Pasadena. Department Stores were destinations here at that time, a place to go to shop, dine, experience.

Unfortunately, all we have left in Pasadena Department Stores are two Macy's, one in the old Bullocks Pasadena on South Lake and one in the Broadway Bunker in the Paseo, two Targets on East Colorado, and one almost dead Sears in Hastings Ranch. Small locally owned retail is certainly almost dead in Pasadena save for Berg and Crown Hardware and Vroman's, otherwise we have a ghost town on North and South Lake with retail vacancies at more than 50%! Reminds me of Jerome, Arizona, the old mining ghost town on the hill where they put cardboard ghosts in the empty shop windows. Charming.......

I do see that on North Mentor and sometimes on Colorado and sometimes on South Lake there are art installations in the vacant storefronts. Until the City of Pasadena and the diverse shopping districts figure out a way to allow Live/Work space for artisans and art galleries in these vacant retail spaces, empty space is what we will have to live with.

Small locally owned retail is unlikely to come back even in better economic times; that business model is probably headed for extinction. The restaurants like Hamburger Hamlet and Bob's Big Boy on South Lake seem to be doing o.k., also Burger Continental and bars like Magnolia. So hopefully the City of Pasadena and our business community will figure out a new model to fill up all that "haunted" space and make the urban streetscape more interesting. Hope springs eternal!

Do you remember when Mather's was on the NW corner of Marengo and Colorado, Nash's was on the NE corner of Arroyo Parkway and Colorado, Broadway was on the NW corner of Los Robles and Colorado and Sears was on the SW corner of Madison and Colorado, just west of the ornate I. Magnin which was torn down to make room for a parking lot for Sears in the late 1940's!! and then built a new building just south of the new Oak Knoll Shopping District's Bullocks?

I like that previous classy name for South Lake " The Oak Knoll Shopping District !" Now that label sounds like a million bucks! Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and the South Lake Shopping District, are you listening? Try a rebranding and then a rezoning for an Arts District, how about " The Oak Knoll Arts, Entertainment, and Shopping District?" Watch out "Playhouse District!"


  1. I asked my partner if he remembered some of these sites. He lived in a post WWII trailer park where Fedco/Target is now. His mother worked at Nash's.

    I remember the Broadway department store and Fedco. I also worked at the historical Iver's department store. The Iver's were a Pasadena family that is all but gone from the area now.

  2. @PA,
    Would love to hear what you or your partner remember about these department stores. I knew someone who had worked at Nash's and he told me about their wonderful hardwood floors throughout. Woolworth's all over the world were known for having hardwood floors. I visited a Woolworth's last in Stratford-on-Avon last, Woolworth's is out of business now in England I believe but still going in Australia and Germany, and they had wonderful hardwood floors still. Where was Iver's located? Here is information on the Lieberg's Department Store which was located at 911 E. Colorado Blvd. and is now home to the Star News:

    @Petrea, only the Sears Building remains, heavily altered, across Colorado from the Pasadena Presbyterian Church on the south side, just west of the intersection of Madison and Colorado. It's possible that much of the cast ornamentation may still exist under the modern cladding and perhaps we will see this building restored to its historic look somethime during our lifetime since we have such detailed drawings and photographs of the building. It is also one of the tallest buildings in the Central District of Pasadena.

  3. Glad to see you with a new history post, TA!!

  4. wow, It's a great privilege to read this historical building of your town. :D


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  5. Does anyone know anything about Nash's circa 1953, w/any sort of connection to actor (& later, voice of "Mr. Ed), Allan "Rocky" Lane? Or any information on a David Lane (wife, May) in that same period? David had a real estate company w/a # of known properties to his name. Thanks!

  6. i know this is a little late, but my grandmother worked at nash's in the late 1940's to mid 1950's. her name was louise {green} clark and she was a buyer + manager for a few departments there. did anyone shop there at that time?

  7. Actress Madge Blake ("Batman," "Real McCoys," "Singin' in the Rain," etc.), a Pasadena resident for over 30 years, was a regular Nash's customer. She often bumped into fans there. She also frequented Beadle's Cafeteria.