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The golden era of department stores may be over — but a symbol of its heyday is being preserved on Beverly Road.
The city has decided to landmark Brooklyn’s oldest Sears — a lofty Art Deco building constructed in 1932 that quickly became the borough’s go-to spot for tools and appliances during a booming post-wartime economy.
City officials said the building needed to be preserved not just because of its unique look, but for the important role it played in the days Brooklynites clawed themselves out of the Great Depression.
“The building is as impressive for its architectural style, scale and massing as for the impact it must have had on Brooklyn and the city’s economy when it first opened,” said Robert Tierney, the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which voted unanimously to approve the building’s landmark status on May 15.
The plans for the building between East 22 and East 23 streets were sketched out by architect Alton Craft and a team from the firm Nimmons, Carr & Wright.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the store’s first customer. After participating in the opening ceremony, she went inside to buy a pair of baby shoes, according to city historians.
The Sears building joins a list of preserved city sites that includes the Cyclone roller coaster and the Prospect Park Boathouse, but its glory days may be long over.
The building fell on hard times in the 1960s, when its once-impressive glass display windows were replaced with concrete to thwart vandals.
Sears is also falling on hard times: the company announced recently that it was closing 53 of its home improvement stores. Sears supported the landmark designation, but declined to comment.
Today, selections from the “Kardashian Kollection” — clothing and accessories from America’s sisters du jour — line aisles where state-of-the-art tools were once proudly displayed.
A spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the building’s new landmark status requires Sears to receive permission from the commission before doing any exterior work as well as any major construction inside.
Sears will not be forced to replace the boarded up windows, the spokeswoman said.
Ditmas Park residents praised the landmarking, although few could remember the last time they stepped foot in the store.
“Landmarking is good because it makes a place look better, and it gives it more prestige and interest,” said Mary Kay Gallagher, a real estate broker in Ditmas Park.Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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