Glendale has grown dramatically in the last few decades and, as a matter of city policy, seems to have few limits on what sort of project can be built where and with what repercussions. From the ubiquitous apartment buildings that dot the neighborhoods of predominantly single family houses, to the pair of giant malls that exist side-by-side in the center of city, Glendale’s urban planning for years has favored wiping swaths of small structures clean to make way for larger commercial projects. Whether this is a triumph or a travesty depends on your point of view.
The evolution of Glendale’s downtown area from typical turn-of-the-century residences to bustling commercial district is most evident in a five block stretch of Central Avenue. The photos below illustrate this trajectory of development from modest houses to apartment and office buildings, then to department stores, followed by a giant indoor mall, and culminating in a mega-outdoor mall that typifies early 21st century retail development in Southern California.
Central Ave. was home to mostly Craftsman bungalows at the turn of the last century. This undated photo was taken on Central at California looking north. As the area started to commercialize, the white Craftsman house across California was eventually replaced by a gas station some time in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. The houses behind it were eventually replaced with an apartment building. Now, the site is an empty lot. The wall in the foreground belongs to Sears.
1932. Half a block south. The left picture shows not only snow on the ground but the apartment building has replaced the houses in the distance. The Sears would eventually replace these houses three years later. I found an image of the store from nearly the same angle and overlayed it, but there are two possible ways to line the lamp posts up, so both versions are here. In either case, the change from Craftsman residential to Streamline Moderne retail is dramatic.
The apartment building in the 1932 photo above being demolished in 2008. The abandoned gas station is where the white Craftsman once stood.
What’s planned for the corner.
The empty lot in the lower left corner that’s there now. That’s why I snapped the photo. There’s nothing else of interest in this picture.
Back to Sears…
Coincidentally, the old Sears advertising slogan “Come to Sears Brand Central” has a special meaning in Glendale, as this Sears is situated between Brand Blvd. and Central Ave. Completed in 1935, this was the first Sears store in the world to be custom-built as such. Up until that point, Sears-Roebuck had taken over existing structures.
Very little of the original interior exists, and the exterior was extensively and poorly remodeled some time in the 70’s or 80’s. Notice how the house on the right had been repurposed as a clinic by the 30’s. Though the structure is long gone, a medical clinic still occupies the lot just south of the Sears today.
Looking south at the Sears in the 1940’s
The lamp posts are still there, now with ficus trees along the sidewalk. The high resolution photo shows the sign for a malt shop in the building on the near right (razed a few years ago to build a 6-story mixed use development and is still a vacant lot).
In the distance on the right is the art deco “Professional Building” at 229 N. Central. I haven’t been able to find any formal documentation on the place, but years ago I was treated to some history from a longtime tenant, the late Dr. Sol Balkin whose podiatry practice was there for decades. According to Dr. Balkin, when built, the Professional Building was one of the tallest buildings in the city, and one of the first such buildings solely for medical offices in the area. These days, it only houses only one or two doctors, the rest of the tenants being other businesses. When Dr. Balkin first started working there, he used to chat with the elderly man who owned the (long gone) house next door, who in turn recalled that people rode horse carriages up to the building when it was new, alongside the cars. Dr. Lawrence Craven, who in 1948 anecdotally observed that his patients who were taking aspirin suffered fewer heart attacks, housed his practice in the building. It would be decades before Dr. Craven’s recommendation of an aspirin a day would gain wide acceptance, but today his work is commemorated by a plaque at Glendale Memorial Hospital.
Looking north on Central at Salem. Notice in the top picture how the right-most house the old white Craftsman, only in its original color. The second picture shows larger trees and the house has been painted white. The third picture is present day, the Professional Building in the foreground.
For you Hallmark Channel McBride fans, this building was used for the exterior establishing shots for John Larroquette’s office.
Working our way south:
Central and Broadway, 1930.
Central and Colorado, 1930.
Several city blocks of old buildings, small strip malls, and industrial facilities were replaced with the Americana at Brand. It’s ironic that a whole chunk of operating city would be removed and rebuilt as a “Main Street USA” mixed-use shopping center.
Bing’s aerial maps show the 4-block area of the city that is now the Americana. (Pan to the left to the big vacant lot. That’s the site just after demolition. If you keep panning around, updated photos take over showing the mall under construction).
Central and Harvard, 1930.
In researching where exactly this was, I couldn’t search this intersection in Google maps because Harvard no longer crosses Central. The block west of Central was first taken over by the Galleria, and the rest wiped off the map when Harvard became the entrance to the Americana parking garage.
The Glendale Galleria straddles Central Avenue.
Two aerial views of the area shot eight years apart. In 1929, the Professional Building is there, but not much else. In 1937, the Sears is by far the largest building on Central. Today, it’s dwarfed by the neighboring malls.
Satellite view of Glendale’s central core. They say there are two structures that can be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Galleria (The Great Mall of Glendale).
(Historic photo credits: Los Angeles Public Library, California Digital Library, USC Digital Library)