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Mystery Location: Post-War Streamline Moderne Roof Top Parking

This interesting photograph dating to November of 1947 of a rooftop parking lot or parking garage in an unknown location certainly contains some interesting period architectural elements and lighting fixtures. In addition, the image also shows the small number of new automobiles that were on the road two years after the end of World War II when the automakers were beginning to ramp up production figures.

Share with us what you find of interest in the photo courtesy of the Hagley Museum and Library or if you can decipher the lettering on the building or identify its location.

30 responses to “Mystery Location: Post-War Streamline Moderne Roof Top Parking

    • The Cadillac name above the chrome strip on the front fender appears to be in block letters, marking it as a 1946 model vs. the script lettering used in 1947.

  1. One note, if the picture were taken in November 1947, it must be in the southern part of the United States as there are leaves on the trees, people walking in short sleeves, and the CADILLAC with the top down. There are no palm trees, so not too far South.

  2. Up against the far wall in the distance, a new `47 Studebaker! It’s styling sure stands out compared to so much pre-WWII iron here.

    • Fred, It was bugging me because the sign was just outside my ability to figure it out. Thank you. Now if you could just decipher the sign on the side of the building (far, far right, right below the American Flag.) I expect that there’s so little of it showing that it’s impossible. The number of letters and the shapes suggest “SEARS”

  3. My first thought on location is where it “isn’t”that being Florida or southern California due to the lack of Palm trees in the background. With that forward thinking architecture I tend to lean towards a larger urban area such as Chicago or New York City as being mire likely locations.

  4. In Item 1 of 2 behind a ’39 Ford Standard Tudor is the ‘47 Cadillac AML spotted. In the distance a rear view of a ’47 (-’49) Studebaker 2-door Sedan. Two cars beyond the Ford appears to be a ’41 Plymouth 4-door Sedan.

    I was thinking the rooftop may be the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City but it’s hardly in the Spanish style of that. Then possibly Victor Gruen’s Milliron’s Department store in L.A.’s Westchester area but I believe that opened closer to 1950.

    • The (I assume) 6-sided light fixtures sure have a Frank Lloyd Wright feel to them with his favored flattened arch and shading louvers…as does the triangular “Escalator” (?) building. But he was no fan of shopping centers.
      Anyway, someone who has been there will likely recognize it right off.

      • My first impression was “Oh look, Purple Martin houses!”

        Seventy years ago shoppers were treated to escalators, today we mostly trudge down dank concrete stairwells. Some “progress.”

  5. I can’t quite make out the lettering on the building (E***IAL**NS? I’d like to buy a vowel, Pat). But I wonder if anyone recognizes the flag flying to the right.

  6. I think I found the location. From what I could find, the location is a Sears on Wisconsin Ave, Washington DC. Must have been a warm day to leave the top down.

    • Ding, ding, ding. I believe we have a winner. Online descriptions of the building at that location describe it as an example of the “Art Deco commercial architectural style” (Tenleytown Historical Society), “free-standing and polygonal in shape, following the irregular alignment and sloping contours of the streets” (DC Preservation Organization), and “the first big department store in Tenleytown, with an unprecedented 300-car parking lot on the top of the building” (Tenley View, “DC Historical Sites Worth Discovery”). Pix show the “SEARS” sign at the top of the curved front corner, with the letters rising just above the wall and flagpoles on either side, as well as a solid wall behind and on either side of the Sears sign, and, farther down the side, a wall with cut-out openings just below the top of the wall. Built in 1941, it was abandoned by Sears in the 90s. The original ground floor remains, with retail stores at ground level, but condos have been built above.

    • Congratulations Ben that is indeed the location of the building. It was situated in a well known neighborhood called Tenleytown in D.C. and officially known as the Northwest Store and had been built back in 1941. The building partially survives today.

    • Went to google maps yesterday and tried to line up the skyline buildings with what remains today. Couldn’t match anything.

      I understand WHY it’s a historic building but there doesn’t look like a lot of what made that building historic is left.
      Like George Washington’s hatchet, the axe head has been replaced 3 times and the handle 6 times. Other than that, it’s George Washington’s hatchet.

  7. The second car from the elevator entrance is a 1936-’39 Lincoln-Zephyr. The third car beyond the Cadillac convertible is a 1938-’39 Packard Six by its short hood. The light-colored two door fastback to the left, six cars beyond the battered 1936 Dodge coupe is an Oldsmobile, 1941-’42 B-Body.

  8. As I mentioned previously, I’m pretty sure this is a SEARS store. On January 23, 2016, the Old Motor featured a Sears store in Los Angles that also had rooftop parking. Where this might be is still open to discussion. Being Art Deco, isn’t really a great clue as there were many Art Deco Sears stores constructed.

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