The Sears, Roebuck and Co. building was listed in the National Register for its significance in architecture and commerce. The building’s commercial design, with elements of the Italian Renaissance Revival style on the central tower, followed a formula that Sears, Roebuck and Co. had developed in the first decade of the 20th century. The young Chicago firm of Nimmons and Fellows was tapped to design the first Sears complex in Chicago, and the successor firm of Nimmons & Company designed the Atlanta building. All of the Sears distribution centers/retail stores, including the one in Atlanta, featured a long, multi-story commercial building relieved by a central tower. The architecture of the towers varied and was the only part of the building to receive ornamentation.
The Atlanta building showcases early 20th century building techniques, including: reinforced concrete in the floors, mushroom columns, and brick curtain walls throughout. The building and shipping room were completed in 1926. Additions to the building were completed in 1932, 1948, and 1971. The building retains its multi-light metal windows, concrete columns, concrete floors, wood floors, stairs, and elevators. The complex has recently undergone rehabilitation and the former open retail and warehouse spaces have been converted to new retail, office, restaurant, and apartment spaces known as Ponce City Market.
The Atlanta building was one of two distribution centers in the Southeast constructed by Sears in the mid-1920s. Sears’ mail-order business was expanding at a rapid pace during that time as the growing trend of urbanization in the country was understood by management to be an opportunity to grow their retail business. The building, a combined retail and distribution center, was a ground-breaking commercial business model designed to appeal to city dwellers. It was one of the largest retail buildings in Atlanta at the time of its construction.
The National Register of Historic Places is our country's official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property's architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes, and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.
The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources serves as Georgia’s state historic preservation office. Its mission is to promote the preservation and use of historic places for a better Georgia. HPD’s programs include archaeology protection and education, environmental review, grants, historic resource surveys, tax incentives, the National Register of Historic Places, community planning and technical assistance.