There was a time when shopping was an enlightening experience, mainly due to the exquisite architecture of department stores. The mundane act of buying clothing, sporting goods and cosmetics has been exaggerated by the beautiful environment. In Palm Springs and Los Angeles, the apogee of that experience was that of Brock.
The Los Angeles flagship store, Brock, was an Art Deco-style Tour Duforce designed by John and Donald Parkinson. The interior is equally spectacular and was appointed by the unreasonably vague Master Architect, the subject of a gorgeous new book by Christopher Long. The book, entitled “Jock Peters, Architecture and Design: The Varieties of Modernism,” is a must-read for anyone who wants a true understanding of Southern California’s mid-century modern design. A quick glance at that page will give you a crush on Peters’ rare interior, even for a moment of shopping.
At Palm Springs, Blocks operates as a seasonal shop and is a “resort store” for wealthy tourists during the winter months. First opened in a Spanish Mediterranean style building at Desert Inn.
The Los Angeles Times has posted an item announcing its opening in November 1930. … sports and travel apparel for men and women are in stock at the store’s merchandise. There is a room where articles exclusively for men are displayed. Boots, spurs, golf clubs and sweaters contribute to the clubby outdoor side to the setting of hand-woven rugs and beige and rusty leather chairs of ancient Indian design.
“Women’s shopping rooms are just as cheerful. Hand-woven curtains, walnut furniture specially made for the block dessert in-shop, with a cool green and henna background, refreshing sports and travel costumes. And add a feminine touch. “
The store also provided furniture to several demonstration homes in Las Palmas and Little Tuscany from the late 1930s to the 1940s.
In October 1947, Blocks opened a new Streamline Moderne building on 151 S. Palm Canyon Drive. This reflects the grandeur of the Los Angeles building. The geometric and smooth vocabulary of the building was devised in contrast to the jagged background of the mountains over there. The heights of the front pedestrian entrance facade and the rear parking lot were symmetrical. There was a courtyard on the back side, and a circular planting floor was placed in the middle.
“The new store will be unique in the expression of desert life,” architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket told Desert Sun on December 14, 1945. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls are surrounded by a garden of flowers and shrubs, and the opaque walls are heat-resistant thermopains facing sun-dried bricks and desert stones. “
Great care was taken to cool the large department stores in the desert. The important thing was to get gorgeous sunlight during the warmer months while protecting the interior during the scorching summer. The architect designed a long eave that overhangs a large shop window and provides shade during the afternoon heat. According to architectural records in April 1948, solar control efforts resulted in a vertical louver on the second floor and an elaborate cooling system suspended above the internal ceiling.
For some time, the department store’s interior was open to the ground floor, showing contemporary ideas for open and flexible spaces. At the street level, men, women, girls, intimate apparel, dresses, suits, coat apparel and departments were exhibited, all fused together and separated only by small spur walls and structural support. .. Architectural records explained that low counters and open plans allowed the use of skeleton crews during the summer “slack season.”
The second floor has a dining table department, sun and modern shops, gifts, glass and ceramics sections, furniture, appliances, beds and linens, all accessible by the first elevator in Palm Springs.
The presence of fashionable, new and architecturally distinctive stores has had a major impact on the entire desert.
Arthur Elrod moved to Palm Springs, where he found a job as a junior staff member in the newly opened 1947 Block Furniture Department, starting his proud decorative career from the second floor of a magnificent building.
Thanks to haute couture, the block was offered for fashion shows at Desert Inn, El Mirador Hotel and Racket Club. Racket clubs have become a staple of the desert to raise money for various charities and scholarships.
The beauty salon, also on the second floor, was particularly attractive. The Desert Sun ad details: “There’s exciting news in the world of cosmetology. New York’s famous Coiffures American stylist Jay brought it to Brock’s Palm Springs. It’s the new 1957 version of the flattering young feather cut. … streamlined, new, light and sleek. Jay introduces the entire series of block’s exciting new Feather Do. This week, he invited him to a free consultation while he was here. The streamlined Feather-Do was a perfect match for the streamlined typical modern building.
That year, 1957 also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the new store. The glitter and block tycoons of the town gathered at the Thunderbird Country Club for dinner. Manager Adi Hubbard, who opened his former store at Desert Inn in 1930, was seated at the headtable as an honorary guest. The history of the entire facility and the Palm Springs store was told. The tremendous growth that Palm Springs stores have enjoyed over the next 20 years has been truly encouraging.
However, by the early 1990s, the building was vacant and was scheduled to be demolished because it was said that “renovation was unrealistic due to asbestos problems.” It was to be replaced by a new retail complex and parking structure. Many locals and conservationists lamented the loss of this architectural jewel. The stucco and tile buildings in general are sadly not a little enlightened or uplifting, but they are now standing there.
Tracy Conrad is President of the Palm Springs Historical Society. The “Thank you for your memories” column will appear in the desert sun on Sunday. Write to her at [email protected]