A Rare Trip Inside the Sears Crosstown Building
For two years, I've been staring at the Sears Crosstown building's art deco facade from my home office window. The building, which has been empty since 1989, looms large and mysterious over my house. Like many Memphians, I've stared at it for years, wondering what it's like inside.
And today, I got to go in.
Artist Robin Salant invited me to come with her while she checked up on the colored light project she's installing in the building (through a Crosstown Arts grant). The project is a series of moving, colored lights that go flicker nightly from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.
The building, which was completed in 1928, housed a Sears store, warehouse, offices and distribution center. After the building closed in 1989, it sat empty for years. Recently, several local organizations and developers have started trying to figure out how to revitalize the iconic building (and its surrounding neighborhood). There's no solid plan yet, but I have very high hopes for the building's eventual restoration and use.
Here are some photos I took on my trip inside:
There's a room in the tower that houses all of the elevator controls.
Because there are so many broken windows and cracks in the building, nature has found its way inside.
Part of Robin's installation includes covering the south-facing windows in theater-grade light gels so that the illuminated windows are colored. Here's what it looks like from the inside:
All of the lights are fluorescents or LEDs that are powered by batteries which are charged by solar panels on the roof.
In order to get to the solar panels, though, you have to climb through a window.
But once you're on the roof, the view is pretty awesome.
Here are a few more pictures of the inside of the building:
The coolest part of the building is the top room of the tower (of course). It's not because it's the tower – it's because of what's inside. I don't know what I was expecting – maybe some sort of penthouse office – but here's what lives there: a giant red water tank.
You can't tell from the picture, but the tank (that's it on the right) is at least four stories high and 30 feet wide. It held the water for the building's sprinkler system.
Thanks again to Robin Salant for taking me in the building today. You can see her lights nightly on the south side of the building and – sometime next week – in the east-facing tower.
There are more photos from the building on my Flickr stream.