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Old Posted Sep 13, 2011, 1:25 AM
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sopas ej sopas ej is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: South Pasadena, California
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Ah, the Bullock's Pasadena. I still refer to it as such sometimes, for a while I refused to call it Macy's. But of the two bona-fide department stores left in Pasadena (the other one being the bunker-style 70s tannish/brownish brick Macy's, originally the Broadway, at the Paseo Colorado mall), it's the nicest. I'm glad it still exists. A few years ago, the store had closed for a number of months so that the interior could be restored to somewhat of its original splendor. Even before the touch-up, it was still a nice place (sorry to say that it no longer has a restaurant). Also while restoring the interior, the street side facade was restored to its original splendor, the windows having been blacked out many years ago, but they're now clear again, displaying the wares inside. It is very unlike a modern department store. Each department is really in their own spaces, almost like separate rooms, rather than one large selling floor. Kind of inconvenient to get around, but I think that's precisely how it was designed, back when people were less hurried, and when one took their time shopping at a department store. And like the Bullock's on Wilshire Blvd., there are no escalators in the Bullock's er Macy's Pasadena. You must take the stairs or the elevator. Also, a number of years ago, a development of shops was built around the Bullock's building. Believe it or not, it actually complements the old building, but of course it had to be redesigned, being that many people protested that the original project would have dwarfed the Bullock's building; there were originally plans to include a cinema complex but that was axed.

By the time I moved to South Pasadena in 1998, what was once the I. Magnin had become a Borders Books, or at least that's how I remember it being the case. Unfortunately, the Borders closed earlier this year; it was a regular hangout of mine, but I also still hang out at the Vroman's bookstore on Colorado. I never go to the Barnes & Noble in Old Town, I always thought that bookstore sucked.

The Bullock's Pasadena was actually what created the South Lake Avenue business district. I believe it opened in 1947, on what was then a mostly residential street. Since the 1920s, Pasadena's business/commercial activity was gravitating east from the original downtown (now Old Town). And depending on which old-timer you ask, some say that by the 1920s, Old Town was already on the skids. What is now dubbed as Pasadena's Playhouse District/Civic Center area is where the more fashionable businesses were located during the time between the World Wars, and then after WWII, South Lake Avenue became THE place to shop in Pasadena, spurred by the creation of the Bullock's. The City of Pasadena also wanted to make Lake Avenue its new downtown, encouraging high-rise office development along Lake (though a height-limit of about 10 or 11 stories was created). South Lake Avenue started losing its luster by the 1990s; I remember when a lot of people got all bent when a Ross Dress For Less opened up across the street from Bullock's in the mid-90s. Even now, South Lake Avenue isn't what it once was. Lots of vacant storefronts, definitely not as upscale as it once was. Old Town Pasadena now gets all the attention, having been cleaned up (and a little too chain-storey for my taste).

Here's an old color slide of the Bullock's, taken in 1949:


What amazes me about this photo is how dumpy and antiquated the cars look as compared to how modern and contemporary the building looks, even today. It's also weird for me to see the trolley wires and tracks down the center of South Lake Ave., being that there's a landscaped median through there now.

Not sure when this photo was taken, but it looks pretty early on. This is pre-parking structure, pre-I. Magnin/Borders Books building... is that an apartment building just south of it?

This building was very revolutionary for its time, being that it was even more car-oriented than the Bullock's Wilshire in LA. Bullock's Wilshire only had a front and back entrance, the one in back being more grand, for the benefit of people pulling into its back parking lot. But the Bullock's Pasadena had 3 main entrances, two of them facing the parking lot that surrounded the building on 3 sides. Plus, each entrance was to a different level of the building. Incidentally, the South Lake Avenue business district was planned with cars in mind, being that all of storefronts have large surface parking lots behind them.
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