While growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I visited Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza many times with my mother and my grandmother on various shopping trips. Besides the ultra-chic window displays, salespeople, and merchandise I also remember going to the May Co. regularly to get my hair done at the African American beauty salon Soul Sisters.Over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the architecture of the mall, so one sunny day while I was visiting, I grabbed my iPhone and took a few photos outside. Remembering the tips my teacher Ford Lowcock gave me in my iPhone Photography class at Santa Monica College I shot from a variety of angles.
Later while researching my photos on the internet I discovered the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was built in 1947 and officially opened on November 2, 1947. Known as one of the “first regional shopping centers in the U.S. that was built specifically for the automobile” it’s still a popular neighbored destination.
Secured on both sides by two Art Deco buildings that still remain excellent representations and retain their Streamline Moderne characteristics are the Broadway Department Store and the May Co. Department Store.
“Streamline Moderne is an international style of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s. It was inspired by aerodynamic design and emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and nautical elements. In industrial design, it was used in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, buses, appliances, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.”
The Broadway Department Store:
The designer of the Broadway Department Store was Albert B. Gardner, and it’s located across the street from the May Co. Department Store.
The May Co. Department Store:
The May Co. Department Store opened as a “free-standing store” and was designed by Albert C. Martin and Associates. It was officially completed in October 1947.
Changes to the Mall:
During the 1980s a bridge was built to connect the two stores and “form a walkway for shoppers to the mall”. Today, in addition to a diverse group of stores occupying the mall, the two anchor stores are Macy’s and T.J. Maxx.