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Posts Tagged ‘Mid-Century architecture’

Crawfords.Corner.RenderingCrawford’s Grocery chain was a quintessential Southern California success story of the 20th Century; a family business that began very humbly, with the husband and wife team of Wayland and Leemoria Crawford selling watermelons off the back of a truck. They opened their first grocery store in Los Angeles in the 1920’s, followed by a vegetable stand in the City of Bell. The couple soon determined that the rapidly developing San Gabriel Valley and northern Orange County provided a more lucrative business climate, so they opened a chain of stores, which eventually included locations in Alhambra, Glendale, El Monte, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead and Stanton. The Crawfords’ two sons, Ray and Billy, as well as their grandchildren were closely involved in the family business from the time they were youngsters.

The original Crawford’s Market in Alhambra was built in 1929, at the corner of Valley and New, across the street from the Alhambra Airport. This location, in an otherwise agricultural area of town, captured the regular business of pilots, mechanics, and passengers, as well as families from surrounding communities. This location was followed a few years later by the opening of a second store in Alhambra, at the corner of Valley Blvd. and 9th St. (a short stroll from the Crawford home at 1842 S. 9th St.).

Crawfords.Corner.Sign.1960s

Crawford’s Corner new sign.

In 1964, the Crawford family determined that their growing Alhambra enterprise required a fresh image. The architecture of the new shopping center they built was significant both for its ability to convey the principals of mid-twentieth century storefront design, as well as the Western theme they utilized as part of their marketing plan. Covered walkways, false front parapet walls, elaborate turned wood detailing and rustic signage all expressed the Old West Style. It is noteworthy that the most popular television series of 1964 was the western-themed Bonanza, set on a huge ranch near the Comstock Lode boomtown of Virginia City, Nevada. A simulation of the Old West boomtown was created here in Alhambra at Crawford’s Corner, paying homage to historical themes of American prosperity created by the settlers, prospectors, and entrepreneurs of the Mid-Nineteenth Century.

Crawfords.Corner.1964.Yocum.Opening

Opening Day in 1964

As a commercial center, Crawford’s Corner comprised more than 30,000 square feet of shopping space, one third of which was dedicated to general merchandise. The many individual retail outlets originally included a drug store, barber shop, men’s clothing store, dry cleaner, shoe repair shop, ice cream parlor, fabric and sewing supply store, gift shop, and music store. In designing the new Crawford’s Corner in 1964, the owners’ intention was to project an open, friendly, community-involved image. The shopping center included a bell tower, patio area with gazebo and fountain, which was made available at no charge for community events and celebrations, including band concerts, festivities associated with the annual “Hi Neighbor” parade, and art shows. A community meeting room on the second floor was offered for indoor events such as cooking and pottery classes.

Like the Old West boomtown after which it was modeled, Crawford’s Corner has lost some its former luster but its architectural significance to Alhambra remains strong. Its one-of-a-kind mid-century architecture make it worth protecting and preserving! And, the enterprising spirit that brought success to the Crawford Family is alive and well among the current generation of entrepreneurs at Crawford’s Corner—each working tirelessly to achieve their own American dream of prosperity.

Photos courtesy of Alhambra Preservation Group.

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