Corporate benevolence: The garden Sears built

March 22, 2011

These days, we're happy when the company we work for puts a new microwave in the break room. But a century ago, workers at the old Sears headquarters on the West Side got their own garden.

Built in 1907 on Arthington Street, just east of Homan across from the now-former Sears administration building, the garden was designed to give respite to the army of workers who once populated the mail-order complex. The 100ft long concrete and wood pergola has a Doric columned portico at each end. There is a walkway inside.

In promotional literature of the time--quoted in the Historic American Buildings Survey for the former Sears complex--the retailer said it built the garden "so that our employees may be attracted out of doors during the noon recess, because a change of environment and attractive surroundings send them back to work again greatly refreshed and forgetful of the little annoyances of the morning."

 

The garden still stands 104 years later, as does much of the complex Sears vacated in the 1970s for the Sears Tower--which it eventually left in 1993 for a new complex in Hoffman Estates.. A pond that once stood in front of the pergola has been filled in when the place was under Sears ownership, but otherwise the garden looks pretty much as it did when it was built. And it remains the quiet and reflective space Sears envisioned.