From Abandoned Building to Regional Landmark

Constructed in 1930 and designed by architect John G. Fleming, S.H. Kress began to build five-and-ten cent stores on America ‘s Main Streets shortly after the turn of the century. By World War II, Kress stores formed a distinctive part of the downtown streetscape in more than two hundred towns and cities in thirty states including Hawaii. The S.H. Kress Building was decorated with terra cotta elements from the renowned Gladding McBean firm; the structure boasts one of the City’s finest Art Deco facades. The mural in the lobby depicts Justice, Agriculture and Industry in Stockton, and is painted in the Art-Deco style seen in Radio City Music Hall and the Empire State Building.  The artist, Russell Buckingham, is a renowned painter and muralist from New York City.

The S.H.Kress building in downtown Stockton had been empty for years when I acquired it in 2003. Although it was a significant, historic structure it had languished because no one had figured out how to convert it into an economically viable venture. The potential was there for an exquisite restoration that would contribute to the revitalization of the area, but a new owner had to be willing to deal with unreasonable, costly government regulations; find trustworthy, respectable, long-term tenants; and form new partnerships as well as rely on established ones for financing and other requirements.

Like all restoration projects, Kress presented its unique brand of structural and creative challenges.

– Dan Cort


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