Today’s post is about mid-20th-century design, but it’s not about Mid-Century Modern. Instead, it’s about the perhaps less-hipster Mid-Century Colonial style.
I’m sure I’m not the first to notice these cupola-ed Colonial Revival buildings on the edges of many Mississippi towns–several of them in vacant shopping centers–but I was intrigued enough to start taking pictures of them. I found that one was an A&P grocery store, and that gave me the information I needed to identify them all. I’m sure there are more out there, but these are three I’ve stopped for.
Groceteria.com has a helpful company history— founded in 1859, the company acquired the A&P name in 1870–and has this to say about the Atlantic and Pacific grocery chain in the 1950s and 1960s:
Through the 1950s, A&P continued to be America’s dominant grocery retailer (and at one point, its largest retailer of any sort), but some disturbing trends were starting to emerge. The company’s conservative policies were not in tune with the retail boom of the 1950s, and A&P’s largely urban (and aging) store base was concentrated in urban areas rather than the growing suburbs. This would be a major issue for the company in the ensuing years.
In addition, both John and George Hartford died in the 1950s, more or less ending the company’s connection to its founding family, and allowing it to go public. The Harford heirs were more concerned with large dividends than with the grocery business, and the resulting lack of investment initiated a period of stagnation from which A&P never fully recovered.
Some new stores were being constructed during this period. To celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary in 1959, the red brick cupola-ed “Centennial” prototype was unveiled. Much like Safeway’s “Marina” prototype the same year, this store design would define the company for years to come. Inexplicably, though, a high proportion of these new stores were still located in older urban areas. While other chains were moving to the suburbs in advance of their customers, A&P seemed to be running five to ten years behind the migratory patterns of its own clientele.
I hope those that are vacant now will soon find a new occupant who appreciates the good proportions, solid construction and functional but historicist design of these buildings.