Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - department stores

Designers: Wurdeman and Becket, Architects (firm); Welton David Becket (architect); Walter Charles Wurdeman (architect)

Dates: constructed 1946-1947

2 stories

Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA


Contemporaries viewed this Palm Springs outlet of the Bullock's chain as a "drive-in department store" situated in what was a seasonal resort community. It was typical of the period's new department stores anchoring suburban shopping centers, geared to easy access from parking lots, and having smaller inventories than huge downtown department stores. This modestly-sized, two-floor store was transitional in a way, as its main facade was still oriented on the pedestrian streetfront (like a traditional downtown store), not the parking lot.

Building History

Opening on 10/18/1947, the second Bullock's Department Store in Palm Springs was larger and much more modern than its Spanish Colonial Revival predecessor. It had a smaller inventory capacity than a typical branch store and was geared to holiday sales to affluent Los Angelenos vacationing in the desert in the winter. The architects Wurdeman and Becket spent a great deal of time considering how to cool a large department store in the desert. The key was to allow in good amounts of sun in the cooler months, while sheltering the interior in the scorching summer. The architects designed long eaves overhangs to shade large display windows. According to the Architectural Record of 04/1948: "The vertical louvers of the second floor are designed for sun protection to lessen the air conditioning load." It continued, "The heating and cooling system is of the 'reverse cycle,' type having three freon compressors equipped with water-cooled condensers, three vertical shell and tube water chillers, circulating pumps, deep well pump, etc. Ten air conditioning units are placed above the suspended ceilings of the store and are used for both cooling and heating." (See "Bullock's Palm Springs Store, California," Architectural Record, vol . 103, no. 4, 04/1948, p. 124-125.)

For its time, the department store's interior was open on the first floor, illustrating the influence of Modernist free plan ideas. The first floor displayed apparel, and deaprtments for men, women, girls, intimate apparel, dresses, suits and coats, all merged with one another, separated only by small spur walls and structural supports. The second floor plan, accommodating the dining tables department, sun and modern shop, gifts, glass and china section, furniture department, appliances space, sleep shop, linens area, and the Provincial Studio all had more discrete barriers formed by spur walls. The Architectural Record indicated that this Bullock's had a smaller inventory than a typical in-city department store, and its sales were geared to maximize profits at Christmas time. It stated: "Note that the merchandise program--apparel and home furnishings--is keyed to holiday demands. Low counters and open planning permit use of a skeleton crew in slack season. There is no attempt to include all the shopping goods shown in a complete department store." (See "Bullock's Palm Springs Store, California," Architectural Record, vol . 103, no. 4, 04/1948, p. 126.)

Builidng Notes

The building's geometric, Modernist vocabulary was conceived to contrast with its jagged backdrop of mountains. The plans on the front (pedestrian) and rear (parking lot) sides were symmetrical. A patio was formed on the rear side with a circular bed of plantings placed in the middle


The Bullock's Palm Springs Store was razed.

PCAD id: 21586