The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 15, 2010

Then And Now: The Former Downtown Bellevue Albertson’s Store

Filed under: Bellevue, History — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:58 pm


With as fast as Bellevue has been growing lately, many of the older buildings in Bellevue have fallen to the wrecking ball when they happen to get in the way of one high-rise condo project or another, and as Bellevue continues to grow, others are sure to follow.  In spite of this, there are still a number of older buildings in Bellevue that remain standing.  For a while now, I’ve been meaning to look at some of these older buildings, and share some of what I have been able to find on their history in the course of my newspaper research.  To kick this series (or not, depending on how lazy motivated I am) I would like to highlight the Cost Plus World Market store, located across the street from the Nordstrom side of Bellevue Square.  Although the Bellevue Collection has sought to establish itself as the premier high-end shopping and entertainment destination in the area (albeit with few legitimate challengers, at least until The Bravern opened up last year,) and after a major interior remodel completed about a year ago, it certainly looks the part, and what was once just Bellevue Square has expanded into what is now known as the Bellevue Collection, and includes shopping and entertainment facilities in nearby buildings, with more expansion on the way when the economy begins to recover from the current recession (incidentally, it is for this reason that the old Bellevue Safeway remains standing, at least for the time being.) With all of the construction in the area, it may be a bit of a surprise to learn that a number of older buildings remain relatively unscathed just a block to the North of Bellevue Square.  

In one of these buildings is found this rather unassuming Cost Plus World Market store, purveyors of inexpensive imported furniture (presumably for those people who get sick of looking at all their Ikea stuff, but can’t quite afford much else) and half a zillion different varieties of imported candy (Unfortunately, that doesn’t include King Peppermints from the Netherlands.)  Although this store has been in this location for as long as I have lived in the area (about 14 years now)  we learn from the Eastside Heritage Center’s archives that this store was originally opened as an Albertson’s, and from the newspaper archives we learn that it first opened in 1959, making it even older than even the old Bellevue Safeway, which opened approximately four years later in 1963.  

Bellevue American, May 14th 1959 (click for larger version)


 One thing that I’ve noticed in the course of the newspaper research that I’ve done is how quickly things used to be built.  From a May 1959 issue of the Bellevue American, we find this artist’s rendering of the planned store, indicating plans to begin construction of the 23,800 square foot store in early June, with a target date of November 1st for opening the store.  At the time, this was the largest Albertson’s store in the chain, although by the standards of the modern supermarket it would be considered rather small, with typical supermarkets now averaging nearly twice this size (according to this page, the average size of a supermarket in 2008 was 46,755 square feet, which is actually down a bit from a high of 48,750 square feet in 2006.)  Although I haven’t been able to determine an exact opening date for the store, it appears that this was completed ahead of schedule, and the store was already open by early October. 

Bellevue American, October ?? 1959 (Click for larger version)


 In the weeks before and after the opening of the store, we find a series of ads highlighting some of the features of the new store, including the full in-store bakery and a number of non-food departments  We also get a number of pictures of the store and some of the departments (although given the arched roofline in the photo above, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the actual store, but one of the arched roof Albertson’s stores common at this time, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Marina style Safeway stores.  It’s also interesting to note that even though the signs on the building used what is informally known as the “western” logo font that Albertson’s used up until the mid Seventies when their current logo was adopted, the ads used what appears to be an older logo for some time, although I can’t be entirely sure of when the change may have been. 


From another of the ads comes this detail of the bakery department.  Unfortunately, most of these photos are limited by the quality of the microfilm, and several of these I couldn’t get good pictures from.  The Eastside Heritage Center has a number of additional color pictures of this store in their collection which were taken in 1969, approximately ten years after the store opened, including one of the front of the store and one showing the store’s street sign.  One interesting thing to note from these photos is the presence of a pylon, another common feature of 1950s supermarkets that has long since faded into oblivion which doesn’t appear in the artist’s rendering above.  To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what function this served unless there is a sign on the other side.  Either way, this seems to have been removed from the building at some point.  


Although I can’t be entirely certain of when the Albertson’s store closed in this location, I do know that the store was still open in 1987  (if someone knows this, please feel free to fill in the details.)  In the current Cost Plus store, the distinctive wooden beam construction of the ceiling (a common feature of a number of late Fifties and early Sixties supermarkets) still remains, although there are few other signs of the former store.

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