The Kress Building

LOCATION:  811 North Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602

CURRENT OWNER:  Doran Jason Group

ARCHITECT:  G.E. McKay & G.A. Miller

COMPLETED:  1929

ORIGINAL FUNCTION:  Department Store

ARCHITECTURAL STYLE:  Renaissance

PROMINENT MATERIAL:  Terra-Cotta

PHOTO CREDITS: Randy Van Duinen, Architectural Photographer

 

S. H. Kress & Co. was a chain of five and dime department stores in various parts of the United States, which began operations in 1896. In 1900, the once Pennsylvania schoolteacher, Samuel H. Kress, brought the original dollar store to Tampa on Franklin Street. In 1908, he relocated to a building on Florida Avenue and in 1929 just before the Great Depression, he demolished the structure and replaced it with the building that stands today with the notable faded KRESS sign on the brick façade.

A businessman and philanthropist, Kress was an art lover enchanted by Italian Renaissance and European artwork. He envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape and tasked his team of architects to design each of his stores to stand out yet compliment the surrounding architecture. Each store showcased its own unique architecture and the building in Tampa was no different, with its bronze marquees, coats of arms and Renaissance Revival terra-cotta facades, including glazed multi-colored trim. A number of former Kress stores are recognized as architectural landmarks and many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including this building (which was added on April 7, 1983) as well as three more in the state of Florida.

In 1964 Genesco, Inc. bought Kress and abandoned its center-city stores and moved to shopping malls. The liquidation of Kress began in 1980, with the Tampa store closing in 1981.  The building has slowly deteriorated; and in 2006, at the recommendation of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, the city council landmarked the S.H. Kress building and the facades of the adjacent Woolworth and J.J. Newberry buildings. The building is currently undergoing renovation and will be used for events during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.