The Sears and Roebuck complex was not only large, it included the large 14-story building to help note its size. The complex covered an area totalling 3.3 million square feet (two city blocks). The 14-story tower stood at the center, later becoming the home of WLS-AM (World’s Largest Store) radio, a radio station that enjoys a storied history in Chicago. Much of the complex has been destroyed, but the tower remains, as do many of the significant buildings within the complex. 4
However in its heydey, it was, as Richard Sears defined it, a city within a city. The complex managed its own fire department, with volunteer firemen, including its own fire sprinklers supplied by a 200,000 gallon water tank. As well, a newspaper publicity office; research and development laboratory, and bank operated in the complex. Moreover, The electricity supplied by the power house operated the ventilating system, escalators, and transmission belts for carrying merchandise between the stock departments and the shipping departments. Over nine miles of pneumatic tubing quickly transported letters and other papers from one department to another.5
The 14-story tower also provided access for residents to visit the top floor skydeck, similar to the one that would famously adorn the 1973 Sears Tower -- the tallest building in the world at the time -- that would replace the complex as the stores' headquarters.6
Other buildings that remain include the printing building (where the famous catalogue was printed), the advertising building, administration building, and the power house. Those buildings, along with the 14-foot tower (and truthfully the 110 story skyscraper, too) represent an era where department stores played a significant role in American culture. Although consumerism remains, department stores' popularity and economic success has declined significantly.