Farewell to a sad landmark

The last shopper left 42 years ago, but many South Jerseyans still refer to the enormous building on Camden's Admiral Wilson Boulevard east of Federal Street as "Sears."

That tradition - perhaps a better word is habit - will be harder to maintain after Wednesday, when demolition of the onetime department store finally begins.

The legal battle over the building took several years, but the work of dismantling it should be finished in eight weeks,  according to the Campbell Soup Company, which owns the site. Boulevard views of the company's stylish new world headquarters are partially obscured by the hulking structure, and Campbell wants to develop an office park nearby.

I've written often about efforts to save historic buildings in Camden and elsewhere. But I must acknowledge that the old Sears had less architectural than cultural significance.

The building was built in 1927 and was among the roadside attractions of all sorts, including a "whoopee coaster" (an undulating wooden track for automobiles) and the world's first drive-in movie theater, making the boulevard a pioneer of America's car-centric lifestyle in the early 20th century.

Those days are long gone. And soon, Sears -- excuse me, 1300 Admiral Wilson Boulevard -- will be gone as well.