Then and Now

Fourth Street in Downtown Evansville has been an important corridor since the earliest days of the city’s history.

For many years, farmers brought their produce to a very crowded stretch of Fourth between Walnut and Main streets. The outdoor farmers market was a staple in the city until health laws and other regulation forced its demise. The market was one reason the street still is wider in that section than after it crosses Main.

The retail hub of Evansville was centered at Fourth and Main for most of the 20th century. The main department stores, Schear’s (now the parking lot behind Kunkel Square) and Salm’s (the small park at Fourth and Main), stood for generations on that intersection. The city’s first skyscraper (now Kunkel Square) was the 10-story Citizens Bank building, erected in 1916.

The commercial corridor leading to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum, also constructed in 1916-17, was home to many corporate offices relating to insurance, banking, and consumer lending. In the 1920s the first freestanding retail location for Sears and Roebuck was built there.

Sears chose Evansville because of the friendship between local manufacturer William McCurdy and the Roebuck family in Chicago. For generations the city was a test market for products as the populace was gauged to be a good cross section of America. The first photo shows the busy intersection in August 1940 and the second photo is of today. The Sears building has undergone significant repair and renovation by its current occupant, Old National Bancorp.

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