A&P, celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2009, still officially goes by its full name – The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Although the “Pacific” part applied for a relatively brief portion of that timeframe, roughly the 1930’s through the 1960’s, and the company’s current geographic footprint is far smaller yet, A&P’s status as an American business and cultural icon is beyond question.
Probably the most enduring image of A&P, from an architectural point of view, is the colonial family of designs the company launched in 1959 to celebrate their centennial year. Known typically today as the “Centennial” stores, they were usually referred to in company advertising as being of “Early American design”. The darling of zoning boards everywhere due to their upscale look, hundreds of Centennial A&P’s were built throughout the 1960’s, although the company continued to build much more conventional-looking units throughout this period as well.
The photo above, from a 1951 issue of the long defunct Collier’s magazine, depicts a new A&P store in Fairfield, Connecticut. Pre-dating the “real” Centennial stores by nearly ten years, I guess this one can be called “Early Early American”. Interestingly, A&P had used colonial architectural touches – pediments, cupolas, the delicate script – on various occasions, long before this store even opened. The earliest example I’m aware of hails from way back in 1932, with the Williamsburg, Virginia store, designed to blend in with the (then new) Colonial Restoration.
While there’s still some of it left, I thought it would be fun to take a look at A&P during this, their 150th year.