Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn architect for S.H. Kress, Edward Sibbert, left a legacy of historic landmark buildings in Florida

October 7, 2015 By Palmer Hasty Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Edward F. Sibbert. Photo courtesy of The Samuel. H. Kress Foundation, N.Y.
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Brooklyn native and architect Edward Sibbert may not be a household name. Nevertheless, like other Brooklyn natives we have highlighted in our Brooklyn Footprints in Florida series, Sibbert left several invaluable landmarks in Florida during his time as chief architect for the iconic five and dime chain S.H. Kress & Company. Sibbert was a staff architect for Kress from 1929 to 1954, and eventually became a vice president for the company.   

He designed more than 50 Kress buildings across the country during the Kress peak years, and many of them have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Of the nine Kress buildings in Florida, for example, Sibbert designed at least three of them: In Orlando (1935), in Sarasota (1932) and in Daytona Beach (1932). And all three buildings have been placed on the National Register.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Sibbert was born in Brooklyn in 1889. He retired in the 1950s and moved to Pompano Beach, Florida, where he died in 1982.  

He studied at Pratt Institute, graduating in 1919 with a diploma in architectural construction. The Brooklyn Eagle carried a notice of the 1919 Pratt graduating ceremony, where Chairman of the Board of Trustees Charles Millard Pratt, son of the famous industrialist and school founder, gave the commencement speech.  

Following his graduation from Pratt, Sibbert studied at Cornell. After leaving Cornell, he worked as a draftsman for the variety store chain W.T. Grant. In 1924, he and a friend from his college days at Cornell went to Miami to try and take advantage of the 1920s land boom in Florida.  

According to records, the land boom began to implode and came to a virtual end when the “Great Miami” Hurricane hit south Florida in 1926. Sibbert and his wife promptly moved back to Brooklyn. After working for the architectural firm E.H. Faile in 1929 when he was 40, Sibbert responded to a newspaper ad and was hired by S.H. Kress and Company. Sibbert became the chief architect for Kress.

As late as 1940, Sibbert and his wife were still living in Brooklyn on Seeley Street between Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery, as reported in the Sept. 15 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle (see graphic). This document verifies that Sibbert was living in Brooklyn when he designed three of the nine Kress buildings in Florida.  

Also, as late as 1948, Sibbert is listed in the Eagle as a judge for the Store Modernization Show held at Grand Central Palace in Manhattan.

Sibbert’s architectural contribution to the Kress legacy is profound. According to the National Building Museum, “The creation of an architectural division within the company played a key role in both attracting customers and facilitating sales. Samuel H. Kress envisioned his stores as works of public art that would contribute to the cityscape. Kress achieved retail branding success not merely through standardized signage and graphics, but through distinctive architecture and efficient design.”  

It was Sibbert’s streamlined use of vertical lines and distinctive art deco details that helped Kress achieve its prominent place in the history of American merchandizing and architecture.

Sibbert designed more than 50 stores across the U.S. during his 25-year tenure as chief architect, and there’s no telling how many of his buildings are both local and national landmarks.

He was also living in Brooklyn when he designed what architectural historians call his masterpiece, the seven-story Kress flagship store at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Some descriptive details of the store from the Kress Foundation website will give the reader an idea of how Sam Kress, and staff architects like Sibbert, managed to turn a dime store chain into an unforgettable shopping experience for American consumers who lived through the Great Depression and its aftermath.

Documents in the National Building Museum described the Fifth Avenue store as “A seven-story marble structure designed for every shopping comfort, its Art Deco elegance was graced by airborne Mayan gods on the sales floor and Mayan-style hieroglyphs of the gloves and padlocks and yard goods for sale.”

“…the store represented the zenith of the Kress Empire in luxury, modernity, and retailing capacity.”

Sibbert’s design of the Fifth Avenue store was awarded a gold medal for architectural quality. In fact, the Kress Foundation considers Sibbert-designed buildings “the most distinctive and best remembered Kress stores…”

The S. H. Kress & Company folded in 1980, but the Kress Foundation and many of the buildings live on as national landmarks.  

While the ownership and commercial purpose of each building might change along with interior renovations, many of the buildings and famous facades remain intact.  

For example, the Sibbert-designed Kress building at 140 South Beach St. in Daytona Beach, Florida, is currently co-owned and managed by Jack White Land Company, with more than 40 tenants.

In a phone interview, Jack White said that his first professional office was in the building back in 2004. Ten years later he became a co-owner of the building and renovated the interior. “It was amazing,” he said, “the Kress buildings are works of art. They became part of the community.”

White said that when he started renovating the interior he found underneath layers of concrete the original terrazzo floors from 1932 and decided to keep them.  “When you take on a building like this it becomes a labor of love as much as a corporate move. You’re carrying on a tradition of civic pride.”

Jim Schlosser, a writer for, in an article about the Greensboro Kress store quoted Sibbert as saying of his work at Kress: “We wanted our stores to stand out but not too much.”

Schlosser added: “He failed. The stores stand out very much…”

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