Non-original photos and images used on this site
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2 brand -spanking- new mall articles have just been added to our sibling website, the SHOPPING MALL MUSEUM!

Establishing which shopping center was Canada's very first mall was a difficult call. There are two contenders who opened for business at the same time. We decided to just create exhibits for BOTH. 

So, without any further ado, we present...

-in Hamilton-


-in Toronto-

Photos from The Hamilton Spectator and Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary

On our website, you'll find illustrated histories and other ephemera
about America's very first regional shopping centers and malls...
to New York City's CROSS COUNTY CENTER...
and down to Dallas' BIG TOWN MALL.
Moreover, you'll find articles about malls
in every one of the 50 states!

4 MALL HALL OF FAME articles 
have been improved and expanded! 

First, we have a 19-photo spread 
taken inside the new JOHN WANAMAKER store
All from May 1951.

Next, we have a 20-photo HALLE'S collection, 
taken at Greater Cleveland's WESTGATE CENTER.
This photo tour dates back to March 1954.

A 23-photo spread has been added,
depicting the brand new GIMBELS WESTCHESTER
at Yonker's New York's CROSS COUNTY CENTER.  
These images are from September 1955.

Lastly, our 20-photo tour
-at Long Island's GREEN ACRES CENTER-
shows the store as it appeared in March 1957.

Be sure to check out our second sibling site!

is a homage to the vintage 
1940s, '50s and '60s house trailer.

Please click here... 

Some may deride the contemporary American shopping mall as a shop till you drop, cathedral of conspicuous consumption; a manifestation of our society's affluenza epidemic. In many ways, such an assessment is accurate. However, this was not always the case. In the early days, the typical mall-type center was markedly different than the modern model.

In the 1950s and '60s, the shopping mall was an "everything in one place" place. There would be one, or even two, 5 & 10-type stores, a drug store, supermarket, bowling alley, professional concourse of medical offices and -even- a church or chapel. Tenant mixes were geared more toward middle market stores, providing things that people really needed. Also, fashion shows, pageants and public events were held regularly, making the early shopping mall a true community center.

A circa-1963 floor plan of Atlanta's LENOX SQUARE, which was one of the first major shopping malls in the Southeastern United States. In its original incarnation, it featured two large anchor department stores (Atlanta-based Rich's and Davison's, a Macy's subsidiary). Stores and services included an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10, S & W Cafeteria, bowling alley, Lenox Square Theatre and Colonial supermarket. There was even a space-age Gulf filling station in the mall's periphery. As they used to say..."It's All There At Lenox Square".

Trademarks of stores and services that were found in many a mid-century shopping mall. The focus then was to provide a wide array of merchandisers under one roof. Tenants ranged from the upmarket "anchor" department store, fashion boutique or menswear shop to the middle market 5 & 10 / variety store, pharmacy, grocery or cafeteria.

In this shot, and the two that follow,  we see typical mid-century shopping mall tenants. F.W. Woolworth junior-anchored several malls built in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, including this installation at Tampa's WEST SHORE PLAZA SHOPPING CITY.
Photo from Malls Of America Blogspot

The Cherry Hill Grill was an adjunct of the F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 at New Jersey's CHERRY HILL MALL. Cafeterias and snack bars were a mall fixture before food courts put them out of business in the 1980s.
Photo from 

CHERRY HILL MALL included the Food Fair supermarket seen in the photo directly above. Unlike some "mall" supermarkets of the era, it had an entrance into the air-conditioned shopping concourse (some "mall" grocery stores would have only exterior enties, while others were freestanding structures). Supermarkets, in general, stopped being shopping mall tenants in the late 1960s.  
Photo from

Back in the days, a new shopping mall would open with much fanfare. It was not uncommon for a dedication ceremony to go on for days. Unusual and attention-grabbing stunts might be performed and celebrities would make appearances. Nowadays, a new shopping center tends to open with a big ho-hum...

The typical mall was now being derided for its generic looks, sameness and predictability. A center in Maine would invariably have the same stores and fast food eateries as one in Southern California, Kansas City or Seattle. Moreover, the new-style "Anytown USA" mall would look pretty much the same no matter where it was located.

One last impression here...back in the mid-century years, the typical shopping mall was designed utilizing the latest trends in "ultra-modern" architecture. Mall photos from this era show stunning, futuristic and unique design. Unfortunately, such architecture -now referred to as "Mid-Century Modern"- has been all but obliterated by numerous renovations and "facelifts" performed on a mall over the years.

A lot of this damage was done during the 1980s and '90s when newly-built and remodeled shopping malls became truly UGLY in appearance. The rush to embrace so-called "Post-modern" architecture created the generic "Anytown USA" mall derided above. I suppose the one saving grace here is that this type of architecture -with its gaudy-glizty, faux fancy look- is now deemed passe' and is being ripped out and replaced by the more attractive mall architecture of the 21st century.

A recent view of Greater Pittsburgh's SOUTH HILLS VILLAGE. As has been the case with nearly every single mid-20th century shopping mall, the interior has undergone several renovations over the years. An unwritten law in retail states that any shopping mall must be physically updated at least every 10 years...else it will loose favor with the (fickle) buying public.
Photo from Wikipedia / Jim Henderson

Today's LENOX SQUARE, in Atlanta. Over the years, the original middle market mall has grown from a modest 800,000 square foot into a whopping 1,545,000! There are now over two hundred and forty tenants. Needless to say, the present-day mall has NO 5 & 10, supermarket, cafeteria or gas station. The owners finally got rid of its cinema in 2003. Nowadays, all that is "there" at Lenox Square is anything but middle-market. Today's roster of toney tenants includes Louis Vuitton, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Restoration Hardware and Hermes. 

A collection of logos from the typical "Grade A" shopping mall of today. As its classification would imply, this type of shopping hub is populated by exclusive boutiques and stores catering to the more affluent shopper.

Barneys New York, a so-called "luxury department store", originated in Manhattan in 1923. Above, we have the chain's ill-fated NORTHPARK CENTER store, in Dallas, Texas. It opened, with much fanfare, in September 2006 and closed for good in April 2013. 
Photo from Wikipedia / "020808"

Brisbane, California's bebe ["bee bee"] operates stores around the globe. The first opened, in Downtown San Francisco, in 1976. This women's apparel retailer has locations in many of America's Grade A malls. However, there are also several "Grade B" mall branches. The shot above was taken in Miami-Dade's AVENTURA MALL.
Photo from Wikipedia / "CoolCaesar"

The typical Grade B mall might have several of the stores depicted above, but it is not uncommon to see a few of these nameplates at a high-end Grade A mall.

The very first Sunglass Hut, a kiosk-type store, was located in Miami's DADELAND MALL and began business in 1971. Today, the chain, a division of Italy's Luxottica Group, operates stores around the world. The NATICK MALL location, outside of Boston, is seen above.
Photo from Wikipedia / John Phelan

The Finish Line chain originated, in 1976, with a franchised Athlete's Foot store in Downtown Indianapolis. In 1981, the first Finish Line locations were established. Today, the Indy-based retailer operates over six hundred stores. The photo above shows the NORTHSHORE CENTER location, also outside of Boston.
Photo from Wikipedia / John Phelan 

Today, with all of the unwelcoming atmosphere created by so-called "codes of conduct" and camera-grabbing security guards, one might get the impression that they are only welcome in a mall for as long as the charge or debit card is in use. When the spending spree is over, one is, apparently, expected to make tracks. This is in opposition to the old-fashioned concept of a mall, where great lengths were taken to try and keep you in the place for as long as possible, whether you were buying anything or not.

During the 1970s and '80s, America was in a full-throttle shopping mall building boom, with new retail square footage peaking in 1985. However, between 1989 and 1993, shopping center construction starts dropped by seventy percent. By the late 1990s, the notorious "dead mall" syndrome had appeared.

There have been several explanations given for this phenomenon, where once-vibrant retail hubs become virtually vacant ghost towns devoid of tenants and shoppers.

The most obvious reasons for the proliferation of moribund malls in the United States are the advent of televised home shopping channels, in 1982, and introduction of online retailing, in 1991. Another cause that is sometimes opined for the dead mall syndrome is so-called changes in neighborhood demographics (a euphemistic way to say "there went the neighborhood").

Frankly, as I see it, the primary reason for many of the dead, dying -or redeveloped- malls is simply this...there were simply too many built in the United States during the 1970s and '80s. It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that a medium-sized American city such as Toledo, Ohio could only -realistically- support one large fully-enclosed shopping mall. FOUR opened in the metropolitan area between 1969 and 1980, so it was inevitable that some would eventually fail. Just one -FRANKLIN PARK MALL- remains in business today.

This shopping mall malaise, a hangover from the nation's overbuilding binge, has been repeated in over-malled cities and towns from coast to coast over the past two decades.

Along with all of the over development done during the 1970s and '80s, a few other -hitherto unrevealed- dead mall generators might be mentioned. There has been a precipitous drop in our buying power since 1970. The end result was that the typical American did not have as much disposable income as they did during the halcyon years of the nation's suburbanization and shopping mall development.

With less discretionary income, John Q. Public could no longer afford to shop at the typical mall as much, where prices for merchandise were higher due to "common area fees" levied on all tenants. These surcharges paid for mallway maintenance and heating and cooling of the areas. In the 1950s, '60s and early '70s, electric power was plentiful and cheap.

This changed drastically during the mid-1970s, when monthly power bills began to escalate (and never stopped!). This inevitably caused the prices for mall-bought merchandise to rise, while -at the same time- the purchasing power of the general public was shrinking. In essence, the underpinnings of the dead mall syndrome were being established, although they would not manifest themselves for several years.

After some 20 years of over development and market saturation, "Grade C" and "D" shopping malls in America were dead and dying. By the late 1990s, demolition crews -ripping down once-vibrant centers of commerce- were being seen more and more.
Photo from Mike Cohen

As previously mentioned, the standard American mall went through various changes during the 1980s, with a marked shift toward more upscale tenantry. As some malls began to decline in the 1990s, a new manifestation of retail was emerging. Known as the "lifestyle center", it had first appeared in the spring of 1987, under the auspices of Greater Memphis' SHOPS OF SADDLE CREEK

The lifestyle center dispensed with the fully-enclosed, weather-protected ("perpetual springtime") mall concept that had been popularized during the 1960s and '70s. Lifestyle centers were open-air, much smaller in scale and fully upscale. The "huge shopping center in the middle of a sea of parking" model from the mid-20th century was now obsolete...or so it was told.

The "new and improved" shopping complex -the lifestyle center- had a substantially smaller footprint than a standard mall and was configured so shoppers could (supposedly) park directly in front of a particular store.  Heaven help it if one had to actually walk any distance while shopping!

In the brave new -new millennium- world, nobody had the time to walk,  peruse or people watch, as they would have done years before. Now it was rush, rush, rush! In other words, get in the store, buy whatever and hurry off to some other appointment or obligation, all the while driving and chatting (simultaneously) on a cell phone.

Due to its compact footprint and lack of a heated and cooled common area, the lifestyle center cost less to build and operate. It supposedly produced higher sales per square foot figures than the traditional mall...although one wouldn't be able to tell by the prices of the merchandise!

In a contemporary site plan of Memphis' THE SHOPS OF SADDLE CREEK, one sees the typical layout of a lifestyle-type complex. Inline stores are small (in the 1,000 to 7,000 square foot range). The entire -three-structure- complex encompasses only 137,500 leasable square feet.

Minnesota's SHOPPES AT ARBOR LAKES lifestyler center typifies the genre with its lush landscaping, toney tenants and trendy architecture.
Photo from Wikipedia / "MgWiki"

In a nutshell, the quaint, "old timey downtown" lifestyle center was IN, while the gargantuan, "obsolete" shopping mall was OUT. The word "mall" even became something of a 4-letter word in segments of the retail industry. All the while, new lifestyle-like developments poured on the pretense with snazzy-sounding names, such as shopPES, centRE or pointE.

No, we didn't mess up and post a blank image, lol. Amidst all of the sensation surrounding the lifestyle center fad, one aspect seems to be (purposely) ignored; mainly, that shoppers are out in the rain or any other inclement weather when going from store to store. Of course, at the standard "obsolete" shopping mall, this is not the case. We had a hunch and did several Google searches to try and find even ONE photo of a snowed-in -or rain-soaked- lifestyle center. There were none to be represented by the non-photo above.

The evolution of the retail industry in the 1980s brought forth yet another new concept in shopping centers; the "power center" or "stretch mall". 280 METRO CENTER, America's first quote-unquote power center, began business, in the San Mateo suburbs of San Francisco, in 1986.

Like the lifestyle center, the power center was open-air. The big difference was that the power center was not filled with small, exclusive, boutique-type shoppes and bistros, but with large big box stores and smaller inline tenants.

In essence, our "power plaza" was a discount-oriented hodgepodge of retailers, usually surrounding a large parking area. The power center shopper could, and probably did, drive directly to the front of each store they wanted to shop at and would get in the car, and endure parking lot pandemonium, to drive directly to another store at the other end of the complex. Walking between these destinations, as one would do in a conventional mall, was strictly out!

Stores in suburban San Francisco's 280 METRO CENTER surround its central parking area. In essence, the typical mall in a sea of parking was turned inside out. Big box-type stores in the 213,500 square foot complex encompassed from 13,000 to 30,000 square feet, with inline stores ranging in size from 2,000 to 7,000 square feet. 

A collection of logos for some of the best-known big box stores.

WESTGATE, a power center outside of Cleveland, was built from the remains of a demolished WESTGATE MALL. Stores in the 618,900 square foot "power plaza" were dedicated in 2007 and 2008.
Photo from

As it turns out, the retail industry's zeal to promote the lifestyle center as the "new and improved" thing, while dismissing the enclosed mall as an "old and rotten" dinosaur, proved a bit presumptuous. In a May 5, 2011 write-up on the NATIONAL REAL ESTATE INVESTOR website, 

it was revealed that, during our recent recession, the American shopping mall fared much better than would ever have been imagined just a few years ago. In fact, sales per square foot figures for the fully-enclosed, Grade A, destination-type mall surpassed those of the much ballyhooed lifestyle center!

The facts stated in this article could remind one of other premature obituaries of yore, such as Mark Twain's famous "The report of my death was an exaggeration" quotation. Obviously, those many dire predictions for the eminent demise of the mall as we know it were not much more than wishful thinking on the part of various lifestyle center developers.

Of course, not every single mall out there is on solid ground. Many of the lesser "Grade C" and "D" ones will eventually go under, if they haven't already. But, the high-end destination-type mall is here to stay.

Since the mid-1990s, some have been saying that all shopping malls in America are dead or dying. This half-fact is often repeated by the clueless news media, who -apparently- no longer do objective and investigative journalism...but just repeat, in verbatim, what comes over the wire service.

"Malls are dead" detractors say online shopping will eventually do in "brick & mortar" retail. However, a few pertinent facts are being overlooked. First, buying certain things online (such as dvds, music or electronics) can work out ok. However, one cannot try on clothing or shoes, and can end up sending an item back a time or two to finally get the right one. Secondly, lots of Fashionista-type ladies savor the experience of shopping in an actual store, something that just doesn't transfer over to buying stuff (that you cannot touch, feel or try on) on a computer.
Graphic from Wikipedia / "Jbarta"

So, if all malls are dead or dying, why is it that...

-Recently completed a 200 million dollar expansion-

-Just wrapped up a 200 million dollar renovation-

-Has a 600 million dollar remodeling in progress-

-Completed a 573 million renovation in late 2016-

If brick and mortar malls are all dead or dying, why are so many mall owners doing multi-million dollar renovations? The four properties mentioned are but a few examples of our nation's many thriving -and expanding- destination-type malls.

Drawings 1 & 2 from (Simon Property Group)
Drawing 3 from (Westfield Corporation)
Drawing 4 from (General Growth Properties)
Retail Traffic website
US News & World Report "America's Most Endangered Malls"
Wikipedia "Home Shopping Network", "Online Retailing" and "Dot Com Bubble" articles


The graphics of various retail stores used in this article help illustrate a key moment in retail history that is described in the article. The images are of lower resolution than the originals (copies made would be of inferior quality). The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.
Bradenton's Cortez Plaza

The Tampa Bay Area's first mall-type shopping hub, "The Crossroads of the Suncoast", was promoted with this logo.
Graphic from The Sarasota Herald Tribune

An opening day announcement from February 1959. Although advertised here as a (quote-unquote) "air cooled mall", the complex was fully open-air. The interiors of stores were fully air-conditioned, which was still a major selling point in the late 1950s.
Advert from the Sarasota Herald Tribune

The camera looks toward the east in this view of the mall's reflecting pool and Belk-Lindsey anchor store. This black & white photo, and those that follow, were taken in November 1959.
Photo from Library of Congress

The vantage point moves southward in this snapshot.
Photo from Library of Congress