Appleton's Valley Fair Center

"The first weather-protected shopping center in the nation", so  proclaimed the Appleton Post-Crescent, on March 9, 1955. VALLEY FAIR CENTER, in the northern hinterlands of the Dairy State, holds the distinction of being America's first community-class, fully-enclosed shopping mall. SOUTHDALE CENTER, outside Minneapolis, became the nation's first regional-class, fully-enclosed mall in October 1956.
Advert From the Appleton Post-Crescent

A 1950s nuclear family enjoys a fully-enclosed shopping spree at the new VALLEY FAIR CENTER.
Photo from the Appleton Post-Crescent

An eastward view of the mallway, with W.T. Grant off in the distance.
Photo from the Appleton Post-Crescent

The Center Court area and Main Entrance. Obviously, there was some cool Mid-Century Modern style going on here!
Photo from the Appleton Post-Crescent

A circa-1955 view of the West Wing and its Krambo Foods supermarket. The store would be rebranded as a Kroger in 1963.
Photo from the Appleton Post-Crescent

The mall's original footprint. The official grand opening was held, with eighteen stores, in March 1955. There were thirty-six retail spaces in the fully-leased complex. Its parking area could accommodate 1,500 autos.

The shuttering of Grants in 1975 created a major vacancy. This was filled when an expansion was done in 1977-1978. A new Kohl's and Kohl's Foods were built on the east end of the existing structure, with the Grants space being expanded and refitted with twenty inline stores. A tri-plex cinema was also added to the south side of the mall.

An exterior view of an abandoned shopping center. This was taken the year before the mall had its August 2007 destiny date with the wrecking ball. The circa-1955 structure was razed, leaving the late '70s addition standing. This would be knocked down a few years later, leaving only the cinema intact.
Photo from Wikipedia / "Royalbroil"

South Memorial Drive and West Calumet Street
Winnebago County (Appleton), Wisconsin

Where was America's first fully-enclosed, climate-controlled shopping center? Most mid-20th century historians would cite SOUTHDALE CENTER, in Edina, Minnesota, as the nation's first interior mall. This complex opened for business October 8, 1956.

However, a little-known retail establishment in Northeastern Wisconsin's Fox Cities area would probably qualify as the nation's first suburban-style mall. VALLEY FAIR CENTER was officially dedicated March 10, 1955, well over a year before business began at Minnesota's SOUTHDALE.

Work commenced on the Wisconsin retail hub on July 1, 1953. The mini-mall was built on a 26.8 acre parcel, located 1 mile south of downtown Appleton. The site was originally within a section of unincorporated Winnebago County known as Town of Menesha.

VALLEY FAIR CENTER was developed by Hoffman Shopping Centers, Incorporated of Appleton and designed by George Narovec. There were six stores in business by October 1954. At the official grand opening, held March 10, 1955, eighteen were in business.

By 1956, an additional eighteen store spaces along the enclosed corridor and "Central Mall" were occupied. The 1 million dollar shopping complex encompassed approximately 150,000 leasable square feet. It was comprised of a single retail level and 10,000 square foot (upper level)  office mezzanine.

VALLEY FAIR CENTER had parking space for 1,500 hundred cars. The facility was anchored on the west by a 1-level (20,000 square foot) Krambo Foods supermarket. On the east was a 1-level (20,000 square foot) W.T. Grant "junior department store".

Charter tenants included Walgreen Drug, Badger Paint & Hardware, Three Sister's ladies' wear, House of Cards, Eddie's Self-service Liquor and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

The Krambo chain was acquired by the Cincinnati-based Kroger Company in June 1955. The twenty-five Krambo stores would retain their original nameplate until 1962, when a Kroger-Krambo brand appeared. This was phased out in 1963, when all Kroger-Krambo operations were rebranded as Kroger stores.

The VALLEY FAIR Kroger was shuttered in 1971, with the store space being leased to an independent grocer. Grants shut down March 15, 1975. Its vacant area was soon gutted and incorporated into a new East Wing.

This housed a 1-level (78,000 square foot), Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based Kohl's department store and (33,000 square foot) Kohl's Foods supermarket. Twenty new retail spaces were created in the old Grants space and an adjacent addition.

As part of the expansion project, the decor of the original mallway was given a 1970s "earth tone" update. The renovation was officially dedicated in the fall of 1978. A second construction phase added the Marcus Theatres Valley Fair Cinemas I-II-III to the south side of the mall. This venue showed its first features in December 1979.

The first competition for VALLEY FAIR CENTER came in 1983, when NORTHLAND CENTER {3.1 miles north, in Appleton} was renovated into the partially-enclosed NORTHLAND MALL. In 1984, FOX RIVER MALL {3.1 miles northwest, in Outagamie County} was dedicated.

As these shopping hubs were being developed, the City of Appleton was preparing to annex the VALLEY FAIR CENTER site. This was accomplished on December 9, 1983.

By the early 1990s, competition from the regional-class FOX RIVER MALL had sent the VALLEY FAIR complex into a downward spiral. It would be bought and sold several times over the ensuing years.

Meanwhile, the mall's multiplex had been expanded and reconfigured as a 6-plex venue in the late 1980s. It was renamed, as the Valley Value Cinemas, in 1996. Kohl's department store was shuttered in March 2000. The adjoining Kohl's Foods had been converted to Foods Basic, a limited-brand low-price point grocery, in 1995.

This store was out of business by 2002, with a flea market being set up in the space. Several slots in the mall were vacant by this time. A plan to energize the aging center was undertaken. A non-profit organization, known as Youth Futures, sought to reinvent VALLEY FAIR as a "teen mall".

The vacant Kohl's department stores were divided into an indoor skateboarding track and live band venue and local "family-oriented" retailers were contracted to fill the remaining retail spaces within the 239,100 square foot complex. Unfortunately, this initiative was unsuccessful.

Youth Futures sold the virtually vacant property to Wisconsin-based VF Partners in February 2006. VF Partners, a joint venture between Commercial Horizons, Rollie Winter Associates and Bomier Properties, demolished the remaining circa-1950s mall in August 2007, leaving only the cinema, a freestanding Chase Bank and vacant Kohl's stores standing.

The plan was to redevelop the site as a mixed-use office and retail complex, tentatively named VALLEY FAIR CENTER. The old Kohl's buildings were to be renovated and worked in with new structures. This plan was never carried out.

In October 2009, it was announced that a (70,000 square foot) Copps Food Center was to be built at the mall site. The Kohl's buildings were razed and replaced by the new supermarket, which held its grand opening June 12, 2010.

On September 7, 2015, the Valley Value Cinemas was shuttered. The Copps Food Center was rebranded, as a Pick 'n Save supermarket, in November 2016.


Appleton Post Crescent / "18 Stores In Valley Fair's Biggest Preview Starting Thursday" / March 9, 1955
"Valley Fair" article on Wikipedia
"Kohl's" article on Wikipedia
Appleton Post-Crescent / "Valley Fair Redevelopment Plan Announced, Good Portion Of The Building To Come Tumbling Down In July" / Maureen Wallenfang, staff writer / June 9, 2006


The images from The Appleton Post-Crescent illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The graphic image is of lower resolution than the original (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.
Birmingham's Eastwood Mall

"A masterpiece of shopping luxury never before seen in the Deep South", so proclaimed the headlines commemorating the opening of EASTWOOD MALL, in the summer of 1960.

A physical layout of the circa-'60 center. The complex encompassed 320,300 leasable square feet, forty-three inline stores and had a 2,200-car capacity parking lot. At its official dedication in August, it held the distinction of being the third-largest interior mall in the United States (Minneapolis' SOUTHDALE CENTER and Dallas' BIG TOWN MALL occupied the number 1 and 2 positions).


Alabama ABC Liquor Store / Aladdin Cleaners / Beauty Unlimited / Bell Brothers Shoes / City Federal Savings & Loan / Colonial Stores supermarket / Duane's Shoes / Eastwood Barber Shop / Eastwood Mall Public Auditorium / Exchange-Security Bank / Friend Sisters ladies' wear / Gordon's Jewelers / Happy House Shops / J.C. Penney / J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 (with luncheonette) / Jones-Lawless men's wear / Kinney Shoes / Kroger supermarket / Lace & Fabric Mart / LaGroue Seed & Pet Shop / Lerner Shops / Liggett Rexall Drug (with luncheonette) / Mall Cafe / Mall Gift Cards / Mall Record Shop & Appliance Center / Mazer's For Modern Birmingham Furniture / Michael's restaurant / Olan Mills Studio / Riddle's ladies' & children's apparel / S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 (with luncheonette) / The Gold Bow / Top Value Stamps Redemption Center / 24-Hour Coin Laundry / Wendy's Sportswear / Western Auto 


Eastwood Bowling Center / Eastwood Mall go-kart track / Kiddieland amusement area

An interior view of the original EASTWOOD mallway. In the foreground is a bird aviary, which was a standard fixture in America's early enclosed shopping centers.
Photo from Josh Brasseale

The Eastwood Mall Theatre, which was the first addition to the retail hub. The single-screen venue opened on Christmas Day 1964.

A two-page spread announces the grand opening of the EASTWOOD Pizitz, which was held in August 1966. This was the first bona fide anchor store at the mall.
Advert from

EASTWOOD MALL, as it was configured after two 1960s additions. The shopping center now encompassed over 650,000 leasable square feet and housed seventy stores under one roof. It was promoted as the largest fully-enclosed shopping mall in the South.

EASTWOOD MALL circa-1981. Although the structure has not been physically expanded since 1966, much interior space has been reconfigured. The supermarkets are gone, along with Penney's and Pizitz. The movie house was twinned in 1974. The retail facility now houses fifty-nine stores and services, with thirteen businesses in its periphery.


PARISIAN-EAST / PARISIAN'S YOUNG WORLD / SERVICE MERCHANDISE / ECKERD DRUG / BLACH'S / YIELDING'S / J.J. NEWBERRY 5 & 10 /  Alabama Farm Bureau Insurance / Aland's / Aland's Shoes / Baskin-Robbin's Ice Cream / Big Al's Machine Shop / Birmingham Coin & Stamp / Book World / Burch & Tant - June's Brides / Chancey's Bakery / City Federal Savings & Loan / Cobb Travel Services / Deb's Hallmark / Dick Reese's Piano & Organ Salon / Eastwood Mall Beauty Shop / Eastwood Mall Coin-Op Laundry / Eastwood Mall Shoe Repair / Eastwood Mall Style Shop / Eastwood Mall Theatre (twin-screen) / Eastwood Portrait Artists / Flowers III (kiosk) / First Alabama Bank / Friend Sisters / Good Housekeeping / Goodyear Tire & Auto / Household Finance / Jefferson Home Furniture / Jones-Lawless men's wear / Kinney Shoes / Lerner Shops / Lorch's Jewelry / Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio / Mr. Gatti's Pizza / Olan Mills Studio / Optician's Incorporated (kiosk) / Opus II / Oz Records / Pasquale's Pizza / Pioneer Cafeteria / Rosenberger's Birmingham Trunk / Saxton's Candy (kiosk) / Simmons' Personnel / Singer Sewing Center / Star Hardware / Storkland / Sumo's Japanese Steakhouse / Terry Town / The Fireplace / The Leather Shack / Wendy's sportswear / Wrangler Wranch  

Aeromarine / Arby's restaurant / Birmingham National Bank / Eastwood Mall Bowling Center / Jack's restaurant / Kelly's Hamburgers restaurant / Krispy Kreme Doughnuts / Shoney's Big Boy restaurant / McAdams Carpet / McDonald's restaurant / T.P. Crockmier's

EASTWOOD MALL, following its 1989-1990 renovation. A new Parisian had been built -vertically- into the 1960 part of the mall. A 10-bay Food Court had also been installed at the center of the center.

A view of the mall's dramatic Food Court. This image was taken in 2004, after mall corridors had been closed to public access.
Photo from Russell Wells

The Food Court video wall, composed of eighty-seven individual TV screens, was a very '90s shopping mall feature!
Photo from Russell Wells

A parting EASTWOOD view. Here we see stores in EASTWOOD VILLAGE, the power plaza the replaced EASTWOOD MALL in 2007.
Photo from Eastwood Village Flyer / Retail Specialists
Crestwood Boulevard / US 78 and Oporto Avenue (Oporto Madrid Boulevard)
Birmingham, Alabama

The first fully-enclosed shopping center in the Southeast, North Carolina's CHARLOTTETOWN MALL, opened for business in October 1959. EASTWOOD MALL, the Southland's second enclosed retail complex, was officially dedicated in August 1960.

Alabama's "Magic City" was obviously more progressive- retail-wise- than Atlanta, Georgia, which did not have an enclosed mall until 5 years later. Moreover, by opening a climate-controlled shopping center as early as 1960, Birmingham jumped ahead of megacities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC; all of whom dedicated their first enclosed malls between 1962 and 1967.

EASTWOOD MALL was situated on a 55 acre tract, located 4 miles east of downtown Birmingham. This million dollar "merchandising city of the future" was envisaged by local drive-in theater operator Newman H. Waters. The complex was designed by Willard L. Thorsen, of Minneapolis, who also envisaged the Twin Cities' APACHE PLAZA (1961).

The official dedication of EASTWOOD MALL was held on August 25, 1960. In attendance were Governor John M. Patterson (D), James Morgan, Mayor of Birmingham, and entertainer Vaughan Monroe.

EASTWOOD originally encompassed 320,300 leasable square feet and housed forty-three inline stores. The mall was anchored by a (35,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. There were also Kroger and Colonial supermarkets, a Liggett Rexall Drug, ABC State Liquor Store, (29,100 square foot) S.S. Kresge and (34,800 square foot) J.J. Newberry.

The shopping facility was situated on a single retail level, but included a two hundred-seat auditorium on a small upper level. The J.C. Penney and J.J. Newberry stores also had small upper floors, which were not used as retail space. A Kiddieland amusement area, go-kart track and Space Age Eastwood Bowl bowling alley were outparcels of the original mall.

The Waters Theatre Company Eastwood Mall Theatre was the first structure added to the complex. This single-screen venue opened on December 25, 1964 and was the first phase of a 100,000 square foot, west end expansion. Completed in December 1965, the addition included a cafeteria, furniture store and Goodyear Tire & Appliance Center, as well as a second level of leased office spaces.

As the western addition was nearing completion, a 200,000 square foot expansion of the east end of the mall got underway. This would house twelve stores and services. A 2-level (89,700 square foot), Birmingham-based Pizitz was dedicated on August 18, 1966. With completion of the east end enlargement, EASTWOOD MALL encompassed over 650,000 leasable square feet and contained sixty-three stores under its roof.

The adjacent Starlite Drive-In Theatre closed in 1968. Its 14-acre site was redeveloped as EASTWOOD PLAZA, a strip center anchored by a (100,000 square foot) Kmart. As this new discount store opened, the existing S.S. Kresge in EASTWOOD MALL was shuttered. The vacant 5 & 10, and adjacent store space, were gutted. A (35,000 square foot), Birmingham-based Parisian department store was created, which opened for business on October 30, 1969.

The mall's Colonial supermarket had been rebranded as a Hill's Food Store in late 1960. By 1969, it was operating as a Winn-Dixie. 1969 also brought the completion of Birmingham's second enclosed shopping hub, WESTERN HILLS CENTER {11.6 miles southwest, in Fairfield}.

In 1970, the interior of EASTWOOD MALL was given a face lift. A suspended ceiling was installed in the main corridor, sealing off the original clerestory windows, and its common area was carpeted. The Kroger supermarket closed in 1971, with its space being used for an expanded furniture store. The theater was divided into a 2-screen multiplex in 1974.

Between 1973 and 1975, two new enclosed shopping centers opened; BROOKWOOD VILLAGE CENTER {4.6 miles southwest, in Homewood} and CENTURY PLAZA {.1 mile northwest, in Birmingham}. The EASTWOOD J.C. Penney relocated to CENTURY PLAZA in 1976. The old Penney's space was leased as Parisian Young World, a boutique which sold children's attire.

In March 1980, Pizitz vacated EASTWOOD, moving into the former Loveman's anchor spot at CENTURY PLAZA. Service Merchandise opened, in the vacant EASTWOOD Pizitz store, in September of the same year.

Montgomery-based Jim Wilson & Associates acquired EASTWOOD MALL in September 1984. At this time, the company was developing RIVERCHASE GALLERIA {11.1 miles southwest, in Hoover}. This 1.2 million square foot, superregional center opened in February 1986 and immediately put the hurt on all existing Magic City malls.

In order to keep their EASTWOOD property competitive, Wilson & Associates embarked on an 8.1 million dollar renovation in June 1989. The middle section of the mall was gutted and rebuilt as a 2-story Food Court. Moreover, a 2-level (130,000 square foot) Parisian was built -diagonally- into the existing structure. The exterior was also updated. The renewed, 750,000 square foot, EASTWOOD MALL was re-dedicated in late 1990.

The renovation failed to halt the mall's decline. This was exacerbated in October 1997, with the completion of THE SUMMIT {5.3 miles southwest, in Birmingham}. By the dawn of the 21st century, EASTWOOD MALL was virtually vacant. Its interior corridors were closed on August 1, 2004. Six stores with outside access remained in business.

Parisian was one the last to go. This store, which was only 14 years old, closed in January 2005. By mid-2006, EASTWOOD MALL was being bulldozed. Within months, the nation's fifth fully-enclosed, regional-class shopping mall was a pile of rubble.

Construction began on the new EASTWOOD VILLAGE in November 2006. This open-air power center, built by Birmingham-based MAP Development, was anchored by a 1-level (195,800 square foot) Wal-Mart SuperCenter. This store opened for business October 22, 2007. Other tenants in the 50 million dollar retail venue included Old Navy, Ross Dress For Less and a Ruby Tuesday restaurant.

Sources: / "Eastwood Mall" / Russell Wells
"Eastwood Mall" article on Wikipedia / resources / "Digital Project Eastwood Mall" / Birmingham Public Library
"50 Million Project Half Leased" / Birmingham News / June 29, 2006 / Michael Tomberlin, staff writer

Another mid-century housewife-type drudgery would be doing the family laundry. Only the more well-to-do would enjoy the luxury of owning one of the new-fangled automatic washers and dryers. Everyone else would have probably bought their wringer-type washing machine at the local Sears or "Monkey Wards".

The electric wringer washer had been introduced in 1907. Up into the late 1960s, a machine -such as the Maytag Master seen here- was the way many American mothers cleaned the family laundry. 

The wringer washer would have to be manually filled with water, using a garden hose. With dirty laundry in place inside the tub of the machine and detergent added, an agitator lever, or button, would be flipped "on". Mom could agitate the clothes for as long as desired, but there was no "automatic" setting.

When the clothes had been agitated sufficiently, every piece had to be run between the two rubber rollers of the wringer apparatus. Many a time, a kid would get their hand or arm caught in the wringer, causing an emergency situation for the family.

The articles of clothing would then go into a separate tub of rinse water and then be run though the wringer a second time. Then, everything would need to be hung out to dry on the typical, backyard clothes line.

With clothes all dried and taken down, then mom would have to spend at least a couple more hours ironing everything. With all that was entailed with homemaking in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, is it any wonder that it was highly unusual for any one's mom to work a regular job back then?

The Model S, the first automatic washing machine, was introduced (by South Bend, Indiana's Bendix Company) in 1937. Automatic machines, which laundered clothes and then spun them nearly dry, would not become commonplace for several years.

In fact, it would take until the end of World War II for the major appliance manufacturers to introduce their first automatic (sans wringer) models; Sears-Kenmore and Frigidaire in 1947...Whirlpool in 1948. It would take nearly two additional decades for the automatic washer and dryer combo to be a standard fixture in the typical American home.

Above, we see two renderings of circa-1948 automatic (sans wringer) washers. The Frigidaire Fully Automatic model, seen in the first rendering, came with the hefty price of $329.75! The cost of General Electric's All Automatic machine is not divulged in the advert.
Drawings from The Miami News and (St. Petersburg) Evening Independent

A full page ad, dated June 6, 1949, hailing the new Bendix Economat machine. Its thrifty price -of just $179.95- must have made it a hot-selling item!
 Advert from The Spokane Daily Chronicle 

After World War II drew to a close in 1945, America experienced an economic boom, the likes of which has not been witnessed before or since. An enormous housing shortage created the need for large-scale, suburban housing developments.

The "Pre-Fab" (pre-fabricated tract house) became the norm. One would have a plat with -maybe- one thousand houses all being built at the same time...or at least in rapid succession. These would surely consist of only four different models; the oblong ranch with picture window, the oblong ranch with bay window, the L-shaped ranch (with neither) or the "split" or "tri" level.

The typical, suburban ranch house of the 1950s, housing the standard "nuclear family" of 2.5 children. Homeowners today might freak at the price of this brand-new home in went for only $15,800!
Drawing from The Milwaukwee Journal