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.

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
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 Wisconsin's Fox Cities area would actually qualify as the first. 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 Appleton's downtown area. The site, originally within the city limits of Menasha, was eventually annexed into Appleton.

VALLEY FAIR CENTER was designed by Appleton's George Narovec and developed by Hoffman Shopping Centers, Incorporated. There were six stores in business by October 1954. At the official grand opening in March 1955, eighteen stores were inline. There were an additional eighteen spaces along the enclosed corridor and Center Court, which were leased over the following year. The 1 million dollar shopping complex consisted of a single retail level and 10,000 square foot office mezzanine.

VALLEY FAIR had parking space for 1,500 hundred cars and 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". There were also a Walgreen Drug, F.W. Woolworth and hardware store, as well as several apparel shoppes, two shoe stores, a furniture outlet, bakery, dry cleaner, beauty salon and liquor store.

The Krambo chain was acquired by the Cincinnati-based Kroger Company in June 1955. The twenty-five existing Krambo stores would retain their original nameplate until 1962, when a "Kroger Krambo" brand appeared. This was phased out in 1963...when all former Krambo stores (including the VALLEY FAIR location) were rebranded as Krogers. These were shuttered in 1971. Eventually, the old Krambo-Kroger at VALLEY FAIR would be demolished. 

Grants was shuttered March 15, 1975. An addition was built on the mall's east end in the late 1970s, which incorporated the vacant Grants. The new Northeast Wing included 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. The decor of the original mallway was also given a 1970s "earth tone" update. The renovation was officially dedicated in the fall of 1978.

The 3-screen Valley Fair Cinema, added to the south side of the mall, had opened for business in July 1978. This was made into a 6-plex venue in the 1980s and was renamed, as the Marcus Valley Value Cinema, in 1996.

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. This fully-enclosed, superregional complex resulted in an even greater loss of business, and tenants, for VALLEY FAIR CENTER. It would be bought and sold several times over the next 15 years.

By the turn of the century, VALLEY FAIR was in serious trouble. 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 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 "youth mall". The old Kohl's store 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 mall.

Unfortunately, this initiative was unsuccessful. Youth Futures sold its interest in the complex 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 and vacant Kohl's 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 was to be renovated and worked in with new structures. However, this plan was not 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 structure was razed, with the new supermarket holding its grand opening June 12, 2010.


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 350,000 leasable square feet, with thirty-nine inline stores. At its official dedication in August, it held the distinction of being the third-largest interior mall in the United States...following Minneapolis' SOUTHDALE CENTER and Dallas' BIG TOWN MALL.

An interior shot of the original EASTWOOD. In the foreground is a bird aviary, a standard fixture in America's early enclosed malls.
Photo provided by Josh Brasseale

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

An advert announcing the grand opening of the EASTWOOD Pizitz, which was held August 18, 1966. This was the first bona fide anchor store at the mall.
Ad from

EASTWOOD MALL, as it was configured after three 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 circa-1981. Although the structure had not been physically expanded since 1966, much interior store space had been reconfigured. The supermarkets were gone, along with Pizitz and Penney's. The movie house had been twinned in 1974. The mall directory now featured fifty-four stores and services


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

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

The interior of the Food Court. This was taken in 2004, after mall corridors had been closed to public access.
Photo provided by Russell Wells

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

Crestwood Boulevard / US 78 and Oporto Madrid Boulevard
Birmingham, Alabama

The first fully-enclosed shopping hub in the Southeast, North Carolina's CHARLOTTETOWN MALL, opened for business October 28, 1959. EASTWOOD MALL, the second enclosed retail complex in the Southeast, began business in Birmingham, Alabama on August 25, 1960.

Alabama's "Magic City" was apparently more progressive than its larger urban rival, Atlanta, Georgia, which did not have an enclosed mall until 4 years later. Moreover, by opening a climate-controlled shopping center as early as 1960, Birmingham also beat such megacities as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC; all of whom opened their first regional-class, interior malls between the years 1962 and 1967.

EASTWOOD MALL was situated on a 33 acre tract, 4 miles east of downtown Birmingham. This million dollar "merchandising city of the future" was envisaged by local developer Newman H. Waters. Upon its grand opening, there were forty-three inline stores and services in the mall proper and its outparcels.

Originally encompassing 350,000 leasable square feet, the complex was anchored by a 2-level (80,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. There were also S.S. Kresge and J.J. Newberry 5 & 10s, Kroger and Colonial supermarkets, a Liggett Drug and liquor store.

EASTWOOD, and its two thousand five hundred space parking area, were situated on a single level, with a two hundred-seat auditorium on a second level, at the northeast corner of the mall. The J.C. Penney and J.J. Newberry stores had second levels, as well, which were not used as retail space. There were also a Googie-style bowling alley, mini-amusement park and go-kart track as outparcels of the mall proper.

The first addition to EASTWOOD, an eight hundred-seat, single-screen movie theater, opened December 25, 1964. This was the first phase of a 100,000 square foot, west end addition that was completed in December 1965. It included a cafeteria, furniture store and Goodyear Tire & Appliance Center, as well as a second level that housed leased office spaces.

As this western addition was nearing completion, a 200,000 square foot expansion onto the east end of the mall was underway. This featured a 2-level (100,000 square foot), Birmingham-based Pizitz, a second cafeteria, 2-level Blach's apparel and nine additional stores. With the completion of this east end addition in 1966, EASTWOOD MALL encompassed over 650,000 square feet of retail area and housed seventy stores.

In 1969, an outparcel strip center was built to the east of the mall, which included a Kmart. On the inside of EASTWOOD, changes were in the making. A 1-level (44,100 square foot) Birmingham-based Parisian department store had set up shop, taking the vacated Kresge spot. The Colonial supermarket was rebranded as a Hill's Food ...than a Winn-Dixie. Barber's Cafeteria had re-opened under the Pioneer nameplate. 1969 also saw the completion of Birmingham's second enclosed shopping hub, WESTERN HILLS CENTER {11.6 miles southwest, in Fairfield}.

Around the time of the tenth anniversary of EASTWOOD MALL, a minor facelift was given to the interior of the shopping center. A suspended ceiling was installed in the main corridor, sealing off the original clerestory windows, and its common area was carpeted. The Kroger 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 in the region; BROOKWOOD VILLAGE CENTER {4.6 miles southwest, in Homewood} and CENTURY PLAZA {.1 mile northwest, in Birmingham}. The EASTWOOD J.C. Penney relocated into the new CENTURY PLAZA. Parisian filled the old Penney's space at EASTWOOD with "Parisian Young World", which sold children's attire.

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

The mall held on for the remainder of the 1980s, even though it faced a major new shopping mall competitor in the area. RIVERCHASE GALLERIA {11.1 miles southwest, in Hoover} was a 1.2 million square foot, superregional center. It opened to much fanfare on February 19, 1986. Competition from the RIVERCHASE development prompted the owners of EASTWOOD to begin a major renovation of their shopping center in 1989.

The middle section of the mall was gutted and a dazzling, 2-story Food Court installed in its place. A 2-level (130,000 square foot) Parisian was built -diagonally- into the existing structure. Likewise, the exterior of the existing mall was renovated. The new-style -750,000 square foot- EASTWOOD MALL was dedicated in 1990.

The renovation failed to halt the mall's decline. This was exacerbated in 1997, with the completion of THE SUMMIT {5.3 miles southwest, in Birmingham}. By the late 1990s, EASTWOOD MALL was struggling for tenants.

By 2004, the mall was almost completely vacant. Its interior corridors were closed and only those stores having outside access were still open for business. The Parisian location was among the last to go. This store, which was only 14 years old, closed in January 2005. By mid-2006, EASTWOOD 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 555,800 square foot, open-air power center was built by Birmingham-based MAP Development. It was anchored by a 1-level (195,800 square foot) Wal-Mart SuperCenter, which opened October 22, 2007. Other inline tenants in the 50 million dollar shopping 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