Cincinnati's Swifton Center  

A circa-1951 rendering of -what would become- the Queen City's first shopping mall.           
Drawing from the Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal, 1951 / Varady's Research Archive

A circa-1951 site plan of the shopping center and neighboring Swifton Village Apartments. The residential complex (but not the shopping center) was once owned by Donald Trump.
Drawing from the Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal, 1951 / Varady's Research Archive

Another circa-1951 plan; this for the Upper / Mall Level of the prospective retail center. This layout was substantially altered for the project that was eventually constructed. 
Drawing from the Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal, 1951 / Varady's Research Archive

The original SWIFTON CENTER plan included an 11-story office tower, to be built on a site south of the mall proper, on Langdon Farm Road. The building and shopping complex were to be connected via the elevated walkway seen here.
Drawing from the Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal, 1951 / Varady's Research Archive

A storefront in the shopping center-to-be.
Drawing from the Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal, 1951 / Varady's Research Archive

Here we see something that actually was built at the SWIFTON CENTER site. A new Rollman's department store is nearly ready to open for business in the 1956 photo. It would anchor the south end of the mall for 4 years.
Photo from the Cincinnati Enquirer

A physical layout of SWIFTON CENTER, which opened for business in October 1956. The open-air complex, which housed 486,000 leasable square feet, was hailed as a "shopper's dream world".

ROLLMAN'S (1956-1960) -MABLEY & CAREW (1960-1975) -ELDER BEERMAN (1975-1990) / S.S. KRESGE (wuth luncheonette) / G.C. MURPHY 5 & 10 (with luncheonette) / KROGER supermarket / LIBERAL supermarket / WALGREEN DRUG (with luncheonette) / The Colony Restaurant-Dragon Inn Chinese Restaurant / The Manor Cafeteria / Graeter's Bakery & Ice Cream Shoppe / The Honeycomb / Orange Julius / Maud Miller Candies / Franklin Simon / Lerner Shops / Lillian's ladies' wear / Casual Corner ladies' wear / Max's Gentry Shop men's wear / Squire men's wear / National Shirt Shop / Richman Brothers men's wear / Garson's children's wear / Schiff Shoes / Florsheim Shoes / Thom McAn Shoes / Ludwig's Shoes / Baker's Shoes / Eppy's Jewelry / Singer Sewing Center / Fifth Third Bank / Carlson's Hardware / Wilson's Paints / Top Value Trading Stamps Redemption Center / Numark Melody Shop / Marlboro Books / Marx Toys / Radio Shack

Pasquale's Pizza / Hill's Barber Shop / State Liquor Store / Social Security Administration offices / Electrolux offices / Professional offices

Zooming up to 2009, we have a site plan of the final incarnation of SWIFTON. Now known as JORDAN CROSSING CENTER, it had become a religious-oriented complex, with a newly-built sanctuary, offices for several non-profit organizations and various retail tenants. A large-scale remodeling was proposed but never carried out.

The Allen Temple AME Church, dedicated in May 2004.
Photo from

A view of a Courtyard concourse at JORDAN CROSSING CENTER.
Photo from / Kevin LeMaster

On Thursdays in August, a series of shows, "Jazz At Jordan Crossing", were held in the mall's Courtyard. These were discontinued just before the mall was demolished, in August 2013.
Photo from
Reading Road / US 42 and Seymour Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio

Planning for Cincinnati's first shopping mall was underway in 1950, with a prospectus being completed in April, 1951. In this proposal, a regional shopping center was to be built on a 34 acre site in the Bond Hill district, at what was then the geographic center of Cincinnati and its suburbs.

There was a 5-story office building incorporated into the proposed structure and another 11-story office tower to be built to the south, connected to the main shopping center by elevated walkway. In keeping with the times, a fallout shelter (accommodating 10,000 people) was to be included on the Lower Level of the complex.

The 2-level, open-air shopping center, designed by Knoxville, Tennessee's David Liebman Associates, was developed by the Jonathan Woodner Company. A groundbreaking took place June 10, 1955. SWIFTON CENTER opened October 24, 1956, with 425,000 leasable square feet and a 3,500-car parking area. The two office buildings had been eliminated from the final plan.

Fifty-four retailers operated at the retail hub, which was anchored by a 3-level (140,000 square foot), Cincinnati-based Rollman & Sons. This store was rebranded by Cincinnati-based Mabley & Carew in late 1960 and Dayton-based Elder-Beerman in 1978.

The Upper / Mall Level featured G.C. Murphy and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10's, Walgreen Drug, Gentry Shop For Men, Franklin Simon and Lillian's Dress Shop. A (19,300 square foot) Kroger supermarket was the largest store in the chain at the time of its opening. There was also a Dayton-based Liberal supermarket, the chain's first foray into the Greater Cincinnati market.

The northern section of the Upper Level included the Pee Wee Valley kiddieland amusement area, which had a mini-merry-go-round, mini ferris wheel, boat ride and teeter-copter. On the Lower Level of the mall were a Pasquale's Pizza, State (liquor) Store, Social Security Administration office, Electrolux office and practices for several dentists and physicians.

By the 10th anniversary of SWIFTON CENTER, there were three other shopping malls in Greater Cincinnati; TRI-COUNTY CENTER (1960) {6.9 miles north, in Springdale}, WESTERN WOODS MALL (1966) {9 miles west, in Hamilton County} and KENWOOD MALL (1966) {4.5 miles northeast, in Hamilton County}.

These had been built farther out from the central city and drew a great deal of commerce away from the older retail center. By the late 1970s, SWIFTON had become obsolete....a dead mall. At one time, there were only five tenants in business in a shopping center that had space for nearly seventy.

The center sat practically vacant for several years. Then, a 12 million dollar renovation was undertaken by the Youngstown-based Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation and New Orleans-based Jerome Glazer. A newly-remodeled, and renamed, SWIFTON COMMONS opened in August 1985. An enclosed food court had been installed and the interior mallway was given a facelift. New stores were also recruited, such as Lane Bryant, Kinney Shoes, Waldenbooks and Gold Star Chili.

This effort to revitalize the shopping venue was a complete failure. By the mid-1990s, it was in foreclosure. Elder-Beerman closed its store in late 1995. The complex was sold in 1996, again in 1997, and -for a third time- in 2001.

The final purchase was made by the Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, who attempted to remarket the former SWIFTON COMMONS as an "informational and community service mall of the 21st century".

The complex, which was renamed JORDAN CROSSING CENTER, included a branch of Wilberforce University. Moreover, there were offices for the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency. These occupied the extensively-renovated shell of the old Rollman's / Mabley & Carew / Elder-Beerman anchor store.

A 23,630 square foot sanctuary, the Allen Temple AME Church, was also built on a 4.5 acre section, at the northwest corner of the mall's parking lot. The 9 million dollar structure was dedicated in May 2004. Further renovations to the circa-1956 open-air mall were proposed but never carried out.

In its final years, JORDAN CROSSING CENTER housed retail tenants such as Derrick Allen's Beauty Salon, Deveroes Clothing, Family Printing and Design Center, Image Makers Barber Shop and Ike's BarBQue. There were also offices for three non-profit organizations and five church sanctuaries.

By early 2010, there were redevelopment rumblings concerning the partially vacant -and rapidly deteriorating- shopping mall. The plan was to demolish it and re-utilize the property in some fashion. This plan got a shot in the arm when 23 acres of the mall site were acquired by The Port of Cincinnati in February 2013. The MKSK firm was enlisted to design a mixed-use facility that would cost upward of 75 million dollars.

Demolition of a vacant Burger King, on the north end of the property, got underway in April 2013. Razing of the mall proper, excluding the Allen Temple Church and Rollman's / Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency structures, began in August 2013. The bulk of the mall -and most of its outparcels- were knocked down.

The once-historic shopping center is being replaced by a development known as MIDPOINTE CROSSING. It will include approximately 141,000 square feet of office spaces, 69,500 square feet of retail and a 30,000 square foot supermarket. It is also possible that a 100-room hotel and residential structures will also be built.


Varady's Research Archive, Bond Hill / Album: Swifton Commons / Jonathan Woodner Company Proposal (1951) Branch Store.doc
The Cincinnati Post / "Swifton Mall Orphaned Giant Searching For Market, Future" / Cliff Peale, staff reporter
TGhe Cincinnati Enquirer / "Allen Temple To Build Impressive New Church At Swifton Mall, Evolves As Community Focus" / Allen Howard, staff reporter / "Swifton Commons - 1994 Renovation, Cincinnati, Ohio" / PFB Architects, Incorporated


The photo from The Cincinnati Enquirer illustrates a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The image is of lower resolution than the original (copies made would be of inferior quality). The image is not replaceable with a free-use or public-domain image. The use of the image does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the image in any way. The image is being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and its use is not believed to detract from the original image in any way.
Cincinnati's Tri-County Center

Greater Cincinnati's Space-Age shopopolis. As one can see, in 1960, it was the only development in the surrounding area. A segment of Interstate highway, which was known at the time as the "Circle Freeway", may be seen in the background. Today, this ring road beltway is known as "I-275".
Photo From

Cincinnati's second shopping mall was named for its proximity to three southwestern Ohio counties; Hamilton, Butler and Warren. TRI-COUNTY CENTER encompassed 500,000 leasable square feet and housed fifty-two stores and services. Its parking area could accommodate 4,000 autos.

A new TRI-COUNTY Sears is decked out for its first Christmas season, in December 1967.
Photo from

In 1967-'68, the existing mall was enclosed and expanded with a new Southeast Wing (in dark gray). The aforementioned Sears had also been built. Now officially known as TRI-COUNTY MALL, the complex was the Queen City's third fully-enclosed shopping center.

By the time of this circa-1992 plan, the shopping hub had been given a major reworking. Shillito's had been expanded in the early 1970s and was now a Lazarus. Between 1989 and 1992, the entirety of the shopping hub was double-decked. Two parking garages were built and a new McAlpin's added. TRI-COUNTY MALL now encompassed 1.3 million leasable square feet.

The shuttering of J.C. Penney (in the old Pogue's place) in 2005 created a vacancy that was filled by a rebuild of the store structure. This included Ethan Allen, Krazy City and seven inline store and restaurant spaces. On the north end of the mall, Lazarus was now operating as a Macy's.

Above and below are views of the TRI-COUNTY Center Court Atrium and Fountain.
Photo from "FTN 65"

These features were installed during the 1989-1992 renovation and expansion.
Photo from "FTN 65"

Dillard's acquired Mercantile Stores, based in nearby Fairfield, Ohio, in 1998. In 1999, the Arkansas-based chain rebranded the TRI-COUNTY McAlpin's. Demoted to a Clearance Center in 2013, the store was permanently shuttered in 2015.
Photo from (Developers Diversified Realty)

The mall's Krazy City indoor theme park opened in December 2007...but closed in late 2009.
Photo from Kings Island Central Forums / "CoasterRZ"

In the Twenty-tens, TRI-COUNTY MALL is struggling, but holding its own. A Singapore-based owner came on the scene in 2013 and began renovating the property. Starbucks and Men's Wearhouse stores relocated from inside the mall into an outparcel structure (shown in gray). The main mall entrance was also rebuilt. Still, there was a pesky vacant anchor space (most recently occupied by a Dillard's Clearance Center).
Princeton Pike and Kemper Road
Springdale, Ohio

Greater Cincinnati's second shopping mall was developed by a joint venture of Federated Stores and Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff. TRI-COUNTY CENTER, designed by Kenneth Cameron Mitchell, was built on 72 acres, located 13 miles north of downtown Cincinnati's Fountain Square. The mall site was adjacent to the interchange of Princeton Pike (Ohio Route 747) and the Interstate 275 "Circle Freeway".

Open-air in format, the shopping complex had been proposed in 1956 by Jeffrey Lazarus, Chairman of the Board at Cincinnati-based Shillito's ["shil-uh-towz"]. Ground was broken for the 25 million dollar project in July 1959. When completed, the ultra-modern TRI-COUNTY CENTER encompassed 500,000 leasable square feet, with a tenant list of fifty-one stores and services.

The grand opening celebration took place September 28, 1960. In attendance were Jeffrey Lazarus, Fred Lazarus III (President of Shillito's), James W. Petty (President of H & S Pogue), Joseph Meyerhoff and Gustave Neuss (Mayor of Springdale). Marian Spelman, popular WLWT vocalist, sang the "Star Spangled Banner". Other music was provided by the Princeton High School Band.

A 3-level (170,000 square foot) Shillito's stood on the north end of the complex, with a 2-level (110,000 square foot), Cincinnati-based H & S Pogue on the south. Original inline stores included Chandler's Shoes, Brendamour's Sporting Goods, Friedman's, Tri-County Toy Corner, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and Kroger supermarket.

The center was given its first renovation in the mid-to-late 1960s. The concourse between Shillito's and Pogue's was enclosed with a structure supported by a system of red, upside down V's. A second enclosed concourse was added, with a 2-level (285,000 square foot) Sears at its end.

This store opened for business May 4, 1967, with the mall enclosure being completed in 1968. As a facet of the remodeling, the official name of the shopping center was changed to TRI-COUNTY MALL.

Major retail hubs in the TRI-COUNTY trade area included KENWOOD PLAZA (1956) and KENWOOD MALL (1966) {7.3 miles southeast, in Hamilton County}, as well as NORTHGATE MALL (1972) {7.6 miles southwest, also in Hamilton County}. 

The TRI-COUNTY Shillito's was expanded in two stages. Phase 1 entailed the addition of 14,000 square feet to the store's Mall Level. This renovation was completed in November 1972. An additional sales floor was dedicated in June 1973. The store now encompassed 4-levels and 235,000 square feet.

It morphed into "Shillito Rikes" (originally written "Shillito/Rike's") in June 1982 and became a Lazarus in March 1986. A Lazarus-Macy's stint began in August 2003, with the store being fully "Macy-ated" in March 2005.

A second renovation was done to TRI-COUNTY MALL between June 1989 and August 1992; this in reaction to the opening of FOREST FAIR MALL (1988) {2.8 miles northwest, in Forest Park and Fairfield}. At this time, the remaining, ultra-modern architecture at TRI-COUNTY was torn out and a second mall concourse added on top of the first.

This renovation included a Food Court and Central Atrium, with a 2-tiered, waterfall fountain. Two multilevel parking garages were built, along with a 3-level (236,000 square foot), Cincinnati-based McAlpin's. This store was dedicated August 6, 1992. It re-opened, as a Dillard's, in June 1999.

Pogue's was rebranded as an Indianapolis-based L.S. Ayres in October 1984. The TRI-COUNTY store re-opened, as a J.C. Penney, in November 1988 and was shuttered in July 2005. The vacant structure was gutted.

Its lower level was subdivided into a multistory glass atrium, with an Ethan Allen Furniture, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse and seven inline stores. The upper level became a (50,000 square foot) Krazy City indoor theme park. It included carnival rides, a mini-golf driving range and go-kart track. These tenants opened for business between late 2007 and early 2008.

With all renovations completed, TRI-COUNTY MALL encompassed 1,349,000 leasable square feet and featured one hundred and forty-eight stores and services. It was acquired by the New York City-based Thor Equities Corporation in January 2005.

In May 2006, a joint venture of Beachwood, Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty and New York City-based Coventry Real Estate Advisors established majority ownership of the shopping hub. Thor Equities retained a small percentage.

Soon, a proliferation of new lifestyle and power centers in the northern hinterlands of Greater Cincinnati began to take their toll on TRI-COUNTY. By 2012, the mall was in receivership, with several vacant store fronts lining its corridors. 

In May 2013, a foreclosure sale was ordered by a Hamilton County judge. The mall was sold at a sheriff's auction in July, with the buyer being the Singapore-based Sing Haiyi Group, Limited. They immediately announced plans to bring TRI-COUNTY "back to its former glory", with a renovation and repositioning of the property.

A 35 million dollar remodeling was underway by mid-2015, with freestanding Men's Wearhouse, Starbucks Coffee and Chipotle Mexican Grill stores under construction. These were built as the first phase of a west-facing Streetscape that would run along Princeton Pike and make TRI-COUNTY MALL "look like a lifestyle center".

Meanwhile, a possible stumbling block for the mall's renaissance presented itself. LIBERTY CENTER {7.4 miles northeast, in Butler County} opened in October 2015. Anchored by Dick's Sporting Goods and Dillard's, its proximity caused the TRI-COUNTY Dillard's (by now a Clearance Store) to be shuttered on October 8, 2015.

Starbucks became the first Streetscape store to open its doors, on November 6, 2015. Men's Wearhouse (relocating from inside the mall) made its debut soon after. Chipotle Mexican Grill served its first meals in March 2016.

Personal recollection of the author
City Of Springdale "History On-Line" website (Developers Diversified Realty) (American Pacific International Capital)
Dallas' Big Town Mall  

A vintage view of the first enclosed and air-conditioned shopping mall in the Texas Metroplex, as well as the entire Southwestern United States.
Photo From Malls Of America Blogspot.

A circa-1959 aerial view of BIG TOWN MALL, looking southward. The Sanger Brothers ("Sanger's") anchor store is in the foreground with Montgomery Ward's store off in the distance.
Photo from Oscar Slotboom /

Dallas' BIG TOWN opened in February 1959 with much media fanfare. Actually, at the time, a fully-enclosed shopping mall was a big deal, as there were only two other regional-sized enclosed malls in the United States. The original complex depicted here housed forty-five stores and services.


SANGER BROTHERS / MONTGOMERY WARD (with freestanding Auto Center) / J.C. PENNEY / F.W. WOOLWORTH (with luncheonette) / WRIGLEY supermarket / Andes Candies / Big Town Beauty Salon / Big Town Barber Shop / Big Town Coffee Shop / Big Town Town Hall / Big Town Town Square / Bond Clothes / Butler Shoes / Dallas East Publishing Company / Federal Bake Shop / Gift Shack (kiosk) / Hallmark Cards (kiosk) / Hardy Shoes / Harvest House Cafeteria / Kinney Shoes / Lee Optical / Lerner Shops / Margo's La Mode / Mode O' Day Frock Shop / National Key (kiosk) / National Shirt Shops / Olan Mills Studio / Owen Shoes / Paris Hats / Phillipson's / Planters Peanuts (kiosk) / PPG Auto Glass / PPG Paints / Rexall Drug (with luncheonette) / Snack Shack (kiosk) / Tie Rak / Toy Fair / United Finance / Volk's / Wash -n- Dry Coin Laundry / Western Auto / Zale's Jewelers / Zinke's Shoe Repair / Zip Cleaners

MEZZANINE (above Town Square):
Atlas Insurance / Big Town Mall Office

On hand at the February 1959 BIG TOWN MALL grand opening was none other than James Cash Penney (1875-1971). He personally opened his company's 38,000 square foot BIG TOWN store.
Photo from

Although BIG TOWN was Dallas' first fully-enclosed mall, it wasn't the first mall in the Metroplex. This distinction goes to a nearly forgotten open-air complex in the city's Oak Cliff section. A. HARRIS CENTER, dedicated in February 1956, was anchored by an A. Harris & Company department store and Tom Thumb grocery. The 300,000 square foot shopping hub was shuttered in 1976 and converted into a facility for the Dallas Independent School District.
Photo from 

The single-screen Cinema At Big Town was added as an outparcel to the shopping center. It opened for business in February 1964.

A mid-1980s view of the northwest corner of BIG TOWN MALL. The Sanger-Harris anchor store is seen in the background, with J.C. Penney on the right.

A late '80s physical layout. The mall's only expansion, a 39,000 square foot addition to Montgomery Ward, had been completed in 1975. Other than this, the basic footprint of the mall remained unchanged for all of its years in business.
US 80 East and Big Town Boulevard
Mesquite, Texas

Ground was broken for the first fully-enclosed shopping mall in the Southwest in August 1957. The complex-to-be was built on an 80 acre tract, located 7 miles east of downtown Dallas, in suburban Mesquite.

BIG TOWN MALL was developed by Denver's Gerri Von Frellick and designed by the Tatum & Quade firm of Dallas. A grand opening was held February 26, 1959, with the shopping venue enveloping 581,500 leasable square feet. There were forty-nine tenant spaces and a parking lot that could accommodate 4,000 automobiles.

A 3-level (104,000 square foot), Dallas-based Sanger Brothers anchored the north end of the mall. A 2-level (124,500 square foot) Montgomery Ward stood on its south end. There was also a 1-level (38,000 square foot) J.C. Penney on the northwest corner. The mallway facing the Sanger's store was known as Broadway, with the north-south corridor referred to as Main Street.

Charter tenants included Harvest House Cafeteria, Western Auto, Bond Clothes, Rexall Drug, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10, Wrigley's supermarket and Town Square (a six-hundred-seat public auditorium). In later years, BIG TOWN MALL featured Lollipop Park, which was an enclosed children's amusement area. It featured rides such as a mini-train, mini ferris wheel, Sky Fighter, roadway, Brownie tractors and helicopters. There was also the Magic Mountain Indian Village.

The General Cinema Corporation Cinema At Big Town showed its first feature February 27, 1964. It, and the Big Town BowLanes, were added as southern outparcels of the mall. A (101,000 square foot) Woolco discount mart was built east of the mall and opened for business in the spring of 1967.

The malling of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex intensified after the completion of NORTHPARK CENTER {8 miles northwest, in Dallas}, in 1965. In 1971, TOWN EAST MALL {4 miles east, also in Mesquite} opened for business..

In order to compete with malls that were springing up all over the region, BIG TOWN underwent a renovation in 1975. Ward's was expanded, into a 164,200 square foot location, with additions on the east and west. A face lift-type remodel was also done to the mall in 1988.

Unfortunately, BIG TOWN was soon in decline. The Sanger Brothers store, now operating under the Sanger-Harris nameplate, was merged into the Houston-based Foley's chain in 1987. The store closed for good in 1989. Woolworth folded in 1993, with Montgomery Ward following in 2001.

By the turn of the century, BIG TOWN was a dilapidated, virtually vacant, shopping center. Demolition plans were finalized in early 2006. By September of the year, BIG TOWN, and most of its outparcels, were a pile of rubble.

A redevelopment plan, envisaged by Dallas' Kent Jones, proposed building a sports and entertainment complex on the site. This would have included baseball fields, soccer fields, an amphitheater and indoor training facility, with additional space for lodging, restaurants and retail. Unfortunately, The Great Recession caused the redevelopment project to be abandoned.

The vacant mall site was sold to an operative of the Dallas-based SLJ Company in August of 2012. In April 2016, it was announced that Dallas' 42 Real Estate development company was building a 334,000 square foot shipping hub for the FedEx Corporation. The facility was dedicated in August 2017.

Sources: Branch Store.doc
"Sanger Brothers" article on Wikipedia
Dallas History Message Board / "Big Town Shopping Center" comment / September 28, 2003 / Posted By Don Davis / Dallas Forum / "Mesquite's Big Town Mall" thread/ Mike Cochran comment
The Dallas Morning News
Comment post by "Pseudo3D"
Phoenix's Chris-Town Center

The first fully-enclosed shopping center in Arizona was built in the northern environs of Phoenix. Although signage on the front of the complex plainly reads "Chris-Town Mall" in this 1963 postcard pic, the shopping hub was officially promoted as CHRIS-TOWN CENTER at the time. Go figure...
Photo from

In this snapshot from May 1961, the retail hub is still in the throes of construction. Its Korrick's anchor store, yet to open for business, appears in the foreground.
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / May 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona) 

Meanwhile, Bob's Big Boy, a freestanding mall outparcel, was up and running. The restaurant had opened in February 1961.
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / May 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona) 

Here we see an aerial view of CHRIS-TOWN CENTER, taken on its grand opening day, August 24, 1961. The complex was thronged with shoppers (and more than a few curious onlookers) during its dedication, with over 130,000 in attendance. The resulting traffic tie up was considered the worst in the city's history.
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / September 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona) 

Another grand opening day snapshot. Montgomery Ward, the mall's second anchor, appears in the foreground. The shopping hub also housed a dry-goods-only J.C. Penney among its fifty-three store spaces.
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / September 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona) 

We switch back to color photos for the following spread. These reveal the true beauty of the original CHRIS-TOWN, which, to the author, qualifies as one of the most stunning Mid-Century Modern malls ever built. Here we see the Court Of Fountains, which was situated at the center of the one-thousand-foot-long "refrigerated" mallway.
Photo by kind permission of John Bueker

Equally as breathtaking was the Court Of Flowers, the focal point of the mall's east end. The area featured lush tropical vegetation and a papier mache' bull known as Ferdinand. The Sidewalk Cafe snack bar is seen in the background.
Photo by kind permission of John Bueker

The Court of Birds, at the west end of the shopping facility. The cages contained a variety of feathered creatures. Behind all of the hanging bird cages is a Woolworth's mall entry. Montgomery Ward's storefront appears on the right.
Photo by kind permission of John Bueker

To get our bearings, we have a basic physical layout of the original CHRIS-TOWN CENTER, which shows the mall proper and its three outparcel structures; the aforementioned Bob's Big Boy, a First National Bank branch and Convenience Center, which included an El Rancho Market grocery store.

Getting a bit more detailed, we present a high-definition Complete Plan which shows all of the fifty stores and services that were in operation at the August 1961 grand opening of CHRIS-TOWN CENTER. Three spaces are still available for leasing.

We'll call the next two photos Chris-Town Christmas Past. The mall is shown as it was decorated for its very first yuletide season, in December 1961. A contemporary account related that the "Christmas Fantasyland" at CHRIS-TOWN was a display of beautiful "kaleidoscopic colors".
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / December 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona)  

Here we see the interior of the festively-festooned shopping hub, which featured giant-sized storybook characters, Santa in a snow-white igloo, a gingerbread house and mini-castle.
Photo from "The Webb Spinner" / December 1961 (Del E. Webb Corporation / Sun City Museum, Arizona)  

We zoom ahead 18 years. By 1979, the complex is quite a bit larger and encompasses around 1.2 million leasable square feet and one hundred and fifty stores. The east anchor has been Broadway-branded and nearly doubled in size. Penneys was also enlarged and upgraded to a full-line store. Two wings (in medium gray) were added in the mid-'70s. A Southwest Wing includes a Los Angeles-based Bullock's. The Southeast Wing has an upper level 6-screen multiplex.

A circa-2006 photo shows what was the Court of Fountains in CHRIS-TOWN CENTER. In 2006, it is a standard court area in the retail facility, which has been known as PHOENIX SPECTRUM MALL since November 2001.
Photo from / "Prange Way"

In mid-2005, the Southeast Wing, including its 6-plex cinema, was razed. It was replaced by the Harkins Christown 14, which made its debut in July 2007. By this time, the mall's freestanding theatre complex had also been shuttered and demolished.
Photo from

The shopping hub, promoted as CHRISTOWN SPECTRUM MALL since November 2007, has gone through two official name changes over the years. It has also been renovated and demalled to such an extent that it is now virtually unrecognizable from its previous configuration. What few original sections that remain are shown in black. Everything else was added between 1995 and 2007. 

Phoenix opened a light rail system in December 2008. The 19.7 route mile Valley Metro starter line connected the southeastern and northern environs of the city with the Montebello / 19th Avenue station, which was adjacent to CHRISTOWN SPECTRUM MALL.
Photo from Wikipedia / "Kinkisharyo"

West Bethany Home Road and North 19th Avenue
Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona's first fully-enclosed shopping center was built on an 86 acre tract, located 3 miles north of downtown Phoenix. CHRIS-TOWN CENTER was so named because the land it occupied had been owned by Chris Harri, a Swiss-born farmer.

The mall, designed by Welton Becket & Associates of Los Angeles and the Friedman & Jobush firm of Tucson, was developed by the Phoenix-based Del E. Webb Corporation. The complex encompassed over 600,000 leasable square feet on a single retail level. A small upper floor Mezzanine housed 10,000 square feet of office space and a 300-seat Community Auditorium. The parking area had space for over 5,300 cars.

CHRIS-TOWN CENTER opened for business August 24, 1961, with fifty inline stores (out of a total of fifty-three spaces). It was anchored by a 2-level (58,100 square foot) J.C. Penney, 2-level (146,100 square foot) Montgomery Ward and 2-level (86,800 square foot), Phoenix-based Korricks.

Charter tenants included Walgreen Drug, Hanny's men's wear, Guggy's Coffee Shop, Lerner Shops ladies' wear, Singer Sewing Center, Holiday Shoes, and S.S. Kresge and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10s. A rear parking area Convenience Center included an El Rancho Market grocery store.

The mall proper was based around three central areas. J.C. Penney faced onto the Court Of Fountains. Montgomery Ward opened on the Court Of Birds. Korricks mall entry ran along the east side of the Court Of Flowers.

An outparcel Piccadilly Cafeteria was added to the northeast corner of the mall site in the mid-1960s. It was joined by the National General Corporation Fox Chris-Town Theatre, which was a southwest parking area outparcel. The single-screen venue showed its first feature February 8, 1967. It was renovated and re-opened, as the Fox Chris-Town 2, on December 25, 1970.

In 1966, Korricks was rebranded as a Los Angles-based The Broadway. As part of the transition, its floor area was enlarged to 149,100 square feet. Later in the decade, the existing Penney's was expanded into a 3-level (191,000 square foot) full-line store.

In the early '70s, a mega mall was built in the vicinity of CHRIS-TOWN. METROCENTER {4 miles northwest, in Phoenix} opened in October 1973. As a reaction, CHRIS-TOWN underwent a renovation and expansion.

A corridor was cut though existing store space adjacent to S.S. Kresge, which connected into a new Southeast Wing. The mall's second theatrical venue, the United Artists Chris-Town Cinema 6, was installed in its Upper Level. The new theater showed its first features on April 4, 1974.

On the periphery of the mall, the twin-plex movie house was expanded into the Mann Theatres Christown 5, which made its debut December 22, 1976. The venue was later reconfigured as the Harkins Christown 11, which was dedicated November 22, 1996.

Meanwhile, the CHRIS-TOWN Woolworth had closed in 1974. A mall corridor was built through its space which connected into a Southwest Wing. This addition was anchored by a 2-level (149,800 square foot), Los Angeles-based Bullock's, which held its grand opening November 14, 1977.

The completion of PARADISE VALLEY MALL {8 miles northeast, in Phoenix}, in 1979, caused sales to drop at CHRIS-TOWN. This resulted in a general decline of the mall during the 1980s and '90s, with several long-time tenants vacating the center.

Bullock's was replaced by Phoenix-based Diamond's on June 24, 1985. The store, rebranded by Dillard's in September 1986, was eventually demoted to a Dillard's Clearance Center. The Broadway, which had come under the Phoenix-based Broadway Southwest banner in 1979, was vacated in August 1992 and torn down in 1994. A 1-level (125,000 square foot) Wal-Mart was built on its space, which opened January 3, 1995.

J.C. Penney moved to METROCENTER in 1997. Its former CHRIS-TOWN store sat vacant until it was bulldozed and replaced by a 1-level (149,000 square foot) Costco. This store held its grand opening in November 2002. Montgomery Ward went bust in March 2001. Its space was divided into four stores. One of these, a 1-level (30,000 square foot) Ross Dress For Less, opened in November 2002.

The shopping complex was renamed PHOENIX SPECTRUM MALL on November 19, 2001. Its Wal-Mart was expanded into a (251,300 square foot) SuperCenter in 2003. In March 2004, the mall was sold to a joint venture of Beachwood, Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty and New York City-based Coventry Real Estate Advisors. The former owner, Phoenix-based Grossman Company Properties, retained a small ownership share.

The Dillard's Clearance Center went dark in October 2004. The building was not retenanted, but was demolished as part of a demalling project, which got underway in mid-2005. Nearly half of the 1,145,000 square foot shopping center was razed and replaced by new stores and services.

The Harkins Christown 14 multiplex, built on the site of the shuttered Cinema 6, showed its first features July 13, 2007. A 1-level (98,000 square foot) J.C. Penney was dedicated August 3, 2007, followed by a 1-level (173,900 square foot) SuperTarget, which welcomed its first patrons on October 10.

The refurbished facility, christened CHRISTOWN SPECTRUM MALL, held a grand re-opening in November 2007. The shopping center proper now encompassed 830,500 leasable square feet and housed forty-four stores and services

Phoenix's Valley Metro light rail system extended service to CHRISTOWN SPECTRUM MALL. The 19th Avenue & Montebello station, adjacent to the west parking area, opened on December 27, 2008. Kimco Realty, of Houston, Texas, acquired the retail hub in December 2015.


"Chris-Town Retrospective" website / John Bueker
Del E. Webb Corporation "Webb Spinner"
"Bullock's" article on Wikipedia
"Metrocenter Mall" article on Wikipedia
"Paradise Valley Mall" article on Wikipedia


The photographs from the Del E. Webb Corporation "Webb Spinner" / Sun City, Arizona Museum illustrate a key moment in the mall's 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 them 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.