The original WHITTWOOD CENTER, soon after its late 1956 grand opening. At the time, there was only one junior-type anchor, a dry goods only J.C. Penney. A small Von's supermarket stood at the southeast end of the complex. The mall was obviously built with plenty of room for future expansion...an open space at the southwest corner would eventually be filled with a fifth store block.

16 comments:

Mitch Glaser said...

Whittwood wasn't large enough to be a regional draw and its location is far from any freeway. However, its reincarnation as a "Town Center" should continue to serve the immediate neighborhoods well. This redevelopment could serve as a model for other dying malls, as both Sears and JCPenney are favoring "off-mall" locations these days.

The old Whittwood

The Curator said...

Mitch....

Thanks a BUNCH for the neat picture of the J.C. Penney @ WHITTWOOD. I hope you don't mind me adding it to the blog here.....

Info (and pics) of the old-time WHITTWOOD were very, very difficult to come by. It was amazing that I was able to piece this article together, frankly.

I guess it's okay that the mall has been refashioned into -yet- another of these "power center" things....as this format...and the buzz-word "lifestyle center" centers......are obviously THE THING these daze.

With the hindsight realization that over-building was probably the primary thing that killed the enclosed shopping mall, I wonder when the powers that be will stop over-developing these open-air "centres du jour".....

They seem to have bred like bunnies......

Perhaps *they* will realize their folly too late....when several of their fabulous, new "lifestyle centers" go belly-up......

Maybe somebody can (then) create a "DEAD LIFESTYLE CENTER" site.......That is, if anyone will ever be nostalgic about such a thing.

Mitch Glaser said...

It's only a matter of time before the Web has "dead lifestyle center" sites. I agree with you in that they are being over-built, especially the kind that are of the "power center" variety, depending on big-box chains that may not last.

Victor Gruen ended up decrying the shopping mall as a "monofunctional center." If I may put on my urban planner hat for a minute, I would like to agree with him. "Monofunctional" concentrations of any type -- whether they be shopping centers, college campuses, low-income housing projects, or office parks, do not relate to the surrounding urban fabric and are susceptible to quick obsolesence. To create long-term sustainability, we need development with a mix of uses that are adaptible in the sense that there is an opportunity to reappropriate the use of buildings should the needs of the community change.

Shopping centers, whether they are malls or lifestyle centers, tend to be monofunctional and are not adaptible. If a shopping center fails, it must be demolished, which is a shame in that we lose the history of the structure and waste labor and building materials by rebuilding for the ground up. If I were to identify a lesson from "dead" malls and lifestyle centers, it would be to plan more versatile and sustainable projects in the future.

The Curator said...

Interesting observation (as you always tend to opine).

It would make a lotta sense to develop centers of retail/office space/entertainment/residence in a more adaptable-type format....but I don't think that this will happen.

Things will go on the (wasteful)way that they are, with the (soon-to-be) old, outmoded, disposable lifestyle/power center being replaced with some new, trendy format (whatever *they* will concoct next to capture the public fancy for 5 or 10 years).

Let's face it....this whole malling-demalling, open-air-to-enclosed and back to open-air thing is a way for the powers that be to move money around.

An older shopping center is deemed "obsolete", "tired" (or any of the other buzz-words used). A plan is devised to tear it down, and/or revamp it into some new-style, fabulous format....this palm gets greased here....some other entity gets a piece of the monetary cake over there.

The scenario of the "obsolete", enclosed mall and its replacement may have been good for business, but it turned out to be bad for the(physically-tangible, existing) history of the late, great, American shopping mall, and the decimated and virtally non-existent "Mid-Century Modern" architectural movement.

The Curator said...

A post post script:

I'm so sorry to have come off so harshly here. I realize that -by developing and redeveloping- bread is put on proverbial tables and all.

I wouldn't mind this so much were some consideration/reverence have been given to some of the more historic, "mid mod" architecture shopping centers, such as Kansas City's BLUE RIDGE MALL and (especially) that magnificent, early period Googie-design, "flying saucer" Jordan Marsh at the original, Boston SHOPPERS WORLD.

These, and some other significant mid-century retail structures, should have been (somehow) renovated and reworked into the new format "power centers" that replaced them entirely.

Why can't some developer do a "new-style", part renovated structure/part new construction "power center"....instead of just bulldozing everything, no matter how architecturally significant it was??

It appears that, by the time one of them (eventually) stumbles onto this new "wrinkle", there will be no "mid mod" architecture left to so renovate.......

Steve Carras said...

Hey,it's me again. I'd like tosay aboutmy city's mall that there was a Penny's at first? Lucky, then in 1972 JCPenny(sic). THe Broadway still exists as you write, of course, as Sears (as you also wrote). A 1940s style popular diner (Palm Springs, Mainplace/Santa Ana,etc.) and others has it) "Ruby's" and a Mimi's are there...and the center (I, too, hate the word Mall for such as an old center!) opened as late as 1961??? It was around IIRC as far as 1955.

Also, IIRC Boston Store was originally Meyers.

The Curator said...

Steve,

Thanks much the post about WHITTWOOD CENTER/MALL. It prompted me to rethink the thing more clearly and straighten out some facts.....

When I originally composed the article here (back in May), I was working on posting ALL of the "Lost Malls" of Los Angeles County.

This was a 10 mall update...all at once...a gargantuan task, and the largest, single "mall induction" I have ever done at one time. So, I might not have had the time to correctly assess some details, such as EXACTLY when (and how) WHITTWOOD came into being.

There were a couple of confusing sources (or, at least, I did not put the facts in them together correctly).

First, a circa 1960 source described the groundbreaking for the 10th The Broadway, which was being built at WHITTWOOD.

The shopping center is mentioned that was -apparently- already there. I mistook that this shopping center was brand-new at the time. Actually, it was near onto 5 years old. My goof, hee hee.

Another source (circa-1959), tells about Coldwell Banker, mentioning that that company was doing leasing for DEL AMO CENTER, WHITTWOOD CENTER and COSTA MESA CENTER.

Again, I assumed that this WHITTWOOD CENTER was being built (in 1959), and that Coldwell Banker was leasing the prospective store spaces.

NOT.

They were handling leasing at the 4year-old shopping center, that was already open by that time.

So, I have rewritten and reposted the WHITTWOOD article. I hope that it now CORRECTLY details WHITTWOOD CENTER.

About the J.C. Penney that was there....the suburban/shopping center Penneys, of the 1950s and very early 1960s was never a full- line operation.

Early "shopping center" Penneys were typically only about 50,000 to 80,000 square feet and carried just "soft line" items, such as apparel, linens and the like.

This changed with the advent of the "new look" (as they were called) stores. The first 2 were in Audobon, New Jersey and at the KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA (metro Philly). They opened in 1962-1963.

These "new look", full-line, stores sported the new (60s) Penney's nameplate. They were well over 100,000 square feet...and featured "soft lines", as well as home appliances, sporting goods, garden merchandise, etcetera.

In some cases, there would also have been a garden center, cafe, beauty salon, portrait studio and/or outparcel Auto Center.

The original Penney's at WHITTWOOD, which probably opened in 1955, was a smaller, "dry goods only" store. A new, full-line, store was built onto the mall in 1972.

I found this year-date for the 102,400 structure on the LA County tax assessment website......otherwise I might have -incorrectly- assumed that the WHITTWOOD J.C. Penney was ALWAYS located in the building it presently occupies (that actually wasn't there until 1972).

Of course, I would have been totally perplexed....because this present-day store is way too large to have been a part of the circa-1955 shopping center.

As you may be able to see by now....doing this "mid-mod mall blog" can be something akin to a detective story or something! Sources are found, info recorded....then the various pieces are assembled into a cohesive (hopefully) article....all of this done in an effort to put the past back together after it has been buried under (and often distorted) by passing years. It ain't easy sometimes, hee hee.

Fortunately, there (some of the time) is input from someone, such as yourself, that adds a detail or two to clear things up a bit.

By the way...thanks -also- for the info tid-bit about the Boston Store being a "Meyers". I knew good and well (somehow) that the Boston Store at WHITTWOOD was not originally a Boston Store. I just didn't have a clue as to what it originally was.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

And happy malling, too....

Anonymous said...

The Whittwood multiscreen theatre ALSO closed, in 2001. Whittier sitll has a popular uptown theatre in, uptown Village center, built in 1932....formerly Wardman, and this is yet another older, backlot parking, downtown area.

Steve C. (Again)

Anonymous said...

IIRC the original Pennys was in the zpot where the Meyers/Boston store was. The new Pennys is on the original site of the Von's Supermarket.

The Curator said...

Makes sense about "J.C. Penney Co." being in the Meyers spot originally. Obviously...the Meyers store moved in when Penney's moved out (in 1972).

This would have been just after Vons moved into their new store (1971)...which had made way for the new Penney's to be built.

I'll do some research on this tomorrow and see what I can find out.

Thanks much for posting.

Rollie A. said...

this blog is brand new to me as of this morning, I can't wait to go through the site.
I am from Whittier and remember the mall very well and can probably remember a lot of the stores for you.
I just received this week an old aerial photo of the site that depicts what looks like a grand opening of the original Von's, Sav-On, and a third building which may have been a Bank of America or Security Pacific bank branch.

The Curator said...

Rollie,

Thanks much for posting. I hope you enjoy looking through the site.

Rollie A. said...

The stores at the mall as we remember included:
The broadway
JC Penney
WT grant
Meyers department store
jolly Rger restaurant
Grau's bakery (with cake decorating window)
Whittwood Music
Dokter's Pet Store
Comar's Shoes
Thom Mcan Shoes
See Candies
The Gap
Miller's Outpost
Conlin Bros. Sporting Goods
Heck's Men Clothing
Pickwick Books
Sav-On

The Curator said...

Rollie,

Thanks much for posting the info. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

The name of the Whittier-based retailer that was briefly located in the middle of the Whittwood Center was MYERS, not Meyers. The original location of 'Myers Whittier' was in the Uptown Whittier business district. The Whittwood store was their first branch outside of Uptown, but was short-lived as they had already sold out to Boston Stores.

The Curator said...

Are we reading something wrong here.....I have the store spelled as "Myers"..not as Meyers"????