The first post-war, suburban shopping center in the New York City metropolitan area, GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, was completed in May 1951. Located in Long Island's Town of North Hempstead, it was a small strip center of 216,500 leasable square feet.

The developer of GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, Sol Atlas, also built the region's -and state's- first mall-type shopping venue. CROSS COUNTY CENTER was located in the Westchester County suburb of Yonkers -not on Long Island- and was dedicated in April 1954. By late 1958, the complex, which incorporated retail, office and medical components, encompassed over 906,000 leasable square feet.

The GARDENS OF GREAT NECK and CROSS COUNTY shopping hubs were followed by five shopping malls built out on "The Island" (original names are used)...

*ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER [August 1956]
*GREEN ACRES CENTER, [October 1956]
*MID-ISLAND PLAZA, [October 1956]
*WALT WHITMAN CENTER [November 1962]
*SOUTH SHORE MALL [August 1963]



A map showing the locations of post-war shopping hubs in Westchester County and in the Long Island counties of Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.
Click on image for a larger view.

The first controlled-access highway in Greater New York City was a 4.6 mile section of the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Roadway (later known as Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), which extended between Queens Boulevard (in Sunnyside, Queens) and Kingsland and Meeker Avenues (in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). This segment opened to traffic in August 1939.

In addition to being New York City and State's first shopping mall, CROSS COUNTY CENTER was also the first in Greater New York City to be freeway-friendly. A section of the New York State Thruway that ran along the west side of the shopping hub opened to traffic in September 1956.

Long Island's Gardens Of Great Neck Center


A circa-1951 view of New York City's first suburban shopping venue, with a 51,000 square foot John Wanamaker at its center. This structure would house several different department stores over the next 27 years. Wanamaker's shut down in mid-1955. The Allied Stores conglomerate would operate a Stern's branch there between 1955 and 1961 and a Gertz between 1961 and 1979.
Photo from Library of Congress



Two more views of Long Island's GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER. Over the years, the retail hub would also be known as the NORTH SHORE SHOPPING CENTER and NORTH SHORE MART.
Photos from Library Of Congress

We now embark on a tour of the John Wanamaker Great Neck store, as it existed way back in May of 1951. At the West Entrance is the Gifts Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


A sweeping view of the Great Neck store's main sales floor.
Photos from Library of Congress


Here we see the Cotton Dresses racks.
Photo from Library of Congress


The Wanamaker's Great Neck Men's Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


The store's perfume counter, also known as the Toiletries Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


Here we see the store's selection of Ladies' Sportswear.
Photo from Library of Congress


We now ascend the grand stairway to the Upper Floor...
Photo from Library of Congress

In this shot, we see the Ladies' Shoes Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


In a detail view is the famous Wanamaker Eagle. Every John Wanamaker store had one.
Photo from Library of Congress


In this shot, we see the store's selection of Boy's Wear.
Photo from Library of Congress


Now we move on to the Toys Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


Descending back to the main sales floor, we go down the staircase seen here. It takes us to the store's basement level.
Photo from Library of Congress


On display in the Furniture Department is an ultra-modern sofa and a dinette with dish cabinet. One wonders how much these classic Mid-Century Modern furnishings would now be worth.
Photo from Library of Congress  


Here we see a more traditional sofa, with coffee and end tables.
Photo from Library of Congress




In these three photos, we see different styles of bedroom furnishings.
Photo from Library of Congress 


A view of the Wanamaker's Great Neck Housewares Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


Lastly, the Rug Department.
Photo from Library of Congress

A physical layout of GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER, as it was configured in 1951. The name derives from the desire of its developer to promote the shopping hub as a pastoral, tree-lined complex.


The Long Island Railroad's Great Neck Station is located across South Middle Neck Road from the shopping plaza.
Photo from Wikipedia / Adam Moss 


A contemporary physical layout of the shopping center, known today as THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. After the demise of the Gertz store in the late 1970s, the anchor space was expanded into a large Edward's supermarket. This was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain in 2001.

And now, three photos of today's THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. We begin with the 2-level store structure at the northeast end of the complex. It houses two financial institutions; TD Bank (nee' World Savings) and Astoria Federal Savings & Loan.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


Moving toward the center of the center, we see the former John Wanamaker store. Today, it houses a Waldbaum's supermarket, Planet Fitness gym and a branch of the Great Neck Library.
Photo from http//www.showcase.com/property/2-50-Great-Neck-Road/Great-Neck/New-York/1155272


The southwest end of the shopping hub, with Rite Aid Drug on the right.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER
South Middle Neck and Great Neck Roads
Nassau County (Town of North Hempstead), New York

Greater New York City's first suburban-style shopping center was constructed on a 7 acre parcel located 13.4 miles east of Times Square. The site, once part of the Grace Estate, was located in Nassau County's Town of North Hempstead / Village of Great Neck Plaza.

Ground was broken for GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER in June 1950. The open-air strip complex, built by developer Sol Atlas, encompassed 216,500 leasable square feet. It was anchored by a 3-level (51,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based John Wanamaker, the chain's first suburban New York City location. It opened for business May 16, 1951. The store featured a huge, 2 story show window in front and two elevators; quite impressive features at the time.

Inline stores in GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER included Millers apparel, Pennsylvania Drugs and an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The parking area accommodated five hundred autos.

Wanamaker's store turned out to be short-lived. It was shuttered May 3, 1955 and re-opened -as a New York City-based Stern's- September 2, 1955. This was the chain's first suburban branch. It became a New York City-based Gertz in 1961, that shut down in late 1979. The store's ground level was expanded into adjoining space, with a 1-level (31,000 square foot) Edward's supermarket being created. This operation was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain on March 3, 2001.

Today, the Long Island shopping center still exists and, save for a 1990s facelift, is essentially the same as in the early 1950s. Of course, the stores are different. Nowadays, the Wanamaker / Stern's / Gertz is occupied by three tenants. In the basement is Planet Fitness. The ground level houses a portion of the aforementioned Waldbaum's supermarket, with the third level being devoted to the Station Branch of the Great Neck Library.

Also operating in today's THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK are Rite Aid Drug, TD Bank, Astoria Federal Savings & Loan, Starbucks, Wells Fargo Bank, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Wild Ginger (an Asian fusion restaurant). The complex is owned and operated by Woodbury, New York-based Kabro Associates.

Sources:

"Great Neck Plaza Walking Tour" / Long Island Traditions / Nancy Solomon
"Great Neck Plaza" article on Wikipedia
Nassau County, New York property tax assessor website
Comment post by "Anonymous"
http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/10jd/nassau/decisions/index/index_new/oconnell/2002may/003466-01.pdf


BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS:

From the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection / Repository: United States Library Of Congress Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. / Taken by Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., 1952 / Photographs are in the public domain: no known restrictions on publication / www.loc.gov/rr/print/catalog.html
New York City's Roosevelt Field


A vintage view of the Macy's ROOSEVELT FIELD location. At the time of the mall's dedication, in 1956, it was the sole department store anchor.
Photo from Library of Congress

A vintage aerial of the mall, showing its original -single anchor- configuration. Space has been cleared for the construction of a second anchor store. Ground would be broken April 18, 1959.
Photo from http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/vcrsys/Images/Alco/10-3-56-2-2.jpg


A circa-'62 site plan of the 6-year-old ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER. It featured one of the nation's first shopping center ice rinks and -with the addition of a new Gimbels- was now among the largest shopping venues in the USA.


Gimbels Roosevelt Field  rang up its first sale August 20, 1962.



Two circa-1965 shots of the center. In the first, we see the main concourse and 3-year-old Gimbels Roosevelt Field.
Photos from  http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com


A site plan dated 10 years after the first, showing all of the changes that had been done to the shopping hub, now known as ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. An enclosing roof had been installed in 1967-1968. Moreover, two anchors had joined the retail roster...Alexander's in 1971 and J.C. Penney in 1972. Two parking garages were built and La Petite Mall (a mall within a mall) would open -in previously existing space- in 1974.

Gimbels Roosevelt Field was shuttered in August 1986. The store operated as the Stern's seen here between February 1987 and August 2001.
Photo from http://www.occulude06.tripod.com


Alexander's at ROOSEVELT FIELD closed in February 1991. The building was remodeled, and re-opened -as an Abraham & Straus- in October 1992. This store lasted only 3 years. The Bloomingdale's seen here moved in in November 1995.
Photo from http://www.occulude06.tripod.com


A late 1997 physical layout shows the mall as it was configured after 5 years of renovation. An Upper Level had been built atop the first, which included a 15-bay Food Court. La Petit Mall had been demolished. Lastly, Nordstrom had joined the retail roster.

One of the few present day shopping mall Macy's stores that has always been a Macy's. This location, originally encompassed 343,000 square feet. It was expanded, to 428,000 square feet, in 1963.
Photo from Nassau County, New York


That well-known Seattle-centric retailer set up shop at ROOSEVELT FIELD in August 1997.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

A contemporary view of the north side of the complex. After Stern's 2001 demise, the building was divided between Galyan's Trading Company and Bloomingdale's Furniture Gallery. Galyan's gave way to Dick's Sporting Goods in October 2004.
Photo from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


An interior view of ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. The vaulted ceilings -and second retail level- were an early '90s addition.
Photo from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


In this circa-2017 plan, recently-completed renovations are indicated in shades of gray. Neiman Marcus, rumored to be joining the mall for years, has been added as part of a new Southwest Wing. A fourth parking garage has also been built, which connects with Macy's and Neiman Marcus. Lastly, an Upper Level Dining District has taken the place of the circa-1993 Food Court.

A rendering of the mall's new Dining District. It includes indoor and outdoor seating.
Drawing from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


A view of the west-facing facade of the mammoth shopping complex as it appears following the completion of the mall's indoor-outdoor makeover.
Drawing from RTKL Associates


Texas' trendy Neiman Marcus chain added a fifth anchor to ROOSEVELT FIELD, which was the first Neiman's on Long Island. The store was dedicated February 19, 2016.
Drawing from www.simon.com (Simon Property Group)


ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER
Meadowbrook Parkway and Old Country Road
Nassua County (Town of Hempstead), New York

Long Island's first post-war shopping center, GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER (1951), was followed by a rapid succession of mall-type retail complexes. Three of these, ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER, GREEN ACRES CENTER and MID-ISLAND PLAZA, opened over the course of a single year...1956. Two more followed soon after. WALT WHITMAN CENTER and SOUTH SHORE MALL were dedicated in 1962 and 1963, respectively.

The land on which Long Island's first shopping mall was built had served as various airfields between 1917 and 1951. One of these, Roosevelt Field, was the departure point for "Lucky Lindy's" historic transatlantic flight in 1927.

ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER was developed by New York City's William Zeckendorf, under the auspices of Webb & Knapp, and designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei. It was situated on a land parcel encompassing 88 acres, located 24.5 miles east of Times Square. The site was within Nassau County's Town of Hempstead and was adjacent to the Village of Garden City.

Ground was broken for the 35 million dollar project in April 1955. The shopping hub, encompassing 902,900 leasable square feet, was officially dedicated August 29, 1956. Open-air in format, it was situated on a main retail level, with a service basement / Concourse Level of retail.

Inline stores included Walgreen Drug, Buster Brown Shoes, Howard Clothes, The Corsetorium, Paree Millinery, Singer Sewing Center and a Horn & Hardhart Restaurant. There were also F.W. Woolworth and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10s and Food Fair and Grand Union supermarkets. Service type attractions at the original mall included the Flight Room public auditorium and (eventually) an outdoor ice skating rink.

A 3-level (343,000 square foot) Macy's was originally the sole anchor of the mall. A 3-level (250,000 square foot) Gimbels began business August 20, 1962. In order to be one up on its retail rival, Macy's had an 85,000 square foot fourth level added in 1963...so that the 428,000 square foot Macy's Roosevelt Field would be substantially larger than the mall's Gimbels. With this addition, the retail hub housed approximately 1,237,900 square feet of store space.

Competing malls in the vicinity of ROOSEVELT FIELD included the aforementioned GREEN ACRES CENTER (1956) {7.4 miles southwest, in Nassau County} and MID-ISLAND PLAZA (1956) {4.6 miles northeast, in Nassau County}. In addition there would be SUNRISE MALL (1973) {9.8 miles southeast, also in Nassau County}. 

A renovation to enclose the one hundred and twenty-seven store ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER got underway in April 1967 and was completed in June 1968. The shopping hub was known, henceforth, as ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. As part of the remodeling, the Roosevelt Field Century's Theatre was added at the northwest corner of the complex. Originally a single-screen venue, it was divided into a 3-plex in 1981 and an 8-plex in 1987.

A third expansion of the shopping venue took place in the early 1970s. Alexander's 3-level (314,000 square foot) location opened for business October 15, 1971. J.C. Penney, with a 3-level (260,000 square foot) store, began business July 19, 1972.

New York City-based Corporate Property Investors acquired the mall in 1973. In the next year, a small, Tudor-style section, known as La Petite Mall, opened. This was an enclosed "mall within a mall" area, fitted into existing space in the southwest corner of the complex. It housed Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Hanan Yarn, The Cave Hair Salon, a Sanrio store and a restaurant.

A fourth enlargement of ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL was done in stages, between 1992 and 1997. An Upper Level of stores, built on top of the first, was dedicated in April 1993. This 300,000 square foot addition included a 17-bay Food Court and sixty new "luxury retailers".

Alexander's had been shuttered in February 1991. The store was gutted and remodeled into a New York City-based Abraham & Straus, which held its grand opening October 17, 1992. This store was in operation until April 30, 1995. New York City-based Bloomingdale's assumed the store space on November 2 of the same year.

The Gimbels anchor had shut down in August 1986 and been leased by New Jersey-based Stern's between February 1987 and August 2001. After Stern's closed, the spot was taken by Galyan's Trading Company, which was bought -and rebranded- by Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods in October 2004.

At this time, the building was divided, with Dick's occupying the eastern section and Bloomingdale's Furniture setting up shop in the western. A 3-level (225,000 square foot) Nordstrom, added to the southeast corner of the massive mall, opened August 15, 1997.

In September 1998, The Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group acquired the assets of Corporate Property Investors, which included ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL.

By the turn of the century, the mammoth shopping center housed approximately 2,228,000 leasable square feet, with over two hundred and seventy stores and services. It was the largest shopping mall in the New York City metropolitan area.

In September 2013, a comprehensive interior-exterior makeover got underway at ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL. In addition to giving the existing structure a thorough update, the 200 million dollar project included construction of a fourth parking garage, Dining District (a renovation of the circa-1993 Food Court) and new Southwest Wing. This would include a 2-level (105,400 square foot) Neiman Marcus and approximately 25,800 square feet of inline store space.

These components were dedicated in the following order; the parking garage in November 2014, Dining District in January 2015 and Southwest Wing / Neiman Marcus in February 2016. With all work completed, the shopping hub encompassed approximately 2,359,200 leasable square feet and two hundred and eighty-three stores and services.

Sources:

http://www.airfield-freeman.com/ / thefreemans@hotmail.com
"Macy's" article on Wikipedia
"Bloomingdale's" article on Wikipedia
http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu/
Comment post by Jimmy B.
Comment post by "Dea41396"
Nassau County, New York Tax Assessor website
"Roosevelt Field Theatres" article / Cinema Treasures website
www.city-data.com/forum/long-island/47032-you-know-youre-long-island-when-106.html / Comment posts by "LiskaGirl" and "KittyNY"
Comment post by "Jim B."
http://gardencitypatch.com
New York City's Green Acres Center


The New York City-based arm of Gimbels built their second branch store at GREEN ACRES CENTER. Gimbels Valley Stream encompassed 274,000 square feet and opened for business in October 1956. 
Drawing from http://departmentstoremuseum.blogspot.com

We begin a photo tour of Gimbels Valley Stream with a broad view of the main sales floor. This shot, and the vintage photos that follow, show the store as it appeared in March 1957.
Photo from Library of Congress


Our first stop, Budget Dresses.
Photo from Library of Congress


Then on to Ladies Coats and Suits.
Photo from Library of Congress


Here we see the Juniors Shop.
Photo from Library of Congress


And the Bridal Shop.
Photo from Library of Congress


In this view, we have the Millinery Department.
Photo from Library of Congress


The Women's Shoes department is seen here.
Photo from Library of Congress


Now we move on to Men's Furnishings.
Photo from Library of Congress


The Men's Cruise Wear Shop is nearby.
Photo from Library of Congress


And Men's Shoes is not far away.
Photo from Library of Congress


A series of escalators whisk shoppers between the building's four levels.
Photo from Library of Congress