New York City's Gardens of Great Neck Center

A circa-1951 view of Greater New York City's first suburban shopping venue, with a 3-level John Wanamaker at its center. This structure would house three different department stores over the next 28 years.
Photo from Library of Congress

Another view of Long Island's GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER.
Photo from Library Of Congress

Over the years, the retail hub would also be known as the NORTH SHORE CENTER and NORTH SHORE SHOPPING MART.
Photo from Library Of Congress

A circa-1951 layout of the strip shopping complex. Its developer named it GARDENS OF GREAT NECK in order to promote it as a pastoral, tree-lined, suburban venue.

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

Above is 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

And 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 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 snapshot, 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 image, 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 a sofa and dinette with dish cabinet. One might wonder 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 this view, we have a very Mid-Century Modern bedroom suite.
Photo from Library of Congress

This model room is furnished with an Early American-style canopy bed and chest of drawers.
Photo from Library of Congress  

Here, we see more Early American bedroom furnishings.
Photo from Library of Congress 

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

We end our time-traveling tour at the store's Rug Department.
Photo from Library of Congress

A full-page newspaper ad announces the grand opening of Stern's, which replaced the 4-year-old John Wanamaker store in September of 1955. By this time, the shopping strip is officially known as GREAT NECK PLAZA.
Advert from Allied Stores 

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

A circa-2014 layout of the strip center, now known as THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. After the demise of the Gertz store in the early 1980s, the ground floor was retenanted by an Edward's supermarket. This was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain in 2001.

We wrap up our article with three early 2000s-vintage photos of THE GARDENS OF GREAT NECK. We begin with the 2-level store structure at the northeast end of the complex. At this time, it housed two financial institutions; 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. It housed the Waldbaum's supermarket seen here for over 14 years. Other tenants in the building are a Planet Fitness gym and branch of the Great Neck Public Library.
Photo from http//

Lastly, we have a view of the southwest end of the complex, with Rite Aid Drug on the right.
Photo from Nassau County, New York
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 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 was developed by New York City's Sol Atlas and designed by Lathrop Douglass. It encompassed approximately 216,500 leasable square feet.

GARDENS OF GREAT NECK CENTER was anchored by a 3-level (51,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based John Wanamaker, the chain's first suburban New York City location. This store opened for business May 16, 1951 and featured a huge, 2 story show window and two elevators; quite impressive features at the time.

Inline stores included Millers apparel, Pennsylvania Drugs, Corsetorium, North Shore Hardware and an (11,800 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The parking area accommodated 500 autos. By the mid-1950s, the retail complex at South Middle Neck and Great Neck Roads was known as GREAT NECK PLAZA. 

Wanamaker's store turned out to be short-lived. It was shuttered on May 3, 1955. The ground level was expanded into vacant store space on both sides. A 3-level (71,000 square foot) Stern's was dedicated on September 2, 1955. This was the chain's first suburban branch. It became a New York City-based Gertz on April 1, 1961, which shut down in January 1980.

A 1-level (43,000 square foot) Edward's supermarket filled the vacant store's ground level. This operation was rebranded by the Waldbaum's chain on March 3, 2001. It was shuttered on November 22, 2015 and re-opened, as a Best Market grocery, on February 10, 2016.

The Wanamaker / Stern's / Gertz store space is now occupied by several tenants. A Planet Fitness gym is in the basement. The ground level houses the aforementioned Best Market, 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, 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.


The New York Daily News
"Great Neck Plaza Walking Tour" / Long Island Traditions / Nancy Solomon
Nassau County, New York property tax assessor website
"Great Neck Plaza" article on Wikipedia


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 /
New York City's Roosevelt Field Center

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

A circa-1960 aerial, showing the mall's original single-anchor format. Space on its north end has been cleared for the construction of a second major department store.
Photo from 

Gimbels Roosevelt Field rang up its first sale in August 1962. The store encompassed 3 levels and 240,300 square feet. It was the fifth branch of the Gimbels-New York division, following stores at Yonkers, Valley Stream, Bay Shore and Paramus, New Jersey.

A circa-'63 ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER plan. The nation's first shopping mall ice rink had opened here in 1958. With the addition of a new Gimbels, the 50 million dollar facility encompassed an astounding (for the time) 1,261,200 leasable square feet, making it one of the largest malls in the USA. Its vast parking area could accommodate 11,000 autos.

A circa-1965 view of the main mall concourse. The nameplate of Gimbels Roosevelt Field looms in the distance.
Photo from

Howard Clothes, a Brooklyn-based men's & boys clothier, operated a store in the original shopping complex.
Photo from

A Macy's ad from August 1968 beckons one and all to come see the world's largest enclosed shopping center. The complex had just emerged from a 1.5 million dollar roofing renovation.
Advert from R.H. Macy & Company

A circa-1974 plan shows recent modifications. As mentioned, the complex was enclosed and climate-controlled in 1967-'68. In the early 1970s, two anchor department stores joined the retail roster; Alexander's and J.C. Penney. Two parking garages were also built. La Petite Mall, a Tudor-motif mall within a mall, has just opened for business.

Gimbels Roosevelt Field was shuttered in August 1986. Stern's assumed the vacant store and opened for business in February 1987.
Photo from

Aside from an anchor nameplate change, ROOSEVELT FIELD remained virtually unchanged through the 1980s. The mall shifted into a major expansion mode in 1991, with a first phase completed in April 1993. A partial Upper Level has been built on top of the northern half of the structure. One of the new features upstairs was a zeppelin-motif Food Court. 

Alexander's at ROOSEVELT FIELD closed in February 1991. The building was remodeled and re-opened, as an "A & S" (Abraham & Straus), in October 1992. This store lasted only 3 years. The Bloomingdale's seen here moved in in November 1995.
Photo from

The second half of the 1990s expansion was completed in two stages. The Upper Level was extended over the southern half of the mall, with fifty new stores dedicated in September 1996. Two parking garages were also built; one on the southeast corner of the mall and a second, on its northwest end. The new and improved shopping hub was now promoted with the logo seen above.
Graphic from (Website on Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

In addition to an expanded second floor, a fifth anchor has joined the directory. With its completion in 1997, the "landmark mall" encompasses an astonishing 2,228,000 leasable square feet and houses over 250 stores. In this circa-1997 plan, one may notice a new northwest entrance and exit portal for the service tunnel. The original portal, in a southeast parking garage, has been displaced by a new Nordstrom.

That iconic Seattle-centric retailer set up shop in a 3-level ROOSEVELT FIELD store in August 1997.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

The upstairs area of the mammoth mall was enclosed with dramatic vaulted ceilings. In this interior view, we see all three floors of the complex; its Concourse Level (or basement), Main Level and Upper Level.
Drawing from (Simon Property Group)

After the demise of the Stern's store, in August 2001, the building was divided between Galyan's Trading Company, Bloomingdale's Furniture Gallery and XSport Fitness. Galyan's gave way to the Dick's Sporting Goods seen here in October 2004.
Drawing from (Simon Property Group)

In a 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 Dining District. The 17-bay food facility includes indoor and outdoor seating and houses fast-food outlets such as Johnny Rockets, Juice Generation, Sarku Japan, Charley's Philly Steaks and Patsy's Pizzeria.
Drawing from (Simon Property Group)

Texas' trendy Neiman Marcus chain added a sixth anchor to ROOSEVELT FIELD, which was the first Neiman's on Long Island. The store was dedicated in early 2016.
Drawing from (Simon Property Group)
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 SHOPPING 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 served as the Roosevelt Field airstrip. This was named in honor of Lieutenant Quentin Roosevelt (Teddy's son), who had been killed in World War I. The facility was the departure point for "Lucky Lindy's" historic transatlantic flight in 1927. A military airbase also operated there, that was decommissioned in June 1951.

A section of the property was used for the Roosevelt Raceway, an auto-racing track that was converted to harness racing in September 1940. The remainder of the airfield property would be devoted to the gargantuan ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER. This facility would be developed on a 125-acre site located 24.5 miles east of Times Square. The plot was situated in Nassau County's Town of Hempstead and was adjacent to the Village of Garden City.

Initial plans were announced in August 1950. Ground was broken on April 26, 1955. The prospective shopping hub was built by New York City's William Zeckendorf, under the auspices of Webb & Knapp. It was designed by Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei and the Rudolph Boehler & Rene Brugnoni firm, of New York City.

As originally constructed, the open-air complex encompassed approximately 902,900 leasable square feet. It was comprised of a main Mall Level and service basement, which included a small Concourse Level of shops and services.

ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER was officially dedicated on August 29, 1956. Charter stores included Walgreen Drug, Buster Brown Shoes, Howard Clothes, The Corsetorium, Paree Millinery, Singer Sewing Center, Thom McAn Shoes, Ripley's, Buckner's Bridal and a Horn & Hardhart Restaurant.

There were two 5 & 10s; a (37,000 square foot) F.W. Woolworth and (37,000 square foot) S.S. Kresge. Moreover, the mall housed two supermarkets; a (30,000 square foot) Food Fair and (30,000 square foot) Grand Union. Service-type features included the Flight Room public auditorium and an outdoor ice skating rink (this completed in 1958).

A 3-level (343,000 square foot) Macy's was the sole anchor of the 1956 mall. A 3-level (240,300 square foot) Gimbels was added, which began business August 20, 1962. In order to be one up on its primary retail rival, Macy's had a fourth level added in that their 461,000 square foot ROOSEVELT FIELD store would be substantially larger than that operated by Gimbels.

With this addition, the retail hub spanned approximately 1,261,200 leasable square feet and housed one hundred and thirteen stores and services. The Century's Roosevelt Field Theatre, a freestanding venue built at the northwest corner of the mall, showed its first feature on August 28, 1962. It was divided into a 3-plex in 1981 and an 8-plex in 1987.

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 SHOPPING PLAZA (1956) {4.6 miles northeast, in Nassau County}. In addition there was SUNRISE MALL (1973) {9.8 miles southeast, also in Nassau County}. 

New York City-based Corporate Property Investors had acquired ROOSEVELT FIELD CENTER in 1966. They embarked on a renovation to enclose the mall in April 1967, which was completed in June 1968. The shopping hub was known, henceforth, as ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL.

The complex was expanded further 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. In 1974, a small, Tudor-style section, known as La Petite Mall, opened. This "mall within a mall" was installed in the existing southwest store block. It housed stores such as Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Hanan Yarn, The Cave Hair Salon and Sanrio.

Another enlargement of ROOSEVELT FIELD MALL was done in stages between 1991 and 1997. On April 23, 1993, a partial Upper Level was dedicated, which had been built on top of the northern half of the mall. This new section included a 14-bay, zeppelin-motif Food Court. Among sixty new stores and services were J. Crew, Bebe, Banana Republic and Mondo men's wear..

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 on October 17, 1992. This store was in operation until April 30, 1995. New York City-based Bloomingdale's assumed the store space on November 2nd of the same year.

The second half of the 150 million dollar mall remodeling was completed in two stages. The Upper Level was extended over the mall's southern section. Two parking structures were also built; one replacing an existing garage on the mall's southeast corner.

The upstairs extension was officially dedicated in October 1996, with fifty stores added to the mall directory. These included FAO Schwarz, AX / Armani Exchange, BCBG, Kenneth Cole, Pottery Barn and Modell's Sporting Goods.

A fifth anchor department store was built as the final facet of the 1990s makeover. A 3-level (225,000 square foot) Nordstrom, added to the southeast corner of the complex, opened August 15, 1997. With its completion, the facility spanned approximately 2,228,000 leasable square feet. It was promoted as the nation's fifth-largest shopping mall.

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

Gimbels Roosevelt Field had shut down in August 1986 and was followed by a New Jersey-based Stern's, which was in operation between February 1987 and August 2001. After Stern's closed, the structure was divided three ways. Indianapolis-based Galyan's Trading Company renovated a 2-level (105,400 square foot) space and opened for business on October 17, 2003.

A 2-level (65,000 square foot) Bloomingdale's Furniture Gallery was installed in adjacent area. The old Gimbels basement was renovated into a (70,000 square foot) XSport Fitness, which was dedicated in September 2006. Meanwhile, the Galyan's store had been rebranded, by Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods, in October 2004.

In September 2013, a comprehensive interior-exterior makeover got underway. In addition to giving the existing structure a thorough update, the 200 million dollar project included construction of a fourth parking garage, Dining District (which replaced the early 1990s-vintage 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 on February 19, 2016. With all work completed, the shopping hub encompassed approximately 2,377,000 leasable square feet and housed two hundred and eighty-three stores and services under its roof.


The New York Times
The New York Daily News Branch
Nassau County, New York Tax Assessor website (Long Island Business News)
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

We begin a photo tour of Gimbels Valley Stream with a broad view of the main sales floor. This snapshot, 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 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

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

A series of escalators whisk shoppers between the building's 4 levels.
Photo from Library of Congress