Bellevue Way and Northeast 8th Street
King County (Bellevue), Washington

The earliest retail complex inducted into the MALL HALL OF FAME held its official grand opening August 20, 1946. Known at the time as BELLEVUE SHOPPING SQUARE, the open-air, city street grid retail hub was the nation's first Post-World War II shopping center. It occupied a 34.3 acre site, located 9 miles east of center city Seattle.

Construction had begun in 1945, before the end of the global conflict. Kemper Freeman, Sr. and his brother Miller wrangled permission out of the US government to build a new, morale-building movie theater, utilizing the scarce construction materials then available.

The first BELLEVUE business to begin operation, the 560-seat Bel-Vue Theatre, opened March 20, 1946. On August 20 of the same year, sixteen stores began business, including a 1-level (20,400 square foot), Seattle-based Frederick & Nelson. This store was the first suburban shopping center branch of Chicago-based Marshall Field & Company (Frederick & Nelson having been a subsidiary since 1929).

BELLEVUE SHOPPING SQUARE became part of the newly-incorporated city of Bellevue in March 1953. Additional stores were added over the following years. J.C. Penney opened a dry goods location in 1955. Frederick & Nelson expanded into a 3-level (158,000 square foot) anchor store in August 1956. Nordstrom's Shoes made its debut in 1958.

By the late 1960s, BELLEVUE SQUARE ("shopping" having been dropped from the official moniker) had expanded into a fifty-store shopopolis. Retailers included Clark's Crabapple Restaurant (a 1946 charter tenant), Karl Larson's Village Shoes, Florsheim Shoes, Mamselle & Mr. Paul's Hair Design, Thompson Drug, Pacific National Bank, a J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 and A & P supermarket. A 2-level (67,500 square foot) Nordstrom Best was dedicated December 1, 1967.

CROSSROADS CENTER {3.2 miles northeast, in Bellevue} was completed in 1964. Subsequent retail rivals for BELLEVUE SQUARE included TOTEM LAKE MALL (1973) {6.5 miles northeast, in Kirkland}, FACTORIA MALL (1975) {3 miles southeast, also in Bellevue} and -eventually- REDMOND TOWN CENTER (1997) {5.2 miles northeast, in Redmond}.

All the competition caused Kemper Development to embark on a total rebuild of the existing, open-air complex in 1980. The shopping center was demolished, leaving only the Frederick & Nelson and Nordstrom (Best) structures standing. A fully-enclosed mall, designed by George Wrede, was built in four phases.

The reconfigured BELLEVUE SQUARE was anchored by the aforementioned Frederick & Nelson. A newly-built, 3-level (180,000 square foot) Nordstrom was dedicated November 5, 1981. A new 3-level (180,000 square foot) J.C. Penney served its first patrons August 18, 1982. Finally, a 3-level (180,000 square foot), Seattle-based The Bon Marche ["bon mar-shay"] made its debut in August 1984. With its completion, BELLEVUE SQUARE encompassed 1,090,000 leasable square feet and one hundred and forty-five stores and services.

Frederick &  Nelson closed their BELLEVUE SQUARE store May 25, 1992. Negotiations with New York City-based Saks Fifth Avenue fell through soon after. It was decided to not lease the 185,000 square foot space to a single retailer. Instead, the area was sectioned into forty-five smaller stores, with the first opening in August 1993. Eventually there would be F.A.O. Schwarz, Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers. The basement level was refashioned into a (51,000 square foot) The Bon Marche Home Store.

Anchor stores at BELLEVUE SQUARE were refurbished in the mid-1990s. Nordstrom was expanded by 90,000 square feet (now encompassing 270,000 square feet) and J.C. Penney was enlarged into a 200,000 square foot operation.

The most recent mall expansion was completed in the year 2000. THE CORNER AT BELLEVUE SQUARE encompassed 120,000 square feet on two levels. Stores included Crate & Barrel, P.F. Chang's China Bistro and ZTejas Southwestern Grill. BELLEVUE SQUARE now spanned 1.3 million square feet and housed over two hundred stores and services.

The Bon Marche was rebranded as a Bon-Macy's in August 2003. The store received a bona fide Macy's nameplate March 6, 2005. A 40 million dollar renovation of the shopping venue got underway in 2007. No new retail area was added, but several of the major inline stores, such as Williams-Sonoma, Banana Republic and Pottery Barn, expanded into adjoining space.

Likewise, the interior of the mall was given a facelift, making it into an "urban-gardenlike" setting. New flooring, lighting, seating and landscaping were installed. The project was completed in November 2008.

J.C. Penney had operated at BELLEVUE SQUARE since 1955. The mall's circa-1982 store was shuttered November 1, 2014. The building was gutted and remade into the "South Common Shops", which housed eight retail spaces. A 1-level (30,500 square foot) 365 by Whole Foods Market grocery opened in early 2016, followed by Zara and Uniqlo boutiques.


Eastside Heritage Center, Bellevue, Washington
"Bellevue Square" article on Wikipedia /Bellevue Square History /Essay # 4143/Alan J. Stein/February 2003
"Bellevue: Its First 100 Years"/Lucille McDonald/Bellevue Historical Society, 2000
King County, Washington tax assessor website


Hair Farmer Joe said...

Really nice post about some of the history of what has gone on here in Bellevue. It used to be all about the mall, but now there is so much more going on here and the entire Eastside!

The Curator said...


Thanks much for perusing and posting.

Yup, it seems that there is a lot going on across the bridge(s) (from Seattle) there....

It must be a great place to live...altho I surely could never afford it.

Cheers, nonetheless,

Anonymous said...

It's pretty cool that you've included, "Mr. Paul's Hair Design" because that was my father's hair salon. My mother also worked there as a cosmotologist, in fact that's how my parents met and then fell in love in beauty school and then eventually married. They used to put me up on the table in my little basket and all the customers would oggle over me. I have many fond memories of those days back when the wishing well was there and FTD florists was right next door. Those wonderful flowers, how they smelled so fresh and fragrent! The Crabapple restaurant was where we ate on many occasions, and I remember seeing Madam Butterfly at the Bel-Vue Theatre. Those were the days when we could happily and joyfully cross the streets running and laughing, not a care in the world. Go to Nordstrom Best and buy shoes and or pearls for my mother. Or go to Fredrick & Nelson and get a "Frango Shake" and have lunch with the fashionable ladies and trying to be one myself. Hahaha - Wow, those were the days. So, a huge thank you for remembering and including "Mr. Paul's"!!! Best regards, Lisa Hilderbrand - and Seattle PI Blogger, "Eastside Inside".

The Curator said...


Thanks so much for the BELLEVUE SQUARE memoirs! I was more than glad to include your parents' salon in my run-down of late '60s shopping center tenants.

I have read about these "Frango" milkshakes. Was it some kind of chocolate ? (us easterners wanna know, hee hee).

Best of luck with your East Side blogs.

Thanks again for posting.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis,

It was one of the best chocolatie (spelling) minty delicious shakes that you've ever tasted. It's to bad they went away - they're sorely missed around here. Although I believe that you can still buy Frango's in there box at Macy's in Bellevue Square. It's just that the shakes, were, "the bomb"!!
Take care,

The Curator said...


A "Frango" shake...a real Nor'western thing, I guess. Sounds I love anything chocolate.

I was able to post the photo of the hair salon on here...a nice addition (thanks to the Eastside Heritage Center).

Hope things are going great for you in Bellevue.

Thanks for posting.


dea41396 said...

JCPenney is 3 floors... I can give you a link to the video of the elevator in JCPenney that goes to 3 floors if you would like... The way they demolished the mall and rebuilt it in the 80's seems exactly like what KoP did...

The Curator said...


Article ammended.

With this mall...the only thing left standing -during the 1980s renovation- was the Frederick and Nelson. Everything else was newly-built.

KOPP...humm...they tore down just about everything..the old Wanamaker's was left....the original Penney's must have bitten the dust. I'm not entirely sure...but I believe at least some of the 1963 mall is still there, though.

I may have to dig deeper and see what I can find.

Thanks for posting,

dea41396 said...

@TheCurator: One of my friends filmed a Service Elevator at KoP that is definately from c. 1963/c.1965 so there is SOME of the c. 1963/c.1966 plaza left but VERY Little, most of it was rebuilt in 1981/1983. Also the original JCPenney was torn down in 1992 as Stern's closed and JCPenney moved to the former Stern's allowing for the demolition of what I believe to be all of the c. 1963 plaza (the Original JCPenney area) but the c. 1966 plaza was kept during the 1981/1983 ren. but its mallways were overhauled during the 1995/1996 renovation/expansion

The Curator said...


So...there is a small portion of the 1963 building remaining...I believe where Woolworth was...

Thanks for posting.

dea41396 said...

@TheCurator: It could be. On the floorplan I emailed you, I referred to it as the original JCPenney but now that I think of it the old Penney's wasn't in that spot so yeah you're right it probably is the ol' Woolworth's

The Curator said...

I've read somewhere that a part of the old Woolworth structure is still there.

I'm surprised that they left anything.

Thanks for the KOPP plan, btw.