TOWN & COUNTRY DRIVE-IN SHOPPING CENTER
East Broad Street and Robinwood Avenue
Whitehall, Ohio

The earliest post-war shopping plaza in the Buckeye State was the brainchild of Columbus' Don M. Casto, Senior. For his TOWN & COUNTRY DRIVE-IN SHOPPING CENTER, he began developing a 12 acre plot 5.3 miles northeast of the Ohio State House. The project was announced to the local media July 5, 1947.

Located within the newly-incorporated suburb of Whitehall, the shopping center site stretched along East Broad Street. At the time, the area was considered remote and off the beaten path...which resulted in the the project being derided as "Casto's Folly".

A groundbreaking was held November 11, 1948 for the initial twenty store section, which had been designed by C. Melvin Frank. The grand opening took place March 6, 1949. In attendance were Columbus Mayor (and later Ohio Governor) James A. Rhodes and Whitehall Mayor Howard O. Barr.

Major TOWN & COUNTRY tenants included the first shopping center stores for J.C. Penney, S.S. Kresge and Kay Jewelers. There was also a branch of the local Boston Store, a chain operated as a division of Dearborn, Michigan-based Federal.

A second shopping center segment came inline between October 1951 and January 1952, with a 1-level (20,000 square foot) branch of the Columbus-based Union Company (a division of Chicago's Marshall Field's) and 24,000 square foot Big Bear supermarket.

By the mid-1950s, the complex, now known as simply TOWN & COUNTRY CENTER, encompassed ten retail buildings and over 400,000 leasable square feet. It covered 25.6 acres and went by the alternate name of "MIRACLE MILE", although it actually spanned .5 of a mile from end to end.

A listing of inline stores operating in the original shopping center would include Lil' Kiddy Shop, Stately's Apparel, Sarah's Yarn Shop, Edward's Rexall, Sam's Shoe Service, Eavy's Restaurant, Harry's Beauty Salon, a branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and Kroger and Alber's supermarkets. It was a requirement that all businesses be open six days a week until 9 pm. At the time, this was a radical concept.

The Town & Country Cinema opened, as a freestanding, single-screen structure, September 21, 1966. It was located across the street from the core complex, at the corner of Broad and Robinwood Avenue, and was shuttered September 25, 1986. In the early 1970s, a 65,000 square foot discount store, possibly a Jamesway and later an Ames, had been built near the cinema. This was accompanied by a larger discount store, possibly a Kmart, built on a pad west of TOWN & COUNTRY CENTER.

A renovation was done to the retail hub in 1975, with new facades and canopies installed. The Union Company, which had been doubled in size with the addition of a mezzanine level in 1967, was rebranded as a Halle's ["Hal-eez"] boutique store in May 1980. This was an operation of the Cleveland-based department store chain. A Lazarus Capri Shop, which had taken over the Boston Store space in 1973, moved into the Halle's spot when it was vacated in 1982. This store was shuttered January 31, 1992.

A second renovation had commenced in 1986. The western store block was demolished and replaced by a 77,600 square foot structure. Included was a 1-level (53,000 square foot) relocation of the Big Bear supermarket. This store opened October 31, 1987.

As the 50th anniversary of TOWN & COUNTRY CENTER approached, the Casto Company decided that a third renovation of the property was in order. A "Main Street USA" motif was used, with stores given new brick facades and awnings. The parking lot was also reconfigured.

Today, after more demolition and rebuilding, TOWN & COUNTRY CENTER encompasses 511,500 leasable square feet and fifty-five tenant spaces.

Sources:

www.doncasto.com
Franklin County, Ohio Tax assessor website
Columbus News Index
www.bigbearstores.com
www.columbuslibrary.org
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.dispatch.com
www.columbusmemory.org
Comment posts by "Anonymous"


FAIR USE OF TOWN & COUNTRY IMAGES:

The graphics and photographs from The Pittsburgh Press, Milwaukee Journal and Columbus Metropolitan Library illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The graphics 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 the images 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.