Shopping Malls

Shopping Malls

The shopping malls of yesteryear were the hub of their respective communities. For adults, they offered a one-stop shopping experience that would reign until big box stores and the internet arrived. For teens, the experience was entirely social – a place to meet friends, find a love interest, or simply bestow their allowance upon the well-stocked arcade.

Malls first appeared on the American landscape following WWII, offering a centralized place for suburban communities to shop. Most malls consisted of a few large “anchor” stores at the ends, filled with smaller shops in between. Unlike the remaining malls of today that seem to all have the same stores in them, there was much more individuality from mall to mall.

For teens, the mall was a place to escape a hot summer day, to Christmas shop for loved ones, to see a movie, or just hang out with friends at the bustling arcades of yesteryear. These dark caves of entertainment were filled with electronic beeps as the youth of America competed for high scores and the eye of the opposite sex. Of course, back in the day, they were also filled with cigarette smoke, as hard as that might be to fathom in today’s world.

Malls started losing their luster into the 90s, as places like Wal-Mart and Target started dotting the landscape in bigger numbers. Sure, just about every community still has a mall, but the ones that remain are a shell of their former glorious self, a place where you were almost guaranteed to bump into a neighbor while you browsed the latest record albums, bought a pair of shoes, or simply tried to save the universe from hordes of Space Invaders.

For those who would love reminisce over these magical places from yesteryear, we highly recommend that you check out Malls of America, a wonderful website with a collection of vintage photos that will really take you back.

If you spent your youth hanging around your local shopping mall, we would love to hear all of your recollections and memories in our comments section below, as we tip our hat to these marketplaces of yesteryear.

12 Responses to “Shopping Malls”

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  1. greenhornet says:

    Love looking at pix of old malls. The Chicago area had a bunch of them, including what was billed as the very first mall in America — the Park Forest Plaza.

    PFP, which consisted of gardens and covered and uncovered walkways, was anchored by Sears and Marshall Field’s. IIRC, the same outfit that created Park Forest Plaza eventually gave us the Oakbrook and Old Orchard shopping centers, which had the same kind of open-air shopping and gardens (which are, unfortunately, really only suited for three of Chicago’s four seasons).

    Then there were the indoor malls. I spent a fair amount of my childhood at Dixie Square, which died a slow and painful death and was eventually rebuilt in nearly its exact replica detail and then demolished by The Blues Brothers.

    These days, the great-grandaddy of the indoor malls is Woodfield in Chicago, but before Woodfield existed, there was Yorktown nearby. I was surprised to go back recently and see that a lot of Yorktown’s original design had been retained.

    There’s another great website about the rise and fall of the malls at:

  2. greenhornet says:

    There’s an interesting blog item on the deadmalls page: that the Naughties were responsible for the deaths of two community institutions that had been pretty big parts of our lives: the local newspaper and the local mall.

    A sad loss on both fronts.

  3. AmandaByNight says:

    I wonder if anyone here remembers that late 80s horror movie Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge? Or Chopping Mall for that matter. Both really capture that feeling that malls were their own little cities. Of course, I hung out at our mall in my hometown, which is now like a ghost town compared to how it used to be. Makes me a little sad…

  4. Zoetrope11384EB says:

    I have lived in metropolitan Chicago and Denver and there are several malls that I remember. Some were great and are now gone or ruined, and some are still around.

    In Chicago, even as a little kid at 5 years old, I definitely remember the Woodfield Mall in the Chicago area. It was HUGE. The one thing that are remember about it was it was 3 levels high and had walkways that crisscrossed these huge atriums and on the ground floor there was an aquarium with an underground passage where you could see the fish swimming in the tank. As far as I know, Woodfield Mall is still around.

    In Denver, there are quite a few malls around that were big in their heyday, but are now gone. One of them was Cinderella City, which was the largest mall west of the Mississippi River at the time it was built. Our family moved out to Denver when I was almost 6 and Cinderella City was a mall I went to quite often as a kid. Cinderella City had separate “malls”, each with a different color and theme, there was the Rose Mall, the Gold Mall and Cinder Alley, which was a replica of an outdoor street at night and had some odd novelty shops in the “back alleys”. The last time I remember going to Cinderella City was in the early 80’s and the mall was torn down around the year 2000.

    Villa Italia was another mall in metro Denver that is not far from where I live today. It was also torn down around the year 2000 and in its place is the outdoor Bel-Mar Shopping Center.

    However, the one mall that I miss the most is Tabor Center, which opened in 1984 in Downtown Denver. This place was not that large of a mall, but it was great! It looked like a large factory style greenhouse and had everything — a great food court, a bookstore, The Sharper Image and Rocky Mountain Records and Tapes. Like all of the other malls of the past, it too died a slow and painful death, then they remodeled it and ruined everything that made that place great. Gone was the atrium style interior and they replaced everything with wood (I think that the designers were trying to make it look like Park Meadows Mall, which is in south Metro Denver). Less than half of the spaces have businesses in them and they aren’t worth going into and the food court only has 2 or 3 restaurants running at any given time. I really miss the old Tabor Center because of it’s 80’s decor and the things you could buy there. I spent a lot of time during my late teens and early 20s hanging out at Tabor Center.

    Here’s another website that talks about malls and store-chains of the past:

  5. Railyn says:

    Malls Of America was a great site, but it hasn’t been updated in years.

    Both Labelscar and Deadmalls are good sites, as well as “The Caldor Rainbow”:

    And as a serious Mall-Rat, Dead-Maller, and Mall-er, I offer my Flickr photostream:

    A number of the people who regularly comment on my photos have great photostreams of their own as well.

    Happy mall-ing!

  6. Railyn says:

    Park City Center is alive and well. It’s a large Super-Regional mall in Lancaster. It has a unique spoke design. I was last there about 2 years ago. Like many malls of the past, it had a dark color scheme, and a huge fountain at center court. Each of it’s main “spokes” had a theme: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. They were decorated accordingly. Winter wing had an ice rink below it, and you could view it from a skylight cut into the floor.

    Sadly, the decor of Park City Center is now very modern, and shiny, and airy……and dull. It retains a bit of the old mall “charm”, like one of the anchors having an escalator at the entrance that goes directly to the second floor, but not much. It’s a nice mall, but it used to be really cool.

    There are some postcards out there showing the season-themed wings, but of course, when I want them, I can’t find them……

  7. princessdiana says:

    Courtland Center lost and had alot of stores.I can’t name them all. It was originally called Eastland Mall. Terry Underhill,told me that Old country Buffet is closing.Dollar Tree is closing at the end of the month.

  8. princessdiana says:

    Old Country Buffet is not closing. Sbarro’s closed,Don and I didn’t care for that place,anyway. Osterman Jewelers closed. I wonder Where Don will get my wedding ring? I want my engagement/Wedding ring merged.

  9. Gina says:

    It’s sad to go through malls today and see all the empty spaces. Makes me worry the mall will soon be closing. Plus there’s no Waldenbooks anymore!

  10. Lynn says:

    I’m from Jersey, so there was always a mall for me to go to as a teenager. But my favorite was always the now sadly defunct Nanuet Mall, which had a Sweet Factory.

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