American Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University
Shopping Mall and
Shopping Center Studies

Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in 1924. It is reputed to have been the first shopping center specifically designed to accommodate automobiles. The parking lot was across the street from the clusters of stores.  [post card]  Official site 
Shopping Center History
This page is intended as a starting point for research into shopping mall history, primarily in the United States. Many shopping centers maintain their own web sites and some include brief historical sketches. The selected links on this page are primarily to general web sites that provide historical overviews. The separate Bibliography provides leads to additional information about shopping centers and mall history.  Any comments or suggestions for this web site are welcome.

Some Historically Important Shopping Centers in the United States 
Status Name / Metropolitan Area Comments
Market Square
Chicago, Illinois
Arthur Aldis designed an integrated shopping complex of 28 stores, offices, and apartments, with parking accommodations, for the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. It shares a claim as the first planned automobile-centered shopping center.
Country Club Plaza
Kansas City, Missouri
Jesse Clyde Nichols created Country Club Plaza adjacent to a planned suburban residential district. It claims distinction as the first automobile-centered shopping center built on a unified plan and operated by a single developer. 
Grandview Avenue Shopping Center
Columbus, Ohio
Don M. Casto designed a strip of 30 stores (including four super-markets) and off-street parking for 400 cars, not associated with an exclusive residential area. This general plan became the prototype of shopping centers for several decades.
Highland Park Village
Dallas, Texas
Hugh Prather designed this innovative center, adjacent to a planned residential community, with stores facing toward an inner parking lot. It was not completed until after World War II.
Torn down
in the 1960s
Park and Shop
Washington, D.C.
The first important neighborhood shopping center in the Washington D.C. area was conceived by Herbert Shannon and Morton Luchs, and designed by Arthur Heaton. It served as the model for similar centers through the D.C. metropolitan area.
River Oaks Shopping Center
Houston, Texas
Probably the first shopping center in Texas, River Oaks was designed by Hugh Prather as a disconnected cluster of stores along West Gray street.
Silver Spring Shopping Center
Silver Spring, Maryland
This example of an early super-market anchored shopping center with 19 stores and off-street parking was designed by John Eberson.
1943 ? Willow Run Shopping Center
Detroit, Michigan
One of several shopping centers built during World War II to serve housing projects built adjacent to war-time industries, in this case the Ford-operated B-24 plant.
Broadway-Crenshaw Center
Los Angeles, California
This early regional shopping center was originally anchored by a supermarket, but has been enlarged and modernized several times.
Northgate Shopping Center
Seattle, Washington
John Graham Jr. designed a modern shopping center with two rows of stores either side of an open-air pedestrian mall and anchored by department stores at each end.
Valley Plaza
North Hollywood, California
Built in the San Fernando Valley suburbs of Los Angeles, it was probably the first shopping center built adjacent to a major freeway.
Shoppers World
Framingham, Massachusetts
First two-level shopping center, with department store anchors and a dumbbell floor plan.
Northland Shopping Center
Southfield, Michigan
World's largest when built. Designed by Victor Gruen, with 110 stores on two levels in a cluster layout, with a department store anchor at the center.
Town and Country Shopping Center
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
This standard one-level linear center was the first built by Martin and Mathew Bucksbaum, who later organized General Growth Properties.
Mondawmin Mall
Baltimore, Maryland
First major shopping center by James Rouse, who later became a major mall and festival marketplace developer in the East.
Southdale Center
Edina, Minnesota
The first fully enclosed shopping center was designed by Victor Gruen and developed by the Dayton department store, which was one of the two anchors.
The Galleria
One of the largest malls in the US features a vaulted glass ceiling, inspired by Italian arcades.
Woodfield Mall
Shaumberg, Ill.
First super-regional mall.
Mall of America
Bloomington, Minnesota
This four-story mall, with amusement park, aquarium, and several full-service restaurants, in addition to a food court, is the largest (as of 2005) in total area. 

Northgate Shopping Center  in Seattle, Washington, opened in 1950 with two rows of stores facing an open-air pedestrian mall and department store anchors at each end. That arrangement is not entirely obvious from this aerial view taken about the time it opened. [post card]

Aerial view of Northgate Shopping Center  in the 1990s  shows considerable expansion, yet the core of the original 1950 structure can still be identified in the center of the photograph. [post card]

General Shopping Mall History Sites

Evolution of the Shopping Center by Steven Schoenherr at the University of San Diego. 

A Brief History of Shopping Centers from the International Council of Shopping Centers.

A Brief History of Downtowns from Eastern Michigan University Geography and Geology Department has a useful synopsis of shopping center history.

Mall Hall of Fame Blogspot features a well chosen selection of shopping center photographs, floor plans, and brief descriptions.

Malls of America is a blog that features photographs of vintage shopping centers of the 1950s through 1970s.

Early Shopping Center Developers and Architects (1910-1960)

Those pioneering mall developers in blue are the subjects of biographies or other substantial writings. Check the bibliography.

Martin Bucksbaum (1920-1995)
Victor Gruen (1903-1980)
Hugh Prather ( -1959)
Don Monroe Casto (1898-1963)
Jesse Clyde Nichols (1880-1950)
James L. Rouse (1914-1996)
Ernest W. Hahn (1919-1992)
Melvin Simon (1926-2009)

Links to Notable US Shopping Centers
Highland Park Village
(Dallas, Texas, 1931) is surely an example of an early shopping center, but not the first, as this otherwise informative but brief site claims.  Official site

Northgate Shopping Mall (Seattle, Washington, 1950) was one of the first regional suburban shopping centers.  Official site

Southdale Shopping Center (Edina, Minnesota, 1956), the first fully enclosed mall in the US, was designed by Victor Gruen to be the center of a new suburban community near Minneapolis. Official site     Minnesota Historical Society

Valley Fair Center (San Jose, California, 1956) was one of the first suburban malls in the Santa Clara Valley. Official site

Cinderella City Mall (Englewood, Colorado, 1968) was touted as the largest shopping mall west of the Mississippi (1.35-million square feet) when it was built. It went into decline in the late-1980s and was entirely abandoned by 1997. The City of Englewood has since redeveloped the mall site for other uses. City of Englewood

Mall of America (Bloomington, Minnesota, 1992) is the largest mall in the United States in total interior space, although at least two others boast a larger area devoted to retail stores. Perhaps no other mall had attracted so much attention by journalists, academics, and the general public.  Official site

Dead Malls
Dead malls are unsuccessful and abandoned shopping centers. Greyfields are shopping centers that are on the decline and vulnerable to closing. Both have become a separate topic in shopping center history, especially among shopping center aficionados, who visit and document dead malls. Some interesting web sites are:
Dead malls  provides an introduction and useful links can be found on the Dead Malls site.

LabelScar The Retail History Blog takes its name from the discolored space and mounting points left behind when commercial signs are removed from abandoned store fronts.

Mall History documents selected dead mall with photographs, texts and reminiscences.

Retail Stories Dot Com
is a blog that documents the history of specific retail chain stores and shopping centers.

"Malls: Death of An American Icon" by Sarah Max, from CNN/Money.

Apache Plaza, the second enclosed shopping center built in Minnesota, is an example of a dead mall.

Lakehurst Mall by Nicole Yugovich. A history and photos of a demolished shopping mall in Waukegan, Illinois.

Gateway Mall
(Springfield, Oregon) is the subject of "Mall-aise," a photo essay by Herman Krieger.


Early Canadian Shopping Centers

Park Royal Shopping Centre
, in West Vancouver, British Columbia, opened as Canada's first shopping center in 1950.  It  was converted into a covered mall in 1962. This photograph  was taken soon after the center opened.  [post card]

A brief history of the development of early shopping centers in Canada can be found on the Hudson's Bay Company web site:

Shopping Center Studies Home Page 

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History  |   Connecticut Shopping Malls
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Created January 2000 by Emil Pocock,  Last modified Nov. 11, 2009..

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