Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Topanga Plaza Shopping Center

Canoga Park, California - '60s or '70s

Color balance is a little muddled on this one, but you get the idea. More of note here, are those clear super-funky tubes running down from the cieling, straight into the garden area below! What's up with that?! Just looking at it, I'm assuming that maybe water trickled down those babies? If so, this is one of the coolest features I've seen in any mall so far! Just such a groovy, far-out idea, don't you think! :)

There also appears to be some nice lighting down there around the tubes, so I'm betting this was quite a sight in the evening, when the whole thing was turned on and running! If the tubes aren't for water, then I have no idea what's going on there. Anyone know this mall from back in the day, who can shed some light on this for us?

Topanga's still there, apparently, and they've just begun construction on a major expansion to the mall. Here's their current, generic Westfield-owned website.


Blogger RobiNZ said...

We had a mall in New Zealand with a feature similar - now long gone. It was lots of mono filament lines (fishing line) with beads of water running down them. Probably the same system.

Wed Aug 10, 08:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Bettie in California said...

Son-in-law in London sent this to me, here in the U.S. I shopped at this mall when it was brand new, when my children were small. Shop in it now on occasion, though its a bit of a drive from current home. Yes, the fountain did/does have water trickling down the tubes and was there from the beginning. There was also an ice skating rink that has been gone for some time. Nostalgia is good fun.

Thu Aug 11, 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm with Bettie, those tubes were for water.

I visited Topanga once in 1967-- I was five-- but I vividly remember that fountain almost forty years later. At the time it was the largest mall I had been in.

The other thing I remember about Topanga was seeing a display in one of the storefronts which had as its centerpiece a an elaborate clock (such as you might put on the mantle) with the filament lines robinz describes, and underlit. It was almost a sculpture-- fascinating to stare at.

Thu Aug 11, 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mitch Glaser said...

Today, Topanga Plaza is entirely different, as you might imagine.

With regard to the expansion, both Neiman Marcus and Target are coming in. This is the first mall that will have both. The other anchors are currently Sears, Robinsons-May, and Nordstrom.

Fri Aug 12, 08:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been at Topanga Plaza hundreds of time since it was built in the early 60s. The water feature you are refuring to was actually a oil fountain. It had long clear strings (like fishing string) with beads of oil running down from the top to the bottom.
Now the mall is now under construction to add several new anchor stores and over 100 new smaller stores.

Mon Aug 15, 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Aug 18, 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

I grew up in Woodland Hills and apent quite a bit of time at Topanga Plaza. I remember those glass tubes/panels. They used to have an awesome ice skating rink there, not sure if it's still there or not, and an Orange Julius! Gotsta love the Orange Julius!!!

Thu Aug 18, 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Wendy said...

OK...take it from someone who was there at the beginning. My family owned and opened a dress shop in the mall. I was in high school and spent most of my afternoons at the mall "fur sur". I ran for Miss Canoga Park that year 1964 and took 2nd runner up, the pagent was at the mall just outside skating rink that Tony mentioned. The TV series produced by Dick Clark, "Where the action is" was filmed at this mall several times. I met Paul Revere and the Raiders there and was actually on one of the TV shows. The mall was the first enclosed mall in the San Fernando Valley and I believe the "Valley Girl" era really began there. The two closest high schools were Canoga Park High and Taft High. I graduated from Taft in 1964. There are lots of high school kids from that year who will remember the mall with some great memories. This was the era of "American Graffitti" and cruising Van Nuys Blvd that was about 10 miles east of Topanga Cyn. Thanks for the great flashback.

Sun Aug 21, 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Im not mistaken......Did they not film a lot of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" here??? Me thinks most of the renovations were due to the big quakes we have suffered in the last 15 years. :)

Fri Aug 26, 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

I spent a lot of time in that mall in late 60's and 70's..I remember ice skating rink and orange julius in the food court. I also met Danny Bonaduce there (from Partridge Family t.v. show) who hung out there also in 70's. Does anyone remember Licorice Pizza record store? Used to save my babysitting money (50 cents an hour) to go and buy latest Rolling Stone albums at Topanga Plaza. Valerie in Flagstaff, Az

Thu Dec 01, 02:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Joy said...

We moved to Canoga Park in 1969 right after the Sharon Tate/LaBianca murders when I was in the 5th grade.

We lived about 2 miles from Topanga Plaza. I remember seeing Cindy from the Brady Bunch throwing a hissy-fit in the mall with her mom. I remember seeing Charles Nelson Reilly from The Goast & Mrs. Muir walking around in his slippers at the mall.

The fountain did have oil that dripped down those strings. After a few years it didn't drip too well because of the build up of dust and dirt on the stands.

The ice skating rink and Orange Julis are great memeories.

Fallbrook Square was the other mall I spent a lot of time at.

Fri Jan 20, 01:49:00 AM  
Blogger jennifer said...

moved to canoga park from simi valley in 1969, lived 2 miles from topanga plaza, spent many many hours there. there was a may co, broadway, montgomery ward's, wallach's music city with listening booth, orange julius, a food court (big thing in those days) and a great ice rink. it was oil running down the tubes, it was beautiful!! also remember the licorice pizza record store (it was actually across the street from the plaza)-great records and first head shop i was ever in. it was been completely redone. fallbrook square was a mile away, my first job in 1975 was at the sears there. thanks for the memories! jennifer d

Mon Jan 30, 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Jane in California said...

The liquid on the nylon filement was glycerine, not oil and the entire sculpture was meant to look like a rain forest. The glycerine was recycled thru filters to keep it clean. The structure was taken out during a reconstruction, deemed too passe. Like lava lamps.
Archetect or designer for the original Topanga project may have been Gene Nelson.

Fri Feb 17, 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

I can remember an Ice Capades rink until 1983 when it was taken out. I used to go to Topanga plaza to go ice skating. When I found out the ice skating rink was gone, I went to a mall near Victory and Laurel Canyon Blvd that had an ice rink.

Thu Apr 13, 10:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

I have to disappoint you about the fountain. It was not water (or oil or glycerin) that created the effect. It was an optical illusion. The strands of plastic (or glass, perhaps an early version of fiber optic cable- and not tubular, but solid and transparent) had a helical strip on the outside, and each strand turned individually, creating an effect like that of an old barber pole (maybe you're too young to have ever seen a barber pole in person, but you've probably seen them in movies.) As the strands turned, it would appear that some liquid was running down them, into the pools below, which actually did contain some water, which heightened the illusion.

In making the feature, the helical strands were probably applied to their center strands by turning the center strands and draping the heated outer strands around them, much the way glassblowers add decorative touches to the outside of a piece. This made them slightly uneven, so it looked as though the "liquid" was speeding up and slowing down a bit as it "ran". It was a pretty impressive effect, and it took us a while to figure it out. The feature was designed to make access to the strands extremely difficult, and signs warned against entry- partly to maintain the illusion, and partly to protect the fairly fragile apparatus from having any of its twirling strands dislodged.

Topanga Plaza opened in the early 1960's, and I visited it twice, in 1964 and in 1965. It was the first enclosed mall in Southern California and one of the first anywhere. It was designed by Victor Gruen Associates, the company which pioneered the modern enclosed mall concept with a project near Minneapolis a few years earlier.

Tue May 02, 11:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Olson said...

I loved going to this mall because of the ice skating rink where I would meet my girlfriend Debbie McDonald to skate away the hot summer aftermoon , then go over to the tiki hut and the slide in the evening .

Wed May 03, 01:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc said...

I lived in Canoga Park in the late 70's and went to Canoga Park High right across the street. For all of those who said the fountain was either oil or Glycern is correct. It was an oil like substance that would drip down the lines and recycle back to the top. How I know this was oil of some kind is that during my high school years, we used to have lunch at the food court, that we called effectionatly the "Seven Sewers" actually "The Seven Seas" which offered seven international kitchens. The fountain was right next to the food court and the table and chairs for the food court where set up right next to the fountain, so I was able to get a birds eye veiw of it. Also, the ceiling tiles where the nylon filiments would come out of the ceiling were stained with oil. I remeber the re-model that took out the fountain. A lot of us were sad to see it go. It did resemble a rain forest.

Wed May 03, 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, great memories. I grew up in Woodland Hills and spent mucho time at Topanga Plaza 1960's. Fountains were lovely no matter what was dripping down them. I remember the Brady Bunch, Danny B. and my favorite Jon Provost from Lassie. Thanks!

Tue Jun 13, 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are joking this Topanga? I just can't believe I've found a photo of my favourite old mall as a kid. Being born in 1965, I remember first going here as a kid throughout the 1970s - it looked pretty much as it did in that photo, which I would guess was shot about 1968-1969. One of the main spots in the eastern valley/Canoga Park area, and was even a hang-out for hippies in the late 60s, where celebrities such as Jim Morrison, Sharon Tate and Neil Young could be spotted in the mall.

Mon Jul 03, 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gretta said...

Ok, I was born in 1966. I was born in the Valley I agree that the filament lines had a drpping liquid I assumed it was like our rain lamps at home . Mineral oil.
No home was cool with out one .
Topanga Plaza was My favorte Mall cos they had monkeys in Tubular cages at the other end of the mall . I was devastated when they removed them. As a animal loving adult I understand.But as A kid
well you know Whaaaa.
I also was able to get HR Puffnstuffs autograph at The Topanga Plaza .I was also bummed when the rink was taken out .
I am 40 & the last time I went Ice skating I was in JR High .

Tue Aug 29, 12:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the liquid strands too!! Those were my favorite part of the mall! Also, remember the balcony overlooking the north end interior which was accessible from Robinsons? They used to have breakfast with Santa there sometimes too. Does anyone else have any photos like that one posted of how it used to look? Would love to see them!

Tue Oct 10, 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the balcony mentioned above.. it was WAY up near the ceiling like for private events and such.

Tue Oct 10, 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Great to see a photo. Hope someone posts more. We were just reminiscing about 60's/70's TP. Back in the late 60's there was a tiny, dark, ye olden-times-world-marketplace looking hippie store that sold love beads in big barrels, woven astrological bags and bent soda bottles. What was the name? Another import store was called Tangs Imports where I used to go check out a "topless" squeeze doll called Sexy Anna.Gadget Tree was also full of novelty crap fun for a kid.Lily Tomlin signed her first comedy LP at Montgomery Wards when I was about Edith Ann's age. Chuck Burger on the Square! I spent way too much time there as a kid.Early on I remember cherubs or something in gold birdcages in the middle of the water filaments but maybe I am mistaken..?
What an odd but fun idea for a website.Glad I googled.

Tue Oct 24, 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

It was Glycerin going down the rods.

Thu Nov 09, 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, I grew up at that mall from the early 70s and through high school in the 80s when it went through it's 1st majory renovation. I remember some type of oil or glycerin on those plastic strings...ha!
I also remember the restaurant that used to be there called Jolly Roger (i think)
The ice skating rink was cool, but we hung out at Skating Plus on Sherman Way ;)

Fri Nov 10, 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually worked in this mall BEFORE they opened! It was the first indoor mall west of the Mississippi, and was modeled after the one in New Zealand. I was 15 and lied about my age, and got a job selling and modeling clothes at Joseph Magnin - great store. Worked to stock the store before the mall was open. And, yes, it was glycerin on fishing line that was recycled in the fountain. There was a Wallach's Music City store with an glass-fronted DJ booth in the window facing the parking lot where Sam Riddle and Wink Martindale broadcast on (I think) KFWB or KRLA when they were rock stations. All my friends had jobs there - my cousins owned Berman-Corson shoes, and I also worked at a store called Tamara's. I just loved that mall. It's now the size of a city.

Wed Dec 20, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger DBurdick said...

This mall was the best place on earth, next to Disneyland! My sister worked at Life Uniforms, and my neighbor owned Raj of India.

Okay, I have to agree with the liquid on the lines. It was no illusion. I used to stare at it, as the individual drips would run into each other and drop down.

Much more exciting than the lines was the monkeys in the cages! I'm so glad someone else remembers that.

Now, I get to add one more awesome thing: there were two cages, one had the monkeys, but the other one had birds, including parrots! I used to try to get them to talk!

Sat Dec 30, 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Jane in California was correct and Joe said don't know what he is talking about. We went there right after it opened and you could smell the glycol or whatever chemical it was, that was flowing down the mono fillament lines. It was quite a site to behold and worked in principle, like the lamps that were made in that era with mono filament line. I worked for Litton Systems and transferred to Lubbock, TX shortly after the mall opened.

Fri Jan 19, 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Chad said...

Wow, this is great! I grew up in Canoga Park and attended Canoga High School in the mid 70's. We spent many lunch breaks there. These were the days when kids could leave the school grounds. Later after graduating, I worked as a manager at the Foot Locker shoe store. I have great memories of my few mall romances. We also spent many hours at the record shop across the street, Licorice Pizza.

Thu Jan 25, 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Canoga Park and went to the high school there, I hung out at the skating rink every weekend was part of the "rink rat" group. I remember the Seven Seas and The Jolly Roger and it was Spencers Gifts that sold the adult stuff or whatever, and if I remember it was a retired football player that owned or built the Seven Seas. I also remember there was a restaurant on the 3rd level of the south end of the mall that overlooked the bird cages.

Mon Oct 29, 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do any of you gals from the 70's remember the store on the 2nd level that just sold tops? They had many round circular racks of junior blouses. I think you could get 3 tops for $10.
Also, Leeds sold the really cool suede platform shoes.

Thu Jul 10, 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Laurie Murphy said...

This is the funniest thing I've ever seen! Reading these comments, I think I must know almost all of you! Like Joy, I also saw Cindy throwing a fit in the mall. She was screaming, I want it, I want it, why can't I have it!! I remember being with a friend, but can't remember who it was, maybe it was you Joy? I think we are about the same age. I also remember seeing Danny B all the time, smoking and looking cool, I think he was all of 15 or 16. I remember outside the mall was a small looking little island with trees in the parking lot, a bunch of kids would smoke pot in between the trees. (I think that's why they removed them) Oh such memories...those were the days. I was a valley girl when "Valley Girls" were cool! Zuma beach on the beach bus every summer. My first boyfriend Jerry Heizy went to Canoga High and taught me how to surf, wonder what ever happened to him?

I have a site called

Please look me up there. I would love to go over old memories and find out if I know any of you.

Woodlake Elementary
Hughes Jr. High
ElCamino Real

Lauren (Laurie) Murphy

Fri Dec 12, 01:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, a very light oil (not water) flowed down the monfil lines. I used to repair those pumps when they broke down and clean the oil filter so the drops would would glisten. Ahhh, the good old days. And I still live in the same old neighborhood!

Wed Mar 04, 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall this when I was a kid. These were oil lamps, oil dripped down from the ceiling and into what I recall something that looked like panning (for gold containers). There was a Dick van Dyke movie (Divorce American Style?) that featured Topanga Plaza.

The real 1970s gem was the old Northridge Fashion Square - truely funky and far out in its original form. Sometimes I'd wished that some of these old gems would have been left untouched. But, alas.

Fri Oct 30, 12:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up living a mile from the Topnanga. Our family moved there the year I was born which was the year the mall opened. Back then, us kids were allowed to ride our bikes everywhere with our friends and no constant supervision. We enjoyed a level of autonomy that most kids today can not even dream of. We made some mistakes along the way but we were given the space to learn to be independent at an early age.

The fountain definitely had some sort of oil running down it. This was no illusion. When I was in 7th grade(1977), I was in the mall one day with my best friend. We thought it would be funny to throw a frisbee from one side of the 2nd floor to the other. We stood on opposite sides of the second floor, overlooking the fountain. I attempted to throw the fribee to my buddy but it hit the filament strands of the fountain instead. I observed a wave of oil fly off the fountain, splashing the people down below with the torrent of oil. I was horrified and headed for the exit in a big hurry.

Tue Dec 08, 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Jeans said...

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Sat Oct 02, 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great site; I too spent countless hours at the mall; I was a bus boy at Jolly Roger in 1976-77; what a great job.

We would sneak into the ice rink after work. I also remember the super slide, trampolines and mini golf across the street. They ruined my driving range when they built the first Warner Center office building in the middle of it, the 20th Century ins bldg.

Great memories of an era gone by


Mon Mar 07, 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father had a dress shop on the second floor next to Montgomery Ward when the mall first opened. I remember the ice skating rink, fountain, everything. I also remember going out to the site before construction began. It was little more than corn and pumpkin fields. Man, where has all the time gone?

Mon Apr 04, 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a lot of time at this mall and know a lot about it. The person who said the oil fountain was fake, it completely incorrect. As I child I use to think it was cool to touch the clear wire and touch the oil coming down. Yes, it was real and I touched it :) That was a great place for many many years and some of the best times and stores were int hat mall. My favorite memory was right outside of Montgomery Wards down stairs was a great toy store. Anyone else remember it?

Wed May 04, 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with the others that said that the fountain was clear string like fishing string and it was oil not water that slowly ran down in beads. They used oil to create that effect. My Mom worked at The Broadway Department Store. As you exited the store to the right was the ice skating rink and further over was Don Paul's 7 kitchens. I went to school at Canoga Park High and would walk to the Plaza after my last class to work at Don Paul's 7 Kitchens. It was total fun working in the hamburger and ice cream kitchens. Later on, Don Paul opened a Hickory Farms further down. Lots of wonderful memories.

Sun Jun 26, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Hey, it's me, Aaron said...

Hey Joe.... sorry buddy, but the OIL feature in the mall was in-fact, linseed oil mixed with denatured alcohol. It did run down the outside of the 60# test line that was anchored above the ceiling panel and below the base plate. There was one solid tube on each fountain responsible for feeding that particular fountain, as each one was independently operated (so one could be turned off if there was a problem or repair that needed to be performed). In addition, the fluid was replace 4 times per year, the strings were cleaned once per month by hand (in one night by two people), and the fountain took in about 25 or 30 dollars per month in "donations" tossed into it. That paid for part of it's upkeep. AND THAT'S A FACT, JACK! Take care to all ya'll!!

Sun Aug 28, 08:32:00 PM  
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Wed Sep 21, 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Nan said...

Topanga Mall has let their Santa area get smaller every year. You should see the 2011 area, almost nothing except a PURPLE COUCH for Santa. Next year probly no Christmas mention, even Santa/ what a shame

Thu Nov 17, 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Jackie said...

It's fun to read all the comments about Topanga Plaza. I feel as if I grew up there. My Dad and my uncle owned Berman & Corson Shoe Store. I spent so much time at the ice skating rink and in Orbach's shopping. Nothing like the good ole days

Tue Feb 21, 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moved there in 1968, remember the big orange T and the scent of citrus.. pier 1 and orange julius and ice skating, lived just across the street, what a wonderful time for an 8 Y/O no worries about getting kidnapped, just how much change you had in your pocket, and getting home on time...

Tue Jul 03, 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger G Rodon said...

Those were not tubes, they were monofilament strands of nylon. The oil you spoke of was actually glycerine.

To WENDY - I remember your run for beauty contest...that is if your last name began with O. Were you Wendy O. ?

Thu Aug 01, 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger VBloom said...


Thu Dec 12, 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger VBloom said...

Does anyone remember CHUCK BURGER...The best burgers...I remember the burgers were like a $1.00.. the it went to $1.25 ...I used to be a Rink Rat, and we were poor so i would scrape every penny I could find, just to get a Chuck burger. My friends used to let me in the door at the top of the stairs at the rink, and I would wear my skate guards till I got to the bottom of the stairs and the take them off and put them down my pants till I was out of eye range of the owner. I believe that his name was Chuck as well. All my friends..Laura Calemine, Debbie Wyatt..we would all skate at the Jerry Lewis skateathons...It was so cool.

Thu Dec 12, 01:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It wasn't water that came down and they weren't tubes, they were lines like fishing lines and glycerin is what ran down them.

Tue Jul 22, 05:10:00 PM  
Anonymous todd said...

My friends and i rode bikes from Woodland Hills to Topanga Mall almost every weekend during the summer. The posts have named most of the stores. Maybe missed "Jeans West" and that amazing toy store (?name).
Note that most kids went to Mall and then to the Topanga movie Theater which was huge until split into 2 theaters. And there was an amusement park nearby with a huge slide. Any photos?

Sat Dec 27, 02:58:00 PM  

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