Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The "Center" Shopping Center

Omaha, Nebraska - Late '50s - early '60s?

Similar to the cool Northland shot I recently posted, here's one in Nebraska with more multi-tiered rooftop parking grooviness going on. As for stores, I can make out a "National Shirt Shops" store on top to the left, and to the right of it, a Thom McCann Shoes, it appears. There's an attached Texaco station in the lower right corner.

Anyone know if "The Center" is still there in Omaha? Didn't find it with a quick cursory check. Not sure that was even its actual official name, either, or just a local nickname for it. If it is still there today, I wouldn't be surprised to find the name changed by now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess is the Oak View Mall on W. Center Rd??

Thu Jan 12, 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, this mall was built in 1955 by the same private developer that built Westroads Omaha in 1966. Built very close to the time Southdale was built but since it had only 1 department store and was very small in size it was never considered the first official enclosed shopping mall. It's located and 42nd and Center street, hence the name "The Center". Very compact design. The interior arcade areas were intimate in scope and the stores were clustered very close together on 3 levels. No central court area. There was a Kilpatrck's later Younkers department store there and on top of it was a bowling alley!! You could faintly hear bowling balls roll across the ceiling of the store. There was a huge fire there in the mid 60's that closed it for a while. In the mid 90's many of the stores moved out and now small businesses take up the space. The gas station is long gone. The parking decks that surround the core building are still there but the building is painted white now. I'm a huge mall junkie and it's great to see malls that I grew up with on Omaha on the site!

Thu Jan 12, 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous saruhhh said...

i'd guess oak view as well,
but it looks nothing like "the center"..

who knows.

Wed Jan 18, 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

Anonymous#2: Thanks for the great comments and info! Good stuff. I especially love the bit about the bowling alley. :)

So then, do you know if this might now be Oak View Mall, on W. Center Rd, as Anonymous#1 and saruhhh agree?

Wed Jan 18, 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger AtomicLlama said...

The Center is about 8 miles east of Oak View Mall. (The Center is at 42nd & Center St., Oak View is about 144th & Center). Like anonymous said, there's not much retail in The Center anymore, it's mostly offices and small businesses. Another Omaha-area mall, Southroads, has also lost most of its retail and now houses a large Ameritrade office and (iirc) a gym.

Fri Jan 20, 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Omaha and went to the "Center" many times. I was very small at the time and the place seemed big, bigger than life actually. I remember Kilpatrick's and vaguely the bowling alley as well. That era was a very happy time in my life when the world seemed big and wonderful. I was recently saddened to hear about the demolition of the Brandies store at the Crossroads mall, which was closer to my house and I frequented more often then the Center. Nothing of the wonderful mid century tile or design was saved.

Tue Jan 31, 02:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember going to Kilpatricks (then Younker-Kilpatricks, then Younkers) with my mom and grandmother. This store wasn't that big, but it had things like toys and records, which you hardly ever see anymore. It also had a restaurant named the Cimmaron Room.

The mall had a Shaver's (grocery store) and a McCrory's (sp?) dime store.

After the fire, which was in the late 60's I believe, they did the mall spaces up in a cheesy brick style. It was never the same after that.

Fri Mar 10, 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the Center very well. I grew up not to far from its location at 42nd & Center. After school at Norris Jr High in the 1970's, my friends and I would walk over and hang out in the bowling alley on the top level. I remember Kilpatrick's was a two level store and we use to have fun riding the escaltor. Shavers grocery store was on the lower level. Had a lot of good times hanging out at the Center.

Sun Apr 02, 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bldg. still stands. no more retail business. all office space. charlie & bertha ex-omahan.

Mon May 29, 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Center Mall may be experiencing a bit of a revival.

There are several call centers located there employing lots of people and many small service type companies that have foot traffic.

There is a thriving quick shop, bank, flower shop and restaurant and even a plant nursery that sets up in the parking lot in the summer.

I hear claims of this being the first enclosed mall but an earlier poster explains it may not always be given the title because it's relatively small size. However, by any definition, it was definitely and enclosed mall when built in the mid 50's.

Go Omaha!

Fri Jun 16, 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous danolson said...

I'm 63. I was there when The Center opened, and no question The Center and Oakview Mall in Omaha are indeed miles, and years, apart. The various 'anonymous' writers are dead on. John Wiebe-the builder/owner-also did the Westroads here, which was built like a fortress, way overbuilt in terms of finest possible materials... according to a man in the building business I met in Chicago in '74; the guy said ..."that place will be there 500 years from now!!" He --like me--went on & on. (The Westroads had a built-in helicopter pad at the mid-south end, no longer used or feasible now). Mr. Wiebe and his wife are wonderful folks who have donated large sums of money and time to local childrens hospital..total opposite of the stereotypical "robber-baron" CEO developer, and classy opposites of loveable Rodney Dangerfield's mall developer in Caddyshack.
Back to The Center...I recall as a 6th grader how huge it seemed; the stair steps were unusually tall, but who cared...well run, warm in winter, shopped there often till the fire, but no fire sales.
I just looked up my 1965 Omaha City directory...RL Polk Company, great folks, great ref's...turns out there were indeed 5 levels at The Center, and after the earlier 60's fire, by '65 (&'83) there was nearly full occupancy with a surprising variety of shops and offices ---dentists, doctors, ins. co's, shirt shops, department store(s), food, Cimarron Room (addr.1918 So.41st) a fine restaurant run by mgr of Sky Lanes Bowling (also on 5th flr, addr 501 The Center, Benedict J Kava, mgr in '65; restaurant later run by Carl Carta per '83 directory). Anyone wanting a copy of the one-page listing of The Center-- all occupants-- from '65 &/or '83 Omaha directory, snail mail me at dan olson 9503 oak circle omaha NE
68124-2742, no chg.
Think I'll drop by The Center tomorrow (8-26-06) to get an idea of what's up currently, & report to other mall-o-philes some time soon.

Sat Aug 26, 01:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "center" is on 42nd street not too far south of downtown, and Oakview is on 144th street. That's 100 blocks apart. on a good day it's at least a 30 minute drive from one to the other. When the Center was opened, Millard wasn't even a part of Omaha. I work at Oakview and have driven past the Center (which looks pretty much the same as in the picture.. i live in Omaha and drove past it within the last month) Also I remeber when Oakview was built in the middle of empty cornfield, it's even west Boys town, which when I was young was beyond the middle of no where.
The Point being that Oakview and the "center" couldn't be more different and in more different places if they tried.

Thu Sep 07, 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember shopping at the Center mall when I was a kid, I think it was at a Yonkers...or JC Penny, one of the two. And this was in about 1990 and I remember they still had shag green carpet...in the Yonkers/JCPenny!!! Shag green carpet in 1990!

And the inside of the mall (the common hallways, outside the department stores) was all quiet and 1970s looking, very eerie. Some of the lights were even turned off, which added to the creepy factor.

Just a weird mall. This would probably make a good location for a "haunted mall" movie because this place is probably haunted with disco dancers.

Sun Jan 21, 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to go to this mall on my lunch hour (I worked in downtown Omaha). I would charge up my Younkers card buying Esprit clothes, stupid shoes and stupid work blouses with neck bows in the late 80's. I had a credit limit of like, $200 and would pay it off every payday and charge it up again. It was a cycle. I would get a bag of Vic's Popcorn for lunch. They had a gyro restaurant there too.

Wed Feb 21, 12:56:00 AM  
Anonymous juantag said...

I'm adding an article to the Omahawiki (Omahawiki.org; check it out) on the Center Shopping Center, because, in fact, it has been referred to as the first enclosed shopping mall in America. It's also a significant midtown landmark over the years. I grew up in the neighborhood, too--I remember well trips to Kilpatrick's, where I often spent the bulk of my allowance on 45-rpm records. I also bowled there regularly at SkyLanes. Lots of fun times at The Center....

Thu Mar 01, 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I grew up in the 60's right accross the street from Field Club on 36th and Pine. The smoke from the fire woke my dad and I up and we walked to the "Center" and watched it for about an hour. I think I was 5 which would be 1969. Coincidently, we moved "out west" in 1972 near Boystown;the end of Omaha. We used to ride our dirtbikes where Oak View stands except at that time the SE corner of 144th and Center was one of the highest elevations in Omaha. Anyone remember the huge fireworks show there in 1976 or when 132nd and W. Dodge was a 4 way Stop Sign?O yeah, one more thing, I do remeber the head shop at Westroads (lmao), thank God for Gizmos and Orange Julius... ;o)

Fri Jul 06, 07:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually there was a haunted house in the mall in the late 1970's. My dad "Eric Foxx" at 59-WOW put on a haunted house on the 1st floor with Dr. Sanguinary. I remember the mall a few times as a kid but definately had a cheesey brown brick look inside.
I bowled there at Sky Lanes a few times when I would come up from Dallas on a visit. For some reason I dont think the bowling center was there through the whole history of the building. Also in Dallas they say they had the first indoor mall circa 1950 in Mesquite withe WARDS and Neiman Marcus. "Big Town Mall"

Sun Sep 30, 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Kay said...

My cousin Jessie worked in "The Spot", the snack bar on the lower level of the Center, which served popcorn, hot dogs, and if I recall correctly, donuts that were made on the premises. I lived in North Omaha but my mom loved the Kilpatrick's store at the Center so we did our back-to-school shopping there. The parking lot was not that groovy, I'm afraid.

It's definitely not the same location as Oak View. Oak View is an awful (imho) giganto mall much further West on W. Center Road.


Thu Jul 24, 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger stacy said...

It was originally called "The Center Shopping Center" and TV & Radio ads for the place ended with that phrase sung as a jingle. (I looked on youtube, but couldn't find a sample.) It was the original mall, size notwithstanding. And, yes, it's still there, but there are only three retail businesses remaining--a snack place, a florist, and card & gift shop. There may still be a restaurant, I'm not sure. It is not vacant, though. It has basically become an office park.

There are actually five levels, but only three have parking.

I'm not saying there wasn't a fire, I just don't recall there having been one there.

Stores actually began leaving in he mid-70s, but the mall sucessfully made the transition from retail to office space. Other malls in Omaha have not fared as well.

Sat Aug 08, 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger stacy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Mon Aug 10, 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger stacy said...


i honestly had notyhing better to do, so i went over there and took some pictures... while i was there, i ask a security guard about the fire--he told me it was in october of 1969; it began in the lounge, on the fifth floor, and the mall was closed for a few months because of water damage...

Mon Aug 10, 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a nice postcard.
I remember this place from my youth.
Here are the stores that I remember:
Lollipop Lane - a local children's clothing store. They had a lollipop tree that was covered with saf-t-pops, and you could pick one from it. I remember getting Buster Brown shoes so I was pretty young when that was there.
I remember the variety store on the first floor as Hested's. I spent quite a bit of time there. They had one of those coin operated photo booths in the window facing the snack bar. I still have pictures from it.
When you walked from it into the enclosed part of the mall, there was the snack bar. One Easter I remember there was a large mechanical rabbit there. You pulled a lever and it delivered a plastic egg containing a long piece of paper covered with candy dots. It was free, but my mother limited me to one pull.
If you took the elevator up one floor, there was the Kilpatrick's.
There was also a Hickory Farms, but it may have moved in later, like in the 70s.
There was also a bank on the 3rd floor (near the Lollipop Lane) but I don't remember what kind.
When you walked outside from the Hested's, to the immediate left was the entrance to the Shaver's. I remember seeing Tom Henry, a local news anchor, buying a Swanson TV dinner there.
The first floor was also accessible by car via a steep, dark and sort of scary ramp.
It may still be.
Thanks very much for sharing the postcard, it has obviously brought back some memories!
Your site looks pretty swell - I will poke around a bit.

Sun Oct 11, 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The donut place was the best - I remember as a kid we would always go to Hesteads & the donut place while mom did her bowling thing

Wed Nov 25, 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The bank that was in the mall was called - the Center Bank. It also had a location at 45th & Center. most all of the stores that people mentioned were there when I was living in that neighborhood. I spent many hours at The Center. Security would kick us out of the bowling alley, I recall the time they had the haunted house in there. My Mother shopped at Shaver's quite often. There was a barber shop, beauty shop, jewelry store & more. Quite a few businesses for a mall that size. It was like an indoor/outdoor mall since some of the stores had entrances where you parked, but had entrances off the hallways inside also.

Sat Aug 21, 10:14:00 PM  
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Sat Oct 02, 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work for security at the mall. It is indeed still there. There are only 2 retail businesses now, the convenient store and the flower shop. I have 6 different postcards of the mall, 3 interior and 3 exterior views.

Sun Feb 13, 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I went to Creighton In the late 60's and remember going to 'Dino's Apartment' with 'danceable jazz'. It was a bar/night club on the lower level of the parking deck. Anybody else remember the place?

Mon Aug 22, 07:06:00 AM  
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Thu Sep 22, 03:10:00 AM  
Anonymous South O Girl said...

Wow. I looked up the Center Mall because I wanted to see what was there before I ventured to a belly dancing class I was invited too. I grew up around the Center and this site brought back many memories. I bought my first Barbie doll at Brain's on the second floor for $2.98! They had Center Days every summer and I won a 2nd place trophy for skate boarding (there were only 2 of us). They crowned a queen and one year it was the girl who lived up the street. You could get lemon cokes on the first floor at the little restaurant across from Hesteads. My prenuptial dinner was held in the Cimmaron Room in 1973. I am so old..... By the way the belly dancing was fun, but going to the 5th floor on the elevator that still makes the same "plunking" noise was even more so. Thanks for the memories. Really.

Fri Jan 20, 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the Center Mall pictured above is still there. :) Pretty empty, but there.

Tue Apr 24, 01:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the Center Mall pictured above is still there. :) Pretty empty, but there.

Tue Apr 24, 02:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool picture! I grew up in the neighborhood and remember visiting in the early 90s, which was well past the Center's heyday. There was a bowling alley (my school had "field trips" to the bowling alley for gym class), a bookstore that I loved and Vic's Popcorn. I even remember the Younkers. There was a Bank of Nebraska there at one time - that's where I had my first savings account!

Sat Jun 16, 01:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up and went to school nearby the Center Shopping Center. It is indeed still standing at the corner of Center and 42nd Streets. Oakview Mall is certainly a completely different mall, is separated from the Center Shopping Center by about 100 blocks and perhaps as many as 40 years. The only similarity to the two is that the Center Shopping Center is on Center Street, and Oakview Mall is on West Center Road (which is the western stretch of Center Street). The first floor was a bit creepy because it was dark but I recall Nick's Gyro's (who I have heard is the same guy who owns King Kong Gyro's), a cobbler, Shear Pleasure Hair/Barber (before they moved to 48th and Center), watch/clock repair, Hested's (or the "dime store" as my grandmother would call it", Shaver's Grocery Store, and a snack area which other's have called "The Spot". On the second floor, there was the Center Bank which is where I had my first savings account, as well as an entrance into Kilpatrick's Department Store (later Younker-Kilpatrick's, and still later Younkers). There was also a snack kiosk in the open area of this floor too. The third floor had a florist (which I believe survives to this day), a Fox Photo Store, which was something like a Halmark Store and which is now the convenience store. That level also had the Hickory Farms shop where, as a child I would try to get as many free sample tastes of the various meets and cheeses as possible. Further down, there was a bridal store, a Tober's women's clothing store, and a bookstore which I believe was called, "Little Professor". From there, you could take the narrow escalator's (now replaced by stairs) up to the fourth floor which had a beauty salon and office space. Continuing up the escalators (now steps), you'd arrive on the fifth floor where there were the Skylanes Bowling Alley, the Cimarron Room restaurant , the Devil's Nest Lounge and a whole long corridor of professional offices, including my grandfather's OBGYN private practice. Many memories of that place...I think I'll stop by one of these days and have a tour!

Tue Jul 23, 02:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to Omaha next week on a "nostalgia" tour. Interesting to find this information about The Center. When I was 11 in 1962, my best friend and I would go to the Center while my mother bowled in a league at the Skylanes Bowling Alley located on the top. I recall the multilevel building as providing an environment for a "spy game" consisting of pinpointing a shopper from a following them as they moved about the stores. Does anyone remember this open floor design? Seems there were escalators also, which was really "uptown" for the time.

Thu Mar 13, 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

I lived just a block down from the Center Mall and I remember there were so many stores when I was young. A pet store, a diner on the first (or second floor), Shaver's grocery store, Kilpatricks/Younkers, Hested's (dime stores as they were called back then), Maternity Modes, Fox Photo, Kinney Shoes, Hickory Farms, Tobers, a bookstore, Pam & Loies candy shop, The florist, Kilpatricks beauty salon and of course, the Sky Lanes/Cimarron room/Devil's Nest lounge. And what teenager from Norris Jr High doesn't remember the candy counter at Kilpatricks/Younkers? As a teenager, I spent a lot of time hanging out there. There was a fire (that started in the Devil's Nest) there in the early 70"s, I believe, and some of the stores never came back from that. I worked there for 10 years at MotherCare and Younkers and I will always have fond memories of the Center Mall.

Wed Feb 10, 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

No - Oakview mall was built in the mid 90s way out at 144th & Center. The Center all is at 42nd& Center. It's all drs offices, a place to get medical furniture, weight watchers etc... There is also a small convenience store there with a small deli to eat at and snacks.

Tue Mar 08, 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Omaha during the mid to late 60's. If I remember correctly, wasn't there a dentist's off there off the first floor?

Mon Jun 13, 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tamara Walls said...

The Center Mall is still there, but is being used for Non-Retail businesses now. Still looks pretty much the same.

Sat Jun 25, 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Kris said...

I grew up in Omaha and went to the Center Mall in the 70s as a kid. My grandmother worked as a waitress for many years at the Cimarron Room. She worked there when there was the big fire and retired in 1983 I believe. We used to go in there for dinner all the time. All of our Christmas presents from her came from "Kilpats" and I remember the mall smelling like popcorn from that snack bar. I visited the mall a few years ago on a trip to Omaha and the security guard and building manager talked to me a bit about the history of the mall. The escalator that used to go up to the restaurant and bowling alley was taken out because a woman got really drunk in the bar and got her leg caught in it. There is now a stairwell. The flower show is indeed still there but not much else but offices.

Tue Nov 29, 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone provide a current listing of the businesses that are still housed in the Center Mall???

Fri Dec 30, 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Beth Uhing said...

I remember going there in the early to mid 80s for various reasons, but I distinctly remember getting in trouble for playing on the escalators while my mom was busy with something. There are dozen of offices in the building now, including government, social service companies, churches and medical offices. And the ramp to the first level parking is still there and still a bit scary for larger vehicles. It's refreshing to see an iconic south Omaha structure survive and thrive, instead of being torn down and replaced with another stupid open air shopping center

Thu Jun 28, 02:06:00 AM  

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