Friday, January 27, 2006

Fairlane Town Center

Dearborn, Michigan - Early '80s?

This postcard just arrived today and I'm getting it posted right up. Just a stunning interior shot! There's no date on it, so I'm taking a (semi) educated guess and saying it dates probably to somewhere around the early '80s or so, give or take. I've done a blow-up detail, too, of that sweet light fixture ornament (I think I can make out tiny bulbs at the ends of the starburst rods. There's a Gap store visible here, too, on the upper level (not there anymore).

Back of PC reads: "This two-million square foot shopping center connected to the Hyatt Regency Dearborn by a 91-second monorail offers hotel guests indoor shopping in 180 different shops and restaurants."

Fairlane's current website is right here.


Anonymous William Berry said...

Wow, have outdone yourself again. That is a stunning shot. Judging by the Gap logo in the background I would also guess early 80's.

That's some wild architecture!

Fri Jan 27, 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mitch Glaser said...

This place looks a lot like Woodfield. I suppose that isn't surprising because Alfred Taubman built them about 5 years apart. The pictures you've posted of Eastridge in San Jose also look similar...I suppose Taubman used the same architect for all his mega-malls in the 1970's.

Fri Jan 27, 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Swain said...

I don't think it was the same architect, but they did use many of the same details.

Fri Jan 27, 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

This picture does look eerily similar to Woodfield's grand court at the center of the mall....right down to the red carpet in that sunken stage area!

That old all-lowercase 'the gap' logo is definitly from the late 1970s/early 1980s, so I too, would date this shot around that era.

Also take note that even in that day in age, there were vacancies. That's another thing that grabbed my eye here too...that Gap store looks lonely up there.

Speaking of Taubman, they used to build both regional, and super-regional malls. They had a hand in building Milwaukee's Northridge and Southridge Malls, owned jointly by them, and the Kohl family (Thus allowing them the option to put a Kohl's department store anchor in each mall...they opted at Southridge, but turned down Northridge for a 6-screen movieplex instead) Both had architecture that once beared the Taubman style, but thanks to owner changes and two remodelings at each over the years (And with Northridge no longer around), they lost all that character. A shame.

I'll bet those pair of malls had stunning light fixtures like this at a time as well.

Fri Jan 27, 10:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First thing I thought when I saw that postcard was how much Fairlane Town Center looks like another mall local to me, Stamford Town Center in lower Fairfield County.

Then of course I found out that both are Taubman properties, so I learned something today. The large plaza in the center of the mall with multiple floors snaking around it seems to be a feature of Stamford, Fairlane, and dare I suggest a few other Taubman properties (at random I chose Beverly Center from the Taubman website, and sure enough the multi-story interior plaza popped right up)...

These are striking examples of mall design when compared with the usual boxy offerings of the Westfield and Simon properties, at least locally. Nice shot! -- Rick

Sat Jan 28, 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Sobieniak said...

This brings back the memory I had of going to Fairlane a few times myself. Back then, I had never been to a mall like that before, and only wish we had one in Toledo still. They'll never get one up now. :(

Sat Jan 28, 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

This is a truly stunning interior. It almost looks like the set of an SF film from the 1970s.

Sat Jan 28, 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Andrea H. said...

Hi Keith,

Just wanted to post that the postcard was between 1979 and 1980, since I remember doing musical productions of "Hello Dolly" (1979) and "Mame" (1982) on that very stage, that is shown on the postcard. Cool memento!

Sun Jan 29, 01:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of how two of my childhood malls -- Valley View in Dallas, Texas and Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas -- used to look back in the early 1980s... with huge ramps spanning across the open air layout, and giant stairs.

So I have a special request: Can anybody dig up snapshots or postcards of either mall from that time period to share here? :-)

Sun Jan 29, 05:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue Huckleberry said...

I worked at the info booth there in Fairlane during the late 70's and early 80's so these pictures are fun to see. What a great job if you're a people watcher! This sure brings back memories, and the stories I could tell...!

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

Oh God that's gorgeous! Two immediate thoughts:

1. It looks like something from the "Carousel" scenes from Logan's Run where the 30 year olds go for their dramatic trip into the afterlife.

2. I see late F.L. Wright- the hexagon shapes and angles, sweeping horizontals, the colors, and the wall in the background looks like the patterned concrete blocks that he used at various points in his career.

Mon Jan 30, 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

Thanks for the great comments, guys, glad you liked this one! :)

I agree about the resemblance to Woodfield (which I still need to make an entry for), as well as Eastridge. Those came to mind when I first saw this PC, actually.

And I totally agree on the "Logan's Run" thing, too!

Anonymous: I'll work on your requests. I think I can help. :)

Anyway, great input, everyone! Thanks for that, as always!

Mon Jan 30, 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I'm fairly certain that the mobile hanging from the ceiling was simply a piece of art and did not include electric lights. Beyond the glass elevator on the right, Fairlane has another large court of similar size as the one pictured. The other court originally had a nice, cascading fountain. I don't know if the fountain remains. Before visiting Fairlane Town Center, I had been particularly intrigued with the "monorail". Technically, I don't think it was actually a monorail, but it did run on elevated tracks above the parking lot. By the time I got to visit Fairlane Town Center, the "monorail" was already taken out of service, but the tracks outside were still standing. I believe that they have since been knocked down.


Wed Feb 01, 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Bobby said...

Ah, yes, Fairlane. Last time I was there, the parking lot was mostly empty, but the building was overflowing with people just milling about. There also seemed to be quite a few vacancies -- you know a mall is in trouble when:

* Gap and BOTH record stores close.

* Bally's Total Fitness is among the tenants.

* One food court tenant lasts less than a year (some taco place).

* Saks reduces their store to an Off 5th clearance center.

Wed Feb 01, 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

It looks just like the Beverly Center in Los Angeles

Fri Feb 03, 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Sobieniak said...

I only wish Toledo would get that kind of mall. Best I've heard of for the past few years is the building of an outdoor "lifestyile center" at the Fallen Timbers site in Maumee. Rather enjoy enclosed spaces than to be outside if the weather's not perfect.

Sat Feb 04, 03:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would put that around 1978. The mall was pretty much full of stores by 1979. The Store I used to by my models at was right next to the Gap. To the left was a large addition for Lord and Taylor, which was never full.

Sat Feb 11, 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

I nearly thought this was Eastridge Mall in San Jose, CA!
They have that mysterious middle level that comes and goes. Classic Taubman design, too.
Reminded me of Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, CA, too. Same twists and turns.

Sun Feb 12, 12:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...


The Eastridge middle level has gone for good. The latest remodel removed it. I have photos, but they're touchy about them, so I haven't put them up. Meanwhile, here are some Eastridge classic photos.


Mon Feb 13, 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Sobieniak said...

Steven Wilson said...

The Eastridge middle level has gone for good. The latest remodel removed it. I have photos, but they're touchy about them, so I haven't put them up. Meanwhile, here are some Eastridge classic photos.

Hard for them to admit they f__ked up huh? :)

Hopefully none of that won't happen to Fairlane, or it would suck to see the middle level go bye-bye. :(

Tue Feb 14, 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

Actually, bigmallrat already has some remodeled Eastridge photos up. They basically got rid of the middle level by making the lower level taller in places and raising the lower level's floor in places. It's a fairly drastic measure and I doubt that Fairlane's middle level is in much danger.


Wed Feb 15, 03:21:00 AM  
Blogger Cora said...

Maybe it's just me but on the old photos that mall looks much classier than on the new pics. Renovations and remodelling aren't always an improvement.

Wed Feb 15, 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Miss you, Keith!

Thu Feb 16, 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

Steve, thanks for visiting my site.
Sorry, I meant to use the past tense about Eastridge's mysterious middle level. I was really surprised that Fairlane still had one. It's somewhat like "and from this angle, the mall looks like a huge 3-story wonder!" Ha!
Nonetheless, with Eastridge, the middle level was never appreciated. It was hard to get to. And, if you were just "passing through," you'd quickly find yourself on the wrong floor. Eastridge had other problems to attend to and the middle level was the "let's really change something so it looks different" thing. Ah, too bad.
Oh, and hey, Meadowood Mall in Reno, also a Taubman center, is the single story version of Eastridge, Stoneridge, and Fairlane malls. I wish I had some pictures on my site... maybe later this year.

Thu Feb 16, 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I agree. In the case of Woodfield, many of the architectural modifications over the years could be viewed as detrimental to aesthetics. One example was when they put in a large brick wall at the top of the amphitheatre. The concentrated mass of bricks led some to call it "Fort Woodfield". A common "improvement" in malls everywhere is the removal of fountains. I always hate to see fountains disappear.

I enjoy your site! Thanks for putting it up.


Sun Feb 19, 05:36:00 AM  
Anonymous William Berry said...

Chris said...
Miss you, Keith!

I second that!

Sun Feb 19, 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

Why why why do they take out fountains? I miss the pleasing sound of running water in the mall. White noise that masks the unpleasant sounds.

Sun Feb 19, 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

My guesses for why fountains are removed:
-- reductions in maintenance and operating costs
-- complaints from merchants that shoppers passing by are looking at the fountain instead of their storefronts (this really happens!)

I haven't been back to Woodfield in several years, but judging from this photo, Woodfield's fountain has also passed into history. The fountain itself, wasn't that spectacular, but the waterfall was impressive -- even moreso because you could walk behind and below it.


Mon Feb 20, 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

Okay, here is a late 1970s photo of Woodfield in which the fountain can be seen on the center left. Water from the upper pools cascaded down a waterfall in a sheet of water to the lower pools. The waterfall is not seen from this angle, but a lower pool of water can be seen further to the left on the lower level, if you look closely enough.

Comparing with the photo mentioned in my previous comment, these Woodfield changes can be noted:
-- fountain removed
-- hanging mobile removed
-- glass elevators installed
-- top of amphitheater bricked off ("Fort Woodfield")
-- information booth integrated with "Fort Woodfield"
-- floor-standing light fixtures changed
-- bannisters replaced
-- new trim on balconies

Those are just the changes that I notice.


Mon Feb 20, 07:05:00 AM  
Anonymous trimac20 said...

Trippy architecutre...can't wait for more pics...more more

Mon Feb 20, 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cora said...

Countering the trend in the US, German malls still have fountains and even continue to get new ones. The oldest local mall still has its two fountains and goldfish ponds, though they are no longer the same fountains it had when built in the 1970s. And another local mall, built in 1990, which did not have fountains originally, was equipped with three new fountains after a recent remodelling. A third local mall, which was recently enclosed, also has a fountain now, which it did not have originally.

Mon Feb 20, 09:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been awhile since you posted new photos...don't keep us waiting any longer!!

Wed Mar 01, 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where has Keithy gone???

Mon Mar 06, 06:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess keith has decided to abandon the site.

Tue Mar 07, 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

No he didn't. Keithy will be back in the saddle tomorrow, with apologies and much new retro mall goodness to share and catch up on! :)

Tue Mar 07, 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger William said...


Wed Mar 08, 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Ninja Murasaki said...

This is a really cool looking picture. One of my favorite on the site. I hope you can do Woodfield soon. I'll really enjoy that!

Sat Mar 11, 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie O. said...

Fantastic! I love the 70s Taubman mall designs, though they are really getting renovated over more and more lately. The first one (I believe? Wish I still had the source at hand), Briarwood, is now sporting a Pottery Barn-y look now I hear. :-(

The best part of Fairlane is the center court that has the odd convergence of stairs and levels-- almost certainly intentionally confusing! Great mall, nonetheless. This photo reminds me of Lakeside, too, which was more my home mall when I was small and it was new.

Last time I was at Fairlane (holiday 2004, Friday night), it was extremely crowded-- teenagers hanging out, perennial problem. Since then I read they instituted a rule where teens must be accompanied by a parent after a certain time.

Mon Mar 13, 12:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anybody know if altamont mall in Orlando Florida was a Taubman design, that center court looks familiar. Thanks.

Fri Mar 17, 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall that sculpture that is no longer hanging in that court. I would imagine so since it's dated. It did not have little lights at the end. Currently Fairlane Town Center had lost an anchor. Lord & Taylor recently closed. Management is working on a replacement. I have a feeling we could see Von Maur or Macy*s Men's and Home Store. Someone who is already in the market.

Wed Jul 05, 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That light fixture brings back memories of childhood. My family shopped in that mall from 1981-1985. I remember riding the monorail several times. There was a movie theater nearby where I sae Gremlins.

Sat May 02, 04:31:00 PM  
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iam looking for some color pics of the monrail. anyone know what colors where on the cars ???

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