Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Somerset Mall

Troy, Michigan - circa early '70s

Now called The Somerset Collection (which I hate), this is an upscale hoity-toity mall right in my own backyard. In fact, I'm near it almost every day--though I can't afford to shop there. Heh.

Somerset actually has quite an interesting layout nowadays, though, consisting of two actual malls sitting seperately across the street from one another on the North and South sides of Big Beaver Road, and connected to each other (to form The Somerset Collection) by an elevated, moving sidewalk in a tunnel, called The Skywalk. So it's two malls for the price of one here! And they tout this "Skywalk" as something pretty special, too:
"The Skywalk — Spanning Big Beaver Road and integrating the twin centers is a 700-foot, enclosed, climate-controlled Skywalk. One of the first skywalks of its kind in the country, the bridge features a moving sidewalk to move shoppers between Somerset Collection South and Somerset Collection North, enabling them to conveniently shop the entire center in a single trip."
Just like in The Jetsons! And I do have to admit, it is kind of cool in person. You can actually see the Skywalk connecting the North and South malls in the aerial I link to below.

Anyway, there's no doubt this is really a beautiful looking mall (check out their Virtual Tour page), but it's certainly not "retro" looking at all anymore. It's all modern-day gloss and High Class sheen now. It always was actually, but then of course, in the 1970s the idea of "high class" wasn't what it is today, so now the old Somerset High Class looks cool! :)

Mall history: 1969 - present
Current website: here
Info from Wikipedia
Current aerial view
Previous entries: none


Blogger Chris said...

Looked very swank back in the days. Now it looks really expensive (the virtual tour gives the impression that the mall is almost empty, I wonder why *caugh*), but still nice. No retro feeling anymore though, like you said. The skybridge looks interesting also, reminds me of a airport concourse with the travelator.

Wed Jul 12, 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

The ceiling design in the old picture seems to be quite unique, and I love those lamps. The modern view looks nice enough, but a bit bland by comparison. Plus, the mall is suspiciously empty.

Wed Jul 12, 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Probably the mall was simply closed when they did those "virtual tour" shots, so they could insure no one would get in the way and stuff. I think their point was to show off the beauty of the place.

Because I can certainly attest to the fact that you will never see this mall empty like that unless they're closed. No way.

Wed Jul 12, 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous tkaye said...

Is it just me, or do those lamps sort of look like larger-than-life filterless cigarettes? Seriously though, this part of the mall has an almost ballroom-like appearance to it with the off-white tones, modernist chandeliers, and columns.

By the way, I've never understood the trend of renaming malls "The ______ Collection." That word is better used to describe a line of clothing, not a group of stores. And, in this case, The Somerset Collection, sounds like some of those mail-order ceramic plates that they sell in magazine ads.

Wed Jul 12, 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Exactly, Tyler! lol. As I said in the entry, I hate the "collection" rename. If you have to rename it with the South Mall addition (added in '92), why not just call it the Somerset Center, Somerset Plaza, or something like that? I agree that "collection" sounds too much like a line of clothing.

Somerset Mall was better.

You're also right about the ballroom look, now that you mention it. Sure does. It is quite elegant, no doubt. Even with those oversized cigarettes. :D

Wed Jul 12, 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous scamps said...

I once worked in a mall like that - Burlington Mall in Burlington, MA. Tons of pricy stores and snotty rich kids shopping there.

I do miss having a Sephora and a Coach in the same place that I worked, though.

Wed Jul 12, 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Swain said...

I may be in the minority here, but I like snotty malls :)

Anyway, I think bot the old and new Somersets were quite nice, though the older one is more distinctive.

Wed Jul 12, 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

I don't know about being in the minority, Steven...but you're apparently in a different tax bracket than me. ;)

And definitely the old and new were/are both nice, no doubt about that. But then, personally, I just don't have quite the same feeling about all the glossy, cookie-cutter, renovated modern malls of today.

Oh they're pretty enough, sure, but they lack the character and magical vibe (to me anyway) of malls from the golden age, that I sorely miss (hence this blog). Which stands to reason, of course. Times do change.

But that's also why they don't excite me much anymore (current malls), and why I don't include contemporary mall shots here, or start a site devoted to them. It just doesn't call me like the vintage malls do. :)

In fact, if it wasn't for the whole vintage angle that was thankfully preserved so well in all the postcards and photos I share here, I probably wouldn't give shopping malls a second thought today, to be quite honest.

Uh, I'm rambling now and I don't know why... hehe.

Wed Jul 12, 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Sobieniak said...

Still I wouldn't mind going here. That mall actually bothered to take out ads in the Toledo area some years ago trying to get us to go up there as well. Still wouldn't mind going up there since I've never been to Troy at all personally, and the only other mall I've ever been to in the Detroit area was Fairlane in Dearborn.

On a completely off-topic note, the single Krispy Kreme location just went belly-up in Toledo a few months back, yet I couldn't help but see their donuts being sold a couple houses down at a gas/food mart. The guy told me they're getting them from a store up in Allen Park now. I'm only amused they're bothering to car them 60 miles south for this reason, it was stores like Kirspy Kreme and Tim Horton's that ruined the former donut shops in down (I think we only have one Dunkin Donuts left).

Thu Jul 13, 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger gugon said...

Hey that's in my backyard too. Interesting to see what it looked like back in the 70's. I like the old look better.

Thu Jul 13, 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Swain said...

I think the lack of character and the overwhelming push for poshness has eroded the popularity of modern malls. That and the fact they barely carry anything but clothes these days. But that's anotyher story for another day.

The best malls today look either like hotel lobbies or Disneyland-esque recreations of Main Streets. They're evocative in their way, but neither lends itself to fun or whimsy, much less hanging out. I can see why you wouldn't be excited by them.

Thu Jul 13, 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

To me, the Somerset Collection sounds like a place where one would go to see artwork, not one where one would go shopping.

And I don't quite understand the US trend (we've been thankfully spared so far) for "upscale malls". Mixing "upscale" shops with less expensive shops to get a wider range of customers makes much more sense. Besides, there are people (quite a few) who buy designer clothes and do their grocery shopping in discount stores or vice versa.

Fri Jul 14, 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger pinky pinkerson said...

I think on the left I can see the Crown House of Gifts where I used to buy Hello Kitty stickers when I was a kid :-)

Sun Jul 16, 03:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Becky said...

What a great find! Where did you get that picture? I live in Toledo, Ohio but a biannual trip to Somerset is a must. I actually may go in September. It's just such a swanky, beautiful place, I always have such a great time there.

And what a cool thing to blog about! These malls are pretty interesting...

Mon Aug 14, 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

I think it's pretty interesting how this mall/"collection" has evolved from a rather small, single story mall (with a basement conference room), to a 2-story mall, and then to the dual-mall concept. I have to go to a lot of malls across the country as part of my work and as far as I've seen, the connected skywalk concept is unique to Somerset. Even though the old look is gone (and I do like the old look), Somerset remains one of the most attractive malls in the country (as compared to other malls of today).

Fri Jan 12, 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I used to work there when it looked like that! My first job was in 1980 at Alfred's Ice Cream Parlor when I was 14, then at Tennis Lady when I was 16 and on to T. Edwards (an hip clothing store) when I started college. Still live in Troy. Thanks for posting the picture. It brings back good memories.... Angela R

Sat Jan 13, 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Juanita in San Francisco said...

Can anyone remember the name of the original restaurant that was there in the 1980's? Thanks for the old photo it really took me through a time tunnel!

Sun Feb 14, 03:44:00 PM  
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Sat Oct 02, 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alfred's Restaurant had both a restaurant on one side and an ice cream parlour on the other. What was your favorite food there?

Sat Sep 01, 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alfred's previously was named Schrafft's...

Thu May 02, 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff Finsilver said...

There was an ice cream shop my mom used to take me to back when I was a kid in 1971-1972 I cant remember the name of the ice cream store though, it had pictures of various delicious treats on the walls. Does anyone remember the name of this place?

Fri Oct 18, 04:51:00 PM  

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