Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Northridge Mall

Milwaukee, Wisconsin - circa 1974

The Northridge Mall pictures I posted the other day seemed to strike a nostalgic chord with many people, so here's a bonus shot of the parking lot. I believe this is outside the main North entrance, which is actually down a little further from this view, where you see people crossing. (photo courtesy & © the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries)

Mall history: 1973 - 2002 (dead)
Current aerial view (outdated, still showing the mall)
Resource articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Previous entries: 1


Anonymous rob said...

The world Taubman was mentioned a lot in the previous entry. I wonder if the unique vertical lines in the concrete was a signature in all their malls developed at the time. If it weren't for the period cars in the parking lot, from an architectual standpoint, you would think this picture was taken in the year 2041. Looks like some secret govenment research facility off the map somewhere. I'm simply awestruck!

Wed Aug 02, 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the anchor stores were at this mall?

Wed Aug 02, 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger hushpuppy said...

Northridge opened in 1973 with Sears, Penney's, Boston Store (then owned by Federated), and Gimbel's (then owned by BATUS -the US arm of British American Tobacco). The photo was taken outside Boston Store's main entrance. In 1986, BATUS closed down Gimbel's and converted three of its Milwaukee stores (Downtown, Southridge, and Northridge) to Marshall Field & Company.

Unfortunately, Field's never bothered to upgrade any of the stores, and while the original 1959 Wauwatosa Field's continued to do well, the three former Gimbel's stores did not. The Northridge and Southridge stores were sold to HC Prange of Sheboygan, WI in 1989. Prange's was taken over by Younker's in 1992. Through a series of acquisitions, Boston Store and Younker's ended up with the same corporate parent (Saks) who decided the Milwaukee market wasn't big enough to support both stores, so the Younker's stores were closed in 2000. (The downtown Field's would limp along in a smaller footprint until 1997, when it was closed down.)

Boston Store was the last store to close at Northridge, in 2003. To their credit, right up until the end, Boston Store operated a full-line, quality operation (I bought a pair of Bass Weejun tassel loafers there in 2002 when I realized I arrived in town for a family function with no dress shoes) without turning the store into a clearance center or some other ignominious end.

Wed Aug 02, 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

"I wonder if the unique vertical lines in the concrete was a signature in all their malls developed at the time."

Our Eastridge mall here in San Jose has some very similar concrete-ribbed detailing on it but it was mostly confined to cornices and other upper areas of the buildings. Most of the expression of the building was black-brown colored brick. Southland, built in Hayward, CA in 1964 also used black-brown brick stacked-up in ribs. It is a very striking architectural expression but obviously, black can make a building look ominous. Southland has since been painted.

I've noticed that the later Taubman malls I have visited use a lighter colored brick. No doubt the idea is to have the large anchor stores stand out against the more neutral-colored mall building. Fairlane and Stoneridge are buff colored brick. Lakeside I think is brown.

Wed Aug 02, 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

That concrete with the vertical slits running through it...that was one of Boston Store's exterior features.

In more detail, this shot is looking west/southwest. The parking lot for Northridge was quite an expansive sea of asphalt. I haven't seen it that full (as it is in this pic) since my first visit to Northridge almost 16 years ago.

Hushpuppy: Beat me to it with the history of the anchor changeovers with Northridge. Nothing I can add to that.

Marshall Field never really was a strong player in Wisconsin. It was Gimbles, when it came to higher-end fashion and other goods. Their stores were in Milwaukee (Downtown, Northridge, Southridge), Madison (Hilldale S/C), and downtown Appleton.

Other than that, Prange's (as H.C. Prange Co. was known as to most here), was the dominant department store of Wisconsin. They had locations in many malls, and even had some functioning downtown stores up to, and through the Younker's buyout.

What suprises me is how late Prange's entered the Milwaukee market, including Racine (Regency Mall)....their Prange's was a former Bergner's store.

Wed Aug 02, 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger hushpuppy said...

Two bits of trivia:

Most of the Taubman malls of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were designed by an Israeli-born architect, Avnar Naggar, who worked for Alfred Taubman. He was a close friend of my parents and we lived just south of San Francisco. I went to school with a couple of his sons. My father, being a civil engineer, had a special rapport with Mr. Naggar (pronounced na-GAR) and he would take us for Sunday drives out to one of his under-construction malls such as Eastridge, Hilltop, and Stoneridge. I remember he had the first car phone I had ever seen (a big, bulky box with terrible reception) way back in 1971.

He was (and still is, I presume) a big, gregarious man, with a wonderful sense of humor. One day, when we were visiting a partially-opened Eastridge, some kid had sat down on one of mall escalator's steps and got his butt pinched as the steps collapsed. Luckily the mechanism stopped before the kid was really hurt but there was a lot of screaming and running around. Later, in the car ride home, Mr Naggar was alternately indignant and bemused that anyone would blame the mall. I remember him yelling "Who the hell told the stupid kid to sit down on the escalator? What kind of an idiot sits down on an escalator? Is it MY fault that the kid had a fat ass?" (and that was the PG version of his rant).

He was always so proud showing off his malls and I still think of him when I see those molded PVC panels instead of plywood over a closed store location (he thought painted plywood was ugly). He also was a keen observer of shopping patterns. He (rightly) observed that a customer was willing to walk only as far as she could see, so his malls never had those annoying serpentine layouts which give the impression that the place goes on forever. Sadly, so many of his innovations (fountains, dramatic sculptures) have fallen by the wayside in ill-conceived remodels. BTW: The Naggars lived in a way-cool Eichler home.

The second bit of trivia is that my mother worked at Gimbel's downtown Milwaukee during WWII, selling silk stockings (nylon was hard to come by during the war) and my great Uncle Louie worked at the Gimbel’s deli counter.

Wed Aug 02, 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

Thanks for those insights on Mr. Naggar, Hushpuppy!! I heard of his name before but thought he might have only been involved in Eastridge, perhaps as a California architect that coordinated the work locally. I was never sure if Alfred Taubman's architectural background was dominant in influencing the look of the centers, or if he had a master designer like Mr. Naggar.

I had an epithany a while back when reading an old Progressive Architecure article about Eastridge. What's interesting is that Mr. Naggar created the dynamic spaces on a rectangular structural grid by introducing a diagonal within the that grid, (something like 8:14). Not only was it applied in plan, but also to the slope of ceilings, soffits, curbs around the fountains and sculptures, even the floor tiles.

Then I looked up Taubman's other malls and noticed how the geometry only intensified in the latter malls as five or six anchor stores were accomodated. Places like Fairlane Town Center and Lakeside Mall have incredibly complex geometries.

I have to admit that the simpler layout of Eastridge, Northridge, and Hilltop are a bit easier to comprehend. There was one point while I was in Lakeside when I swore the mall extended on forever in every direction. It was very disconcerting -- but exciting.

Wed Aug 02, 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I was going to say that this was the Boston Store's exterior, but you guys beat me to it! Offhand, I think most Taubman malls had largely dark brick exteriors, sometimes with concrete accent features, particularly near the top of the buildings. Like others on this thread, I've long been an admirer of the geometric intricacies of the Taubman architecture.

Wed Aug 02, 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

I used to work for Breuner's Furniture what BATUS owned it. I had no idea they also owned Gimbels. They used to give us cartons of cigarettes for Xmas. Good times!
Dean... You and I would be great friends.
Also, speaking of geometric design, don't forget Stoneridge and Meadowood, the other Taubman malls. Meadowood is more curved than Stoneridge, but Stoneridge ALMOST was what it was designed to be (geometric). The Sears anchor was supposed to include an extension, similar to the Nordstrom wing, but they eliminated it (slow economy). In which case, the mall would have extended 4 wings, similar is length. With the new expansion under construction, it'll probably soil that geometric idea. I have no idea what the new layout will look like, but they've cleared the parking lot on the north side of the mall, near Macy's Womens.
Finally, Hilltop Mall with its circular pattern. Everything is in big circles. Easily the coolest mall design in the area.
You have to LOVE Taubman malls.

Wed Aug 02, 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger Murray said...

I was so excited to see this blog!My friends and I who grew up in the area occasionally try to come up with the names of stores in the mall back when we were teens in the 70s. We have the anchor stores down---Sears, Gimbles, Boston Store, and Pennys. There was a theater. The following are the stores we have come up with so far. Tiffanys, Woolworth, Slicers, Harvest House, Chapmans, Tinderbox, Merry Go Round, Upside Down (this one we are not positive about but we think this was the name of a hip 70s clothing/shoe store),Walden Books, Daltons, Foxies (not sure about this one either), Bakers. There was a leather clothing shop where we all got our cool leather jackets ---but we can not agree on the name---a couple say Wilsons but others of us think that Wilsons came later or was another store but not the one we are trying to think of . Also there was a restaurant that sold large, thin crust pizzas by the slice and orange juice slushies it was pre Orange Julius---we can not remember the name of this place either. Not to mention all the other stores, that we come up with once in a blue moon. What we would really love is an old layout with the names of the stores. If any one out there can help us add to the list it could end future years of torture. Help!
And Steve Wilson on an earlier blog about Northridge you said you had more pictures?????

Fri Mar 16, 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I recently found the Northridge negatives and have scanned some of them. I've put some of the scans online here: Northridge photos. I will continue to add photos to that set over time.

To Murray:
By Upside Down, I believe you are referring to Ups N Downs. The leather clothing store was Berman Buckskin. The restaurant with slices of cheese pizza was The Orange Bowl. The orange treat you mentioned was called the Ojoy.

Tue Apr 22, 03:11:00 AM  

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