Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Charlottetown Mall


Charlotte, North Carolina - Summer, 1961

The original Charlottetown Mall (first enclosed mall in the Carolinas) eventually became Midtown Square (and before that I read that it was also called Outlet Square for a time), and according to articles online, Midtown is now dead and the site is being completely redeveloped, to make way for the "Metropolitan" Midtown project, a $100 million mixed-use urban development. See the resource links below for more on the project.

But back to happier times. The photo above shows the interior of the mall in the summer of '61. I did a lot of tonal/contrast editing to the original photo, as it was much too dark and blurry to see anything before. Now you can see some cool rocketship-shaped birdcages just beyond the mom and kid near the middle of the photo, as well as what appears to be an eatery of some kind on the right side--the mall did have an S&W Cafeteria originally so maybe that's what this is? It also included an Eckerd Drug Store, Colonial supermarket, and two major department stores when it first opened in 1959.

From the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission:
"In the Queen City, Charlottetown Mall’s opening day was October 28, 1959. One of the earliest regional malls in the nation, and the first mall in the South, it originally featured birdcages, waterfalls and pools, skylights, tropical plants, fish, and flowers. Unlike later malls, Charlottetown’s second floor was reserved for offices, whose tenants included life insurance companies, an Avondale Mills office, and Harris Crane, Inc. Also on the second floor was an auditorium."
You can see some of those second floor offices in this photo. Pretty interesting to see the two co-existing like that, so clearly delineated in the mall! Kind of odd looking, too, the more you sit and look at it.

Edit: Added James Rouse as Developer, to data below.

Mall history: 1959 - 1990s? (dead)
Developer: James W. Rouse
Current website: n/a
Current aerial view n/a
Resource links: 1, 2, 3, 4
Previous entries: none

(Study image courtesy of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County)



23 Comments:

Anonymous Bobby said...

Anyone happen to know what those two department stores were?

Wed Nov 08, 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous didi said...

This doesn't look like a mall. This looks more like a library of some sort or someone's city hall.

Wed Nov 08, 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Groceteria said...

I have a photocopy of the grand opening invitation, and it lists only Bon Marche (no relation to the Seattle chain, I assume). A 1964 tenant list I have shows Ivey's, but no Bon Marche. I'm not 100% certain there were ever two major department stores there simultaneously; I think Ivey's may have taken over the Bon Marche space.

BTW, the mall was developed by the relatively famous James Rouse.

Also, the S&W Cafeteria was on the second floor. There was also, however, an S&W Fountain, which may be what's visible in the photo.

Wed Nov 08, 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Groceteria said...

One thing I forgot to add: the name/format was changed to Outlet Square in 1981, and to Midtown Square around 1989 or so.

Wed Nov 08, 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous J said...

An excellent photo; thanks for locating it!

Wed Nov 08, 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous rob said...

This mall is no more.. Bulldozed a month ago. Just saw the custruction trucks hauling away the debris the other day. No, really. Last time I went there was 1989 when I purchased a coat from Burlington outlet.

This was the FIRST enclosed mall in Charlotte. Sad to see it go.

Wed Nov 08, 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Groceteria said: "I'm not 100% certain there were ever two major department stores there simultaneously"

Well please let me know if you ever figure that one out, as I based that bit of info from your website, where it says this mall "included two branch department stores, an Eckerd Drug Store, an S&W Cafeteria, and a brand new Colonial supermarket".

:) Did I misunderstand that?

As for that the Bon Marche, I would have assumed it was a part of the Seattle chain myself, but it's not listed in the Bon Marche Wikipedia entry or anywhere else I could see. Interesting. There were other non-Seattle Bon Marche chains??

And thanks for the Rouse note! I'll add that.

Thu Nov 09, 01:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Matt from CLT said...

Yep, another Bon Marche. This was was based, I believe, in Asheville.

And......that's all I know.

I could kick myself for never going into this mall. Right before I moved up here (to Charlotte), I would come up for work for weeks on end, and I'd often drive by...but never got out and went in (doh!).

Now that I do live here, it serves me right that I drove by it every day into town, and saw the devastation...demolition...er, lifestyle center redevelopment unfold before my eyes. Sigh...

I've seen an ad before for Ivey's which mentioned the Midtown branch, so I'm inclined to think the two "anchors" were Ivey's and The Bon (sorry, couldn't help it).

I will say that there isn't a wealth of info on this mall online compared to, say, Cin City. Maybe I'll take a journey to the main library here one day and start to change that.......

David, have you ever sent in that picture you have of the marquee? That would be nice for this site.

Thu Nov 09, 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Groceteria said...

Keith said: Well please let me know if you ever figure that one out, as I based that bit of info from your website

Just speculating based on some stuff I revisited when I saw your post. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure there was only one department store at a time, probably Bon Marche followed by Ivey's in the same space. Thinking about it, I can't imagine where the second one would have been.

I think the original comment my site was counting Rose's as a second department store, although it was really more of a five-and-dime.

Fri Nov 10, 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember this mall so well. Until SouthPark opened, Charlottetown was THE place to be in Charlotte. I don't recall the Bon Marche store there; by the time I was aware of such things, the Ivey's and Roses were the two department stores there. The S & W that was on the second floor had a balcony opposite the offices in the photo. It was a thrill to sit there and look down at the people in the mall. After SouthPark and Eastland came about in the 70's, Charlottetown began a decline. By the late 70's, the Ivey's had been turned into a clearance center.

Mon Nov 13, 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im sure one of the stores was a Belk- they are the local brand. Im only guessing though.

Fri Dec 08, 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Dorr Depew said...

The downstairs eatery was a grill operated, I believe, by S&W. You could get short orders, sandwiches, etc. I believe the Bon Marche was a branch of the Asheville chain. Another fascinating feature was the desert garden...huge lava rocks, cacti, a little footbridge, etc. There was a time capsule buried near the fountain during the dedication; I think it was opened in 1997. My dad handled the advertising for Charlottetown Mall...for the radio spots, he used music called "On The Mall," not sure of the composer. My family and I attended the grand opening...VERY big deal! At one time, the old Colonial store (at the east end) turned into a craft shop. Another unusual (for its day) feature was the two-level parking deck.

Sun Dec 17, 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger cory medlin said...

anybody know what was in the time capsule that was near the bridge? I frequented Charlottetown mall as a child and clearly remember the plaque and how far in the future the "to be opened" date seemed.....always curious what it contained.

Thu Nov 15, 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I'm working on a paper right now about Charlottetown and have some archival stuff in front of me.

It's incomplete so I'm unclear as to when Bon Marche left, but as of 1964 the biggest retailers included Ivey's, Rose's, and Lerner Shops, each of which occupied two-level spaces.

The Bon Marche was indeed of the southern regional department store chain.

As to the time capsule, I believe it is going to reside in possibly the main of the new metropolitan midtown buildings. That's the last I heard from the development office, anyway.

Charlottetown was not only the first enclosed mall in Charlotte, but the first in the South (and the third in the US).

I'd love to hear from anyone who spent time there at any point in its life. jenbritton (at) gmail dot com

Tue Apr 01, 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charlottetown Mall was a big part of my childhood. We moved to Charlotte in 1961 and my parents would take us to the mall many times just for an outing as opposed to a shopping trip. We would run around in the center of the mall and visit the tropical birds, etc. It seems as though the flooring was stone or cement with some type of curved design. My brothers and I would jump from one shape to the next. I remember attending a dollshow in the upstairs auditorium. The mall went through many transformation during it's lifespan. As has been mentioned, it began to die when Southpark was built just as the downtown stores did. It was either in the late 60's or 70's a wing was added near the Eckerd's side. I visited Charlotte in June, 2008 and was shocked to see the change to the mall property. Nothing is the same and the creek, which for years I seem to remember as being a problem for the area, is now opened up and turned into a highlight of the renovated property. I loved Charlottetown Mall and am sorry so many things have to change. By the way, I don't remember Bon Marche but I do remember Ivey's (the only dept. store as far as I remember) and Roses. My friends and I use to walk to the mall and use our babysitting money to burst one of the balloons at the luncheonette in Roses. Inside the balloon was a paper listing a special price for a banana split. Great memeories!

Tue Aug 19, 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We started going to Charlottetown Mall when it opened. It was just cool. I also roamed around the mall with my brother and sisters. Like a previous post I rememebr the stones and jumping to them. There was also some kind of store ( clothing maybe) that had a Scuba Tank with regulator as you walked in. Seahunt was my favorite show show so I always wanted to see the scuba tank. I also remember sitting in the first Mustang that was put in the mall for display. The bird cages I remember and the cool lunch counter in the center. Upsatirs was an S&W Cafeteria. We lived in Matthews and it was a big deal gioing to the mall. The Colonial grocery store, as you came in, had Lobster tanks with Live lobsters. Now for a kid in from the farm that was something to watch. Charlotte is so changed from those days in the 60's. I went to the grand opening of Cotswald and later S.Park buried them all.

Wed Dec 15, 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Patti said...

I am a native Charlottean, and remember Charlottetown Mall very well! "Back in the day", it was safe for parents to shop there, while the kids played on the bridge over the rock/cactus garden, or walked around the fountain. I remember the Lerner Shop (it was the only place my mom could get her favorite perfume!). There were several tenant changes over the years. When my son was little, he also loved going there, even though it was nothing like it was when I was a kid...it still had "something" that Southpark and Eastland couldn't offer.

Fri Jan 20, 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to find the name of a restaurant that was in this mall around 1979 that was on the ground floor. At the time the hottest new restaurant in Charlotte was "The Saucy Crepe". This restaurant also sold crepes but I can't remember the name. I don't think it lasted very long. I'm writing a rather long episode that my wife and I encountered in July of 1979 and I would like to keep the facts accurate. Any help would be appriciated.

Wed Nov 21, 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The restaurant may have been called Lion's Den or Lion's Share, but I was very young then and may be confusing other memories of Charlotte at that time

Tue Jul 01, 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up close to Charlotte and had an aunt and uncle that lived there. I went to Charlottetown Mall a lot when I was a child and would stay at my them some during the summer. She worked at the Mall for Franklin-Simon which was located near Ivey's. It was an exclusive women's chain based out of NY.

Sat Jan 03, 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Bon Marche, and used to eat at either the grill downstairs or the upstairs S&W, and I also remember the high end sporting goods store with the first SCUBA equipment I ever saw other than on Sea Hunt. And I loved the big cages with the macaws! The other thing I remember were some of the last "colored" bathrooms I ever saw as a child, a not-so-nice piece of the history.....

Sun Feb 08, 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the person asking about the name of the restaurant in the mall back in the 1970s... I believe the name was "The Studio." In the mid 70s, I was the VP/General Manager of Charlottetown Mall. I wanted a nice, sit-down, tablecloth, restaurant to help the mall's evening traffic (and to take advantage of downtown business lunch market), but since SouthPark and Eastland Mall had opened I couldn't get established restaurant operators interested in locating in Charlottetown Mall. A lady named Andrea Green(e?)was the manager of the uniform store in the mall. She was always talking about her (and her husband's) dream of opening a nice restaurant. She was so enthusiastic and so detailed in her planning, I became convinced that she and her husband could make it a success... we made the deal and they made it work. It was very successful for a number of years. If I recall correctly, they used their profits to open another location in the suburbs, which was free-standing (very expensive) and that debt service forced them to close both operations. Note: I've now been in the mall business for 44+ years... but "The Studio" deal is a lease deal that is still vivid in my mind because it was so unique and unusual.
Someone else mentioned "The Lion's Den" or the "Lion's Share." I also made that deal and it was called The Lion's Share... but all I remember about them was that I negotiated with operators who had successful operations in Texas. I negotiated an "early lease termination" with the Roses 5&10 store and used The Lion's Share as the "anchor" for the back portion of the Roses location and placed 8 or 10 small specialty retail shops on the enclosed mall side of that location. Hope this info helps. I have fond memories of Charlottetown Mall because it was the first enclosed mall I ever managed.... and since then, I've managed or supervised the management of dozens of malls. johnsadamspr@aol.com

Wed Jul 22, 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's another reason The Studio deal sticks in my mind so vividly. I recall it was very difficult to make the construction numbers work... because of the very high cost of cutting concrete and adding the under-slab plumbing for the men's and women's restrooms, which were required by the health department for the restaurant building permits. The deal was basically "dead" because of this high cost. Then one day, I was visiting the vacancy where I wanted to place the restaurant and as I walked out of the back service door of the premises, I noticed the doors of the mall's storage areas which were located on the other side of the service corridor behind the vacancy. Then I remembered learning that when Charlottetown Mall was built back in 1959 the architect had designed and the contractor had built TWO sets of Men's and TWO sets of Women's restrooms.... believe it or not ... when the mall was originally built it had a full set of restrooms labeled "White" and a full set of restrooms labeled "Colored." The "colored" restrooms had been closed (and just used for mall storage) years before I had become the mall manager... but when I realized that under all of the stored items there was a fully operational set of Men's and Women's restrooms located directly behind the area where I wanted to build a restaurant, all I had to do was relocate a few walls and incorporate those facilities into the "leased premises." Problem solved, the numbers worked, the health department accepted it and Mr. and Mrs. Green(e) opened "The Studio" restaurant. (johnsadamspr@aol.com)

Wed Jul 22, 02:55:00 PM  

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