Friday, December 15, 2006

Woodfield Mall

Schaumburg, Illinois - circa 1971

Following up on my last Woodfield Mall post, here's more retro goodness courtesy, once again, of Steven Wilson (of, who sent in this great vintage promotional brochure, which dates to around 1971 or so. Thanks for the nice submission, Steven!

Of the recent attention the Fairlaine Town Center post has received (27 comments within just a few days, wow!) Steven added: "Fairlane is definitely worthy, but Woodfield is truly the Taubman mothership." Fair enough, I say. So Woodfield Mall gets the spotlight back today! (keep sending in stuff like this and I'll give it the spotlight every froogin' day! Hehe)

Anyway, the first stunning picture I posted at the top of this entry is actually the two-page photo from the center of the brochure, about which Steven said: "Also note on the centerfold photo the pre-Photoshop alteration of the photo to block out the storefront area on the middle level. That spot was the long-time home of a County Seat store, which must have come after this photo."

So now with all that said, here's the rest of the brochure pages in order, front to back...

Mall history: 1971 - present
Developer: A. Alfred Taubman
Current website: here
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Previous entries: 1


Anonymous KP said...

Wow! Taubman's not making them like they used to. Our local mall, MacArthur Center (named for the general, located across the street from his memorial), is a Taubman and other than the dancing water fountain, it's bland by comparision. It opened March 1999.

This makes me wonder who built Vintage Faire in Modesto, CA. It was Taubmanian back in the day but not quite like this. It's owned by Macerich now but back in the 70's it had a vintner theme complete with fake wine casks, a grapevine 2 story clock, and a cow theme playpit that probably was dangerous for the kidlets.

Fri Dec 15, 08:08:00 AM  
Anonymous CoastersNSich said...

A few years ago, the Saturday Night Live skit, "The Escalator," was set at this mall. It starred Ben Affleck and the SNL gang as a bunch of shoppers stuck on an escalator that stops while they are riding...

Fri Dec 15, 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

If this is a matter of comparisons, I think that Eastridge did a better job of creating a dramatic focal point, but that could be because of the magnificent sculpture that was located there. Woodfield certainly seems to do a better job of adding fountains and trees to make the space more comfortable -- as does Fairlane -- and Woodfield definitely wins hands down for sheer size.

I really enjoy the different types of light fixtures that were developed for these malls. Woodfield seems to have clusters of square chrome tubes with the tops cut off uneven. I bet they looked pretty cool in reality. Other malls had the perforated chrome tubes with lights behind them. Unfortunately, these all seem to have been replaced with "upscale" lighting, to satisfy some sense of what's fashionable at the time -- or in some cases just removed completely. Unfortunately, modern design doesn't seem to prevail in this instance.

Fri Dec 15, 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

Dean: In comparing the Woodfield and Eastridge grand courts, I would say that Woodfield's dramatic focal point was the carpeted amphitheater area with its fantastic surroundings of the fountain, waterfall, pools, balconies and ramps above, the suspended moiré piece of art, the stunning ceiling, and more. The large Kenneth Snelson sculpture was actually separated from the main open space of the grand court by two ramps. This separation created kind of a quiet zone for the sculpture's setting and the seating area at its base. At Eastridge, with the large sculpture set right out in the middle of the vast space, atop the pools of water, it served as a striking focal point. Eastridge, however, didn't really have the equivalent of the Woodfield amphitheater (which has been significantly altered now).

I'm glad that you noticed those light fixtures. They were very understated, but impressive. The inside surfaces at the tops of the square chrome tubes were painted orange and magenta. These upright vertical square tubes with their angled tops corresponded to the large square at the top of the grand court's ceiling (see the large photo in this post). There, a large matrix of similar chrome tubes are inverted, with the bottoms angled in the same fashion. I'll never forget the first time I looked up and saw that. I pretty much gasped at the unusual sight. At first, it looked to me like a cluster of sheets of paper set at odd angles. Upon further inspection, though, I realized that these were square chrome tubes instead.

The new lighting fixtures at Woodfield that replaced these original clusters of square chrome tubes broke the architectural parallel with those in the ceiling of the grand court. I was surprised to see that the moiré mobile piece of art has been removed. It was a Woodfield icon. It was even featured on the masthead of an early Woodfield internal newsletter. If I recall correctly, it was called the "Woodfield Insider". I have a copy saved somewhere.

Fri Dec 15, 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah! I saw that SNL sketch! It was supposed to be this mall, huh? Interesting.

Fri Dec 15, 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

Thanks for pointing out those awesome details about the light fixtures, Steve! That makes me like them even more!! Now I wonder if they were to represent anything artistically -- especially with the way they echo the ceiling forms with the sculpture suspended below them - (which looks like an abstracted sun to me).

The new light fixtures look nice, (sort of like Frank Lloyd Wright), but you are correct that they break with what was once a carefully choreographed design. Same goes for the fluted moldings plastered to the sides of all the balconies. It's a shame that has to happen since it detracts from the overall experience. Personally, I'm not all that enthusiastic about the trend in retail to be "upscale". It seems to result in a design approach that is ultimately pretentious.

You are correct that Eastridge didn't get the central amphitheater that many of the later Taubman malls received. And I certainly wish it had the wonderful planters with greenery that Woodfield has. That said, I have yet to see a successful stage, amphitheater area. They are great opportunities for special programs, yet so few of those seem to take place. Many such areas have now been modified.

Fri Dec 15, 10:15:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

Did someone say Vintage Faire? Ha! I nearly forgot about those fake wine casks, complete with lights inside (to make it look like glowing wine). Ha!
Anyway, this is an awesome brochure for Woodfield. Fantastic! What they didn't do in Eastridge, they DID do for Woodfield. Was Eastridge the red-headed step-child? Hmmm

Fri Dec 15, 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BigMallRat, that was me :). Vintage Faire was *my* mall in the early 80's. I remember the grand opening in 77/78! I have no idea if any postcards exist of its 70's wine cask grandeur (oh my). Numerous band performances in center court in front of Miller's Outpost and Weinstocks, working at the Original Cookie Co across from Baker's Shoes.

They remodeled in the early 2000's and took out the giant center court staircase and added a half-baked food court in the mini wing back by Macy's Women Store. They also removed the clock down by Sears, removing all traces of its heritage. (meet me at the clock! I read through the PennCan mall tribute last night...again!) Amazingly, all the original anchors except Weinstocks are still there. Gottschocks moved into the Weinstocks space. I saw on your website that Gottschocks is up for sale, right?

Oh gosh, sorry for the thread hi-jack. Keith, love your blog! BigMallRat, I have you bookmarked too. The malls in SE Virginia don't have the kitsch of Vintage Faire.

Sat Dec 16, 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

Another nice touch at Woodfield was a children's slide that provided a transition between a change in elevation on the lower level. In the three-level section seen in the photo, if you were to follow the lower level towards JCPenney, you would find the slide at the end of the three-level section. At this point, the lower level floor continued towards JCPenney at a slightly higher elevation. The Woodfield JCPenney sits at a slightly higher elevation than does Sears at the opposite end. This is part of complex scheme of elevation changes that allowed for the insertion of the middle level. At Eastridge, coincidentally, the opposite is true. The Sears store sits at a slightly higher elevation than does JCPenney.

Sun Dec 17, 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

It was quite a big deal when McDonald's finally went into Woodfield. McDonald's posted a security guard whose mission was to prevent customers from taking food and drink into the mall. Needless to say, people did not like this. Mall employees were granted an exemption that allowed them to carry their McDonald's food and drinks back to their stores. I don't know how long the security guards were employed there. The last time that I visited, there was no special food-and-drink security guard standing watch at the McDonald's entrance.

The strong prohibition against food and drink in the mall reportedly originated from an incident involving Mr. Taubman. It was reported that he was showing off one of his malls to some celebrity or other VIP when said VIP slipped on some melted ice cream or spilled drink and took a spectacular tumble to the floor. Following that, an order was supposedly issued that prohibited food and drink in the mall areas of Taubman centers. At Woodfield, it seemed to be somewhat unfairly imposed on McDonald's because none of the other fast food outlets had security guards posted to keep food and drink from being carried into the mall.

Sun Dec 17, 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

"McDonald's posted a security guard whose mission was to prevent customers from taking food and drink into the mall."

Are you sure they weren't there to ward-off the "Hamburglar"?? ;)

It's interesting how times have changed. I remember it pretty much being standard that one couldn't bring food and drinks into retail establishments. Even now if I have a drink in my hand I think twice about entering a store, even though it pretty much not a problem nowadays.

I have always been confounded by the level changes in Taubman malls. It seems that the designs bounced back and forth between level changes and no level changes, mysterious middle levels and two-level malls. And it's not as if it was a progressive design evolution. One would see two malls opening the same year with completely different approaches, (compare Fairlane and Lakeside which both opened in 1976). And since the properties were essentially graded per the developer, all the levels were pretty much elective. Even Hilltop had a grade break across it's grand court even though the site is basically graded flat.

Some day it would be interesting to discuss with the designer, what the intent was behind these design decisions, what worked well, and what had to be rethought. Does anyone think Mr. Taubman would meet with us at the Olga's at Lakeside for a little Q&A?? :)

Mon Dec 18, 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger BIGMallrat said...

That's interesting about the level changes. Sunvalley nor Stoneridge have variations, yet it is noticeable at Hilltop and Eastridge. I bet it's quite a task to make a site that large a level pad.
I have also noticed elevation changes at other open-air centers that are now enclosed, such as Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa and Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento. Never gave it much thought, though.
Hey, Olga's Kitchen, is it still around?

Mon Dec 18, 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Vintage Faire was build by the Hahn Company. Another mall that Hahn built that was in similar architectural fashion was The Oaks in Thousand Oaks, Calif. the year after Vintage Faire. Both were built with four of the five anchor stores, with the fifth one being added in the early 1980s.

Here is my pattern on the anchor store positions of these two malls going from left to right from the front sides of the malls facing their respective freeways:

Vintage Faire/The Oaks

JCPenney/Robinson's Gottschalks/JCPenney
Weinstock's/The Broadway (both owned by Carter Hawley Hale)
Macy's (added in 1981)/Bullock's (added in 1983) (the latter later owned by the former)
Sears/May Company

Mon Dec 18, 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous dean said...

Unfortunately, Bigmallrat, our Olga's destinations here in the Bay Area are all now extinct. :( I used to hit the one at Southland on my lunch hour from time to time. Then when that closed I went to the one at Stoneridge -- but it's now gone as well. Fortunately, they are still in Michigan and I visited the Olga's at Lakeside Mall when I was there this summer. Being a Michigan chain, Olga's must have been brought out to California by Taubman since the two I remember were at their malls.

Another side note, Olga's seems to have gone through a rebranding. The food still seems the same, but it has traded the bright Scandinavian look for a more upscale image (for lack of better descriptions). The change is apparent at their website. Personally, I feel their image has lost it's uniqueness.

Mon Dec 18, 10:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I don't think that the Taubman malls had elevation changes thrown in just for the fun of it. Usually, there was a definite reason. Any of the Taubman malls with the middle level would always have numerous elevation changes as that was necessary for the "formula" used to insert the middle level. I haven't been to Hilltop since the early 1980s, so I don't know why it would have an elevation change in the center court. Among other Taubman two-level malls that I knew well, Fair Oaks and Lakeforest -- each had been my "home mall" for a while -- both were two levels and I don't recall them having any surprising changes in elevation. I didn't know Marley Station so well, but I don't recall it having mysterious elevation changes, either.

Both Lakeforest and Marley Station are no longer Taubman malls, btw. There are so many "ex-Taubman" malls these days, we should make a list. We already know Eastridge, Southland, Stoneridge, Lakeforest, and Marley Station. I believe that NYC's Queens Center had been a Taubman, too. I would need to double check on that one.

About Olga's Kitchen, they seemed to be in most major Taubman malls. I remember the one at Woodfield. It was directly across from Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor. I never ate at an Olga's, but I remember the bright logo. I checked out the web site hoping to see that logo, but it's been replaced with something not nearly as distinctive. Checking their locations, it appears that Olga's Kitchen has retreated to only Michigan, with one location in Ohio, and two in the East St. Louis, IL area.

Tue Dec 19, 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron Valdez said...

I knew this looked familiar. I scanned this postcard I bought a few months ago from Granny's in Iowa City. Love the sculpture.

Fri Dec 22, 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron Valdez said...

Sorry that link was too long. Here's a shorter version.

Fri Dec 22, 12:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Steven Wilson said...

I purchased that same postcard at Woodfield itself. About that sculpture in the south court in front of Sears, people used to toss coins from the upper level onto the surface of the horizontal piece. They probably still do! I'm not encouraging the practice, btw. I actually did not like to see coins and such littering up the sculpture like that.

Fri Dec 22, 02:58:00 AM  
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