Friday, February 16, 2007

MOA Galleria - Valley Fair Shopping Center

Appleton, Wisconsin - March 9, 1955

Vintage 1955 newspaper article heralding the grand opening of the old Valley Fair Shopping Center, in Appleton, Wisconsin (pretty much now defunct)... "The first weather protected shopping center in the nation designed with the shopper in mind."

You can read the full article in its entirety in the scan image to the left, which also contains a floor plan diagram depicting the mall's original store lineup and layout. Very cool. And besides that, it's also just plain chock full of all kinds of other groovy Valley Fair tidbits and early details!

Here's some encapsulated historical background via the mall's Wikipedia entry (lots more info there):
"It originally had six stores: Krambo Supermarket, House of Camera & Cards, Badger Paint & Hardware, Donald's, Hamilton Bakery and Eddie's Self-Service Liquor. The mall was built by Hamilton Construction Company under the name Hoffman Shopping Centers, Inc. The mall was one of the first in Wisconsin to be enclosed, and is arguably the first enclosed mall in the world with its own climate controls.

The next two years would see further expansion in phases, fronted on the eastmost end by a W.T. Grant discount store. With this, the mall was fully completed by 1956. It would remain relatively unchanged at least up through 1976, when the Grant's anchor would cease with the rest of the entire chain.

In 1978-1979, the mall would re-tenant and emphasize less on local businesses and bring in more nationally known tenants with a huge expansion and renovation project.

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the mall changed ownership several times. Foot traffic started to decrease when Northland Mall (Appleton) completed a major expansion, adding its own Kohl's Department Store anchor (built out of another former W.T. Grant store), joining a freestanding ShopKo with a new enclosed mall of 25-30 stores built between the two anchors in 1983."
More Valley Fair!

(Study images courtesy of Fox Valley Turning Points)


Anonymous Bobby said...

Very cool, especially the map.

Sat Feb 17, 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Den said...

Very cool mall, indeed.

I "inducted" VALLEY FAIR into the Mall Hall Of Fame blog a while back, after I found the neat newspaper article on the web.

VALLEY FAIR was, it appears, actually the first enclosed shopping center in the USA...depending on when (in 1955) that Omaha's THE CENTER opened. As everyone prolly knows, Minnesota's SOUTHDALE (which opened in 1956) is regarded as the nation's first enclosed center.

Both the VALLEY FAIR and CENTER centers were, after all, smaller, neighborhood-type malls...nothing along the lines of the 800,000 square foot SOUTHDALE.

So, SOUTHDALE still stands as the first regional-class, enclosed shopping center in the USA.

I think.....

Sat Feb 17, 09:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Wednesday said...

I think I'd start shopping at malls again if they featured milliners, hosiery shops and luncheonettes instead of cell phone kiosks, crappy food courts and same-old-same-old chain stores.

Sun Feb 18, 02:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Ahh, Valley Fair. If it's not the country's first enclosed mall, at least it's Wisconsin's.

The only original stores to survive into the 1980s (after the mall got expanded to the east through WT Grant's building) were Thom McAn Shoes (which would stick around into the late 1980s), and Nobil Shoes (until the mid 1980s). Of course, they would both move from their original locations to other spots thanks to the expansion.

At its peak in 1979 upon the opening of Kohl's Department Store and a Marcus 6-screen cinema (That's a lot of screens for 1979) as new anchor pads to go along with the supermarket (which I'm sure switched banners from Krambo to other names before closing in the late 1980s), the mall had over 55 stores.

I got my first look into this mall in 1993. It was still 3/4 occupied but the bottom already fell out by then, so I really got lucky. Got to see some real old storefronts here.

I was stupid to not have taken pics back then. Some noteables:

-- The RadioShack here had its old burnt-orange frontage (the store interior was redone to a late-1980s format though).

-- A store next to this called 'The Right Price' (defunct value-priced juniors/womens apparel chain similar to Rainbow) that had the typical wood-paneled storefront that common in the late 1970s..and a bright blue neon sign to go with it.

-- Kohl's had it's old giant red script-style signage outside, and inside was a timewarp to 1979.

-- Christopher & Banks, back when it was under the 'Braun's Fashions' banner. I have never seen another storefront for this chain that was as old looking as the one at Valley Fair. I seen 4 other prototypes of their chain through the 1980s-1997 before they switched to the "Christopher & Banks" name they go by today. I don't recall much, just that the interior had a lot of brown shades, and their storefront sign was not above the store, but was between two entries on the wall! (The ceiling at this part of the mall which sloped down somewhat via a ramp, must have been too low for any above-entrance signage like you'd normally see).

My last time in was 2000, and by then Kohl's was closing up shop to move into a new box out in Buchanon, the new 'shopping' area for the south and east sides of Appleton. That sucked all the remaining taffic, and stores, out of the mall.

A youth-mall attempt was here nad gone within a year. The mall building was too old and costly to maintain and upgrade.

Now I hear the mall (Not the cinema and Kohl's buildings) is supposed to be demo'ed for new development, but when is anyone's guess.

Sun Feb 18, 05:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the local paper, demolition has started. Here is a link to the article, which also features 17 photos from the opening of the mall in 1954.

Shame..I grew up with this place.

Wed Jul 18, 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops forgot the link:

Wed Jul 18, 04:30:00 PM  

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