Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Classic Midtown Plaza

Rochester, New York - circa 1960s

Majestic early postcard view of Midtown Plaza (see my recent 'Clock of the Nations' retro video!) from the outside this time. Caption reads:
"Midtown Plaza in Rochester, N.Y. is America's largest downtown shopping and business complex -- 7 1/2 acres under one roof. The 18-story Midtown Tower office building-restaurant-hotel is Rochester's highest building. The hotel-restaurant section is atop the tower and a convenient 2000-car garage is beneath."
Mall history: 1961 - present
Architect: Victor Gruen
Current website: here
Info from Wikipedia
Current aerial view
Previous entries: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Blogger Scott Parsons said...

They were sure proud of this place!

Wed Oct 04, 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, what a crazy GOOGIE-style structure! Perhaps I could be wrong here, but I am thinking that MIDTOWN PLAZA is just about the only [more-or-less] original, "Space Age" (Googie) shopping center left in the USA.

In the most recent photos I've seen of the interior, it appears that the architecture is much the same as it was in 1962. On the MIDTOWN PLAZA website, the mall is even promoted as "historic".....

The place has fallen upon very rough times, I hear. There is the obligatory talk of "wrecking ball renovation" (replacing the mall with just what??, I might ask).

If the powers that be in "Roch-cha-cha" have any foresight what-so-ever, they will see to it that this Victor Gruen-designed center is NOT destroyed! There needs to be some effort to preserve such a unique structure!

My thoughts.....turn the place into an "AMERICAN MUSEUM OF THE MID-20TH CENTURY". There's not anything like this, anyplace (is there??). I could envisage such a museum displaying artifacts of the period between 1935 and 1965. Base it on a seven-zone format (ala the 1939-1940 World's Fair...held in NEW YORK STATE, by the way).

The "zones": 1. GOVERNMENT ZONE (the museum could have displays and memorabilia pertaining to FDR [from NY STATE], "Ike", "JFK" and LBJ, etc.) 2.COMMUNITY INTEREST ZONE (with mid-century art, fashions, and furniture. ARCHITECTURE of the era could also be covered in this zone....and how about including a "Mall Hall Of Fame"?) 3. FOOD ZONE (obviously, containing a food court) 4. COMMUNICATION & BUSINESS ZONE (pertaining to the plethora of technological innovations that came about in the 1930's through 1960's) 5. PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION ZONE (displays and memorabilia about companies such as Eastman-Kodak [from ROCHESTER, NY], the electric utilities of the USA, GE, Westinghouse, etc.) 6. TRANSPORTATION ZONE (detailing the emergence of the car culture, in the USA, the creation of the Interstate Highway system, etc.) 7. AMUSEMENT ZONE (this section could cover the entertainment industry of mid-20th century America, i.e., Hollywood, television, music, etc).

Yep..I guess that this all might sound like a really loopy idea.....but I do hate to see MIDTOWN PLAZA torn down. Moreover, I think that such a museum could be very interesting and unique.

North Georgia

Wed Oct 04, 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cora said...

On the one hand, this is exactly the sort of concrete blight that destroyed so many towncenters, though Midtown Plaza is definitely better designed than most. More international style than Googie, though.

On the other hand, it is very much a product of its time and apparently largely preserved in its original form. And is tearing it down to replace it with yet another bland contemporary mall or lifestyle center really the best solution?

I like Dennis' suggestion of turning it into the mid century museum, particularly considering how rapidly reminders of those days are vanishing from our lives. I collect 1950s/60s artifacts and until a few years ago, one could still find a lot of objects on fleamarkets, estate sales, etc... Now they're getting rarer and rarer. And just recently I realized that there are hardly any original 1950s storefronts (which were still quite a frequent sight well into the 1980s and 1990s) left in my town.

Wed Oct 04, 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cora, I know what you mean. It seems like every time I turn around they are tearing down or taking away some structure from the 40's/50s era. Recently, I decided to walk down a road near where I live that was known to be a passageway for cars before the expressway and interstate system were created. This street had lots of motels and architecture and signs from that era. I took plenty of pics and now, a mere few months later, one of the motels has been knocked down and another sign that I had taken a picture of is already gone. Just a few years ago this stretch had been largly unchanged for quite a long while. Now everything seems to be rapidly disappearing.

Wed Oct 04, 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am apparently stereotyping just about ALL architecture from the 50's and early 60's as GOOGIE style, when a lot of it really is not, hee hee. Maybe there is so much confusuion on my part, because the particular style (now being called "googie") hasn't had a real, bona-fide, name or classification, other than being "ultra-modern"...which it no longer is.

Whatever particular architectural genre MIDTOWN PLAZA does fall into, it needs to be preserved for posterity. I am pretty disgusted when I read about it, and people are saying it is "outdated", "dead", "needs to be got rid of", etcetera.

I cannot believe how many people in this nation have no regard, what-so-ever, for history. I also get irritated by the notion that, because something is not at least 100 years old, it is not "historic". It's no wonder that all of the 50's and 60's era architecture and signage is disappearing from the landscape.

I guess I should take heart, because in 10 or 15 years, these cookie-cutter style, monotonously mediocre, "lifestyle centers" and "power centers" (that are being built over the torn-down sites of so many architecturally significant 50's and 60's era shopping centers) will be (by then) "obsolete" and "outdated"....and will be "wrecking ball renovated".

I wonder, will anyone even care?

Thu Oct 05, 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cora said...

We didn't have many 1950s motels to lose, but a lot of classic signage is vanishing and our city seems to be waging war on beautiful chromium gleaming Art Deco sausage stands, cause we have lost so many of them in favour of bland glass pavillions. Plus, they're in the process of closing a 1960s pedestrian tunnel (still with original orange wall tiles) and remodelling a former department store with a late 1950s facade of Horton tile knock-offs, supposedly because they were blights. Both were deliberately neglected until they became blights.

Hard to imagine that even the venerable Horton tile is starting to become an endangered species.

Thu Oct 05, 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the pictures, the midcentury modern malls look the best, their designs are more substantial, (no fake stucco, but lots of terrazzo and brick), and hava a neat feel.
Note the Trailways sign in the lower right of the picture, another now gone name. My grandfather was a ticket agent for them in Pittsburgh, PA from the 1960s to the early 1980s. I have tin models of their Golden Eagle and Silver Eagle buses.
Does anyone have pictures of South Hills Village Mall in Pittsburgh it was built in 1965 but remodeled in the early 1990s. My parents took me there a lot in the late 1970s early 80s. It had 3 fountains and a duck pond. The anchors were Joseph Hornes, Sears, and Gimbels, along with a Woolworths.

Wed Feb 21, 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JOHN RUSKIN - Have you found any pictures of SOUTH HILLS VILLAGE?? We are also seeking pictures of classic pictures of that mall -- any you might have come across! Please email -


Tue Sep 04, 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could practically throw a rock into South Hills Village Mall from where I sit. Sears is still there. The Kaufmanns location became Lazarus and then merged with the Macy's at the other end of the mall when they were acquired. That Kaufmanns location then became a Boscovs, but it only lasted for a short while. The mall is currently under construction as they are splitting that space in half. Dicks Sporting Goods is going to take the upper 2 floors while Target will be going in on the ground floor. All in all this is one of the healthiest malls with the least amount of vacant space you will find.

Tue Feb 07, 04:31:00 PM  

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