Happy Black Friday! After stuffing ourselves on the most thankful of holidays, many will trek out today to find that sought after deal of the century with nearly every other Indy area resident. This typically leads to an area shopping mall where bumper to bumper traffic greets the bargain hunters jockeying for that perfect parking spot. For those interested in history, this may be looked at with scorn, as a reminder of our once thriving and former favorite local downtown and neighborhood stores. That said, the suburban shopping mall is quickly approaching the age of sixty. Today, let’s look at two developments that started the big box bonanza in Indianapolis: Eastgate and Glendale Shopping Centers.
The first large-scale suburban shopping center in Indianapolis opened at the intersection of East Washington Street and Shadeland Avenue. The Eastgate Center, as it originally was known, provided one-stop shopping to the thriving east side of the city. The center featured Wasson’s and J.C. Penny’s along with a Standard Grocery location. Bargain hunters browsed two bargain options at G. C. Murphy’s and Woolworth’s. Other stores in the original line-up included a Sears Catalog store, Harry Levinson, and Kinney Shoes. Hungry shoppers sandwiched into Sam’s Subway. The center was a wonder for shoppers of the time, but the luster wore off as more competition entered the marketplace. Washington Square opened several miles east in 1974, taking Penny’s, Sears and other smaller tenants with it. By this time, the local Wasson’s chain was gobbled up by an out-of-state retailer, with all locations closed by 1980. Simon Properties converted the center to a lower-end outlet mall in 1982. The property changed hands several times in the 2000’s and closed in 2014. The structure still stands and is now primarily a data housing center. Recently, the vast parking lots have sprouted solar panels.
The area around 62nd Street and Keystone Avenue looked much different in 1956. At that time, this was unincorporated Washington Township, and development featured a hardware store and a small amusement park dubbed “Little America.”
The L.S. Ayres department Store looked to gain a presence on the affluent north side and signed on with a Chicago developer to plan what became Glendale Center. The mall opened in 1958. Some other familiar stores in the original line-up include: , The W. H. Block and Company, Hooks, L. Strauss, G. C. Murphy, and MacNamara Florst.
The mall first operated as an open-air center, featuring a courtyard surrounded by smaller shops between the two anchor department stores. This set-up changed in 1969, as a roof added shelter from the cold and an underground loading area was partially converted to house more stores.
The Castleton Square Mall opened just a stone’s throw away in 1972. For nearly two decades, the properties seemed to co-exist peacefully, giving shoppers a different line-up of anchor stores. Things began to change in 1988, when all Block’s stores in the area became Lazarus–a store already featured at Castleton. Castleton Square then added an L.S. Ayres location. Suddenly, the two shopping meccas found themselves in direct competition for the same shoppers. The aging Glendale Mall lost out. Lazarus closed their duplicate store in 1999. The mall added a Marion County Public Library Branch, Staples, Stein Mart, Old Navy and an AMC Theater. This attempt at re-branding wasn’t successful and the mall portion sat mostly vacant. In 2007 the retail court was demolished and the property redeveloped into an outdoor lifestyle center.
These two early shopping malls hold many memories for those who grew up in Indianapolis. What have been some of your favorite old shopping mall memories?
Indianapolis Suburban Directory, 1962, R.L. Polk and Company; Indianapolis Times, August 1st 1958; Indianapolis Star, August 13th 1958; Indianapolis Star, August 10th 1958; Indianapolis Times April 4th 1954; Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, 1994, Indiana University Press
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