Shopping City

Happy November! Now that October and Halloween have passed us by, some of the biggest shopping days of the year are yet to come. In the spirit of holiday shopping, take a look at this lovely late-60s postcard, featuring  Southcenter Mall!

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Shopping in Style

While the mall’s opening day was July 31, 1968, its roots date back to 1956 when three officials from Seattle’s Northgate Mall (which opened in 1950) formed the Southcenter Corporation with the vice president of Allied Stores (a Department store chain). The four men planned to build a new mall south of Seattle that would match the success of Northgate. They began searching for a site that was at least 100 acres.

Their search led them to the 800-acre Andover Tract. Previously farmland, the Andover Tract was purchased by the Port of Seattle for use as an industrial park. In November 1957, the city of Tukwila annexed the tract. The same year, Southcenter Corporation purchased 160 acres of the tract that were strategically located near the intersection of two planned freeways: I-5 and I-405. The start of construction was to depend on the construction of these roads.

The first part of I-405, connecting Tukwila to Renton, opened to traffic in August 1965. In 1960, he first segment of I-5 opened through Tacoma and by January 1967, the road ran continually from Tacoma to Everett. Southcenter Mall broke ground in early 1967.

The architect for the mall was the Seattle-based John Graham & Company, the firm responsible for both Northgate and Tacoma malls. A total of 75 contractors worked on the project, and despite four worker strikes, the majority of construction was complete by May 1968. Interior work continued until the day before the mall’s grand opening.

When Governor Dan Evans dedicated the mall at 11 AM on July 31, he was dedicating the largest mall in the Pacific Northwest. The 1,400,000 square foot mall featured the largest expanse of terrazzo floors in the area (84,000 square feet). Southcenter boasted four anchor stores, 88 other shops, and employed 3,600 people.

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Southcenter Shopping Center, the northwest’s largest air-conditioned shopping city, features a terrazzo surface and lush tropical planters in the 40 foot wide mall walkway between the 110 stores. One of the highlights of the center is the specially designed mobile chandelier which hangs above the main mall intersection. Many of the stores take advantage of the completely heated and air-conditioned interior by having wide open entrances with no standard doorways. Southcenter is one of the few shopping centers to have four major department stores; the BON MARCHE, FREDERICK AND NELSON, J.C. PENNY, AND NORDSTROM-BEST. Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle at Tukwila and the junction of Interstates 5 & 405.

In 2002, Southcenter Mall was purchased by the Westfield Group and renamed “Westfield Shoppingtown Southcenter.” Four years later, the mall underwent a $240 million expansion, adding 400,000 square feet of space.

Some of the stores featured on this postcard include Zale’s Jewelry, Bernie’s Menswear, The Coat Closet, and Hazel’s Candies. Zale’s is still in operation, as are three of the original anchor stores: J.C. Penney, Nordstoms, and  Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche).

Despite the stores and the decor and the clothing, perhaps what really dates this card is the last sentence on the back: “Southcenter is 8 minutes south of Seattle…” Today, the commute is about 16 minutes via I-5.

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