Minnesota, apparently the most mall-centric state in the country, is also the site of the earliest modern mall, Southdale Center in Edina. This is the grandaddy of our distinctly American enclosed retail spaces. USA! USA!
Before its opening in 1956, the Southdale Centre was actually originally designed to be an updated version of traditional European arcades, with surrounding apartment complexes, schools, and other facilities in a huge 463-acre community. But our enterprising free market saw to it that malls were placed near highways and vast parking lots rather than schools, and the free market is always right. Southdale was a pioneer for many of the mall motifs we take for granted these days.
It was the first fully enclosed climate-controlled retail space with multiple shops, and was the first to gather several top-tier department stores under one roof. Designed by Austrian immigrant Victor Gruen, the mall is still around today, although it’s dwarfed in size and reputation by the nearby Mall of America. So the next time you’re walking the mile and a half from your “pretty good” parking spot to the mall entrance, where you’ll do consumer battle with teenage mallrats and practiced bargain-hunters, think of noble Southdale as you invent new and more vicious profanities in your head. [Retrothing]