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MallHistory.com is a website dedicated to the history of shopping centers – dead or alive.

 

The History Of the Shopping Mall

Do you ever walk into your local shopping mall and wonder where the idea for the shopping mall came from? Were you fascinated and transfixed by your shopping mall as a kid? Did you look at the numerous stores and polished floors and wonder how such a thing was ever conceived?

Let’s look into the history of the shopping mall. Did you know that shopping malls were in Ancient Rome? They originated in the forums where the markets were located? If you think about it, a shopping mall is not all that unusual when you look at the history of commerce? Even in ancient societies, and along trade routes, all the shopping was located along one thoroughfare or in one marketplace. If you fast-forward 2,000 years, the concept of a shopping mall is still alive and at work in a much bigger and more uniform way, in the modern shopping mall.

What was the earliest shopping mall? Trajan’s Market in Ancient Rome was built around 100, and that was the first real shopping mall. It was a direct forerunner to the modern shopping mall. If you want to look at one of the earliest shopping malls that is still around, just look at The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, which was built in the 15th century. It’s still one of the biggest shopping centers in the entire world, and it has over 4,000 shops and 58 streets. That’s a lot bigger than any shopping mall you’ve probably ever set foot in! You though that American shopping malls were big and modern? Just go to Turkey, and you’ll see what a real shopping mall is like!

However, if you’re really talking about mall-type shopping centers, and not just masses of stores in one central area, then you need to look at Gostiny Dvor in St. Petersburg, and it opened in 1785. There were about 100 shops there.

What about the United States though? We’ve traveled all over Europe and the Middle East in this short article, but what were the origins of the modern shopping mall in the United States?

There was an early indoor prototype built in Minnesota in 1915, and it was called the Lake View Store, and it had its grand opening in 1916. It was just a three-story building with floors on all there levels.

With the rise of the automobile and the suburb, there was a new style of shopping center that was built that was farther away from the downtown. There were numerous tax incentives that encouraged investors to band together and make shopping malls. It was a win-win economically and functionally for people in the suburbs and corporate investors. The government helped encourage that kind of thing.

The suburban shopping center idea evolved a lot after World War II. The suburban shopping mall, as Americans think of it today, came into fruition with the Seattle Northgate Center, and it opened in 1950.

It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the first fully enclosed shopping mall came about. The Valley Fair Shopping Center was opened in 1955. The concept of a regional-sized, totally enclosed shopping center didn’t happen until 1956 though.

Soon, malls would take retailing away from the commercial, dense downtowns into the big residential suburbs. The times were changing.

 

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