Southdale Shopping Center opened on October 8, 1956.
Although not located in St. Louis Park, it had a tremendous
impact on the shopping habits of all suburbanites, as well
as the retail industry as a whole.
Southdale was built on the site of the Robinson-Day "Oak
Lodge" estate, a 200-acre farm homesteaded shortly after the
Civil War. In 1880 it was purchased by lumberman John
Robinson for a hunting lodge. His daughter converted the
property into a luxurious summer home at the turn of the
century, with white wooden fences along France Avenue to
mark the property site.
The concept of an enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall
was announced by the Dayton Development Company in 1952,
although it may have been planned as early as 1947.
One site that was considered was at the present 78th Street
and Highway 100.
Southdale featured the Garden Court, which was the largest
indoor public area in the U.S. Groundbreaking took place in
October 1954, and the size of the complex required its own
water and electrical supply. Dayton's and Donaldson's
anchored the mall. Southdale was designed by Victor Gruen,
who had envisioned a town center-type facility in the
suburbs, complete with town hall, police department, post
office, library, etc. These features were replaced with more
profitable stores, and Gruen later regretted the whole
undertaking. Author Malcolm Gladwell noted: "Victor
Gruen invented the shopping mall in order to make America
more like Vienna. He ended up making Vienna more like
America." Frank Lloyd Wright also hated the place,
saying it "had all the evils of the village street and none
of its charms."
Despite competition from subsequent malls, including the
nearby Mall of America in 1992, Southdale remains the original, the
classic. The excitement it created in its early years is
indicated by the fact that Bob Barker hosted his “Truth or
Consequences” game live from Southdale during the
Aquatennial in 1957.
This information comes from a variety of sources: newspapers, books, yearbooks, phone directories, interviews, etc. Given the varied sources, we cannot guarantee that all of this information is correct, and welcome any additions and corrections. Please contact us with your contributions and comments.