Where was Milwaukee's first shopping mall?
In the 1950s, shopping malls were the next big thing. Offering an alternative the department store, malls drew massive crowds looking for a novel shopping experience with more options at their fingertips.
So, where was Milwaukee's first mall?
Milwaukee's first shopping mall opened in 1951 on South 27th street, north of Morgan Avenue, where the current Wal-Mart Supercenter is. Known as Southgate Mall (a Marcus movie theater next door still bears that name), it originally resembled more of a strip mall or outdoor town center.
And it was popular. At its grand opening, the mall drew tens of thousands of visitors -- an estimated 60,000, according to newspaper reports -- along with street performers and much media attention.
"South 27th Street was a natural because it is Highway 41 which, in pre-interstate days, was a major thoroughfare, connecting downtown Miami with the Upper Peninsula and points between," writes OnMilwaukee's Bobby Tanzilo in his story published at OnMilwaukee.com. "In 1951, if you were headed to Chicago, for example, you took 41. Thus, it was a heavily traveled road by residents, visitors and those passing through."
Listen to this week's podcast for more about the history of Southgate, its eventual closing in 1999, and a man named Richard ”Dixie” Blandy who aimed to set a bizarre world record at the mall's opening.