Monday, March 20, 2017

Midway Mall Reflections – Part 1

Back in January, I received an interesting email from Michael Brown. Michael is a former Lorain Countian who has done very well for himself. He grew up in Grafton in the 1960s, went to Ohio State in the late 1970s and is now President of BarrickGold USA, the nation’s largest gold mining company.
From Nevada, Michael reads my blog to connect with his Lorain County roots. He shared some thoughts regarding the coming of Midway Mall to Lorain County in the 1960s, as well as its effect on the downtowns of Lorain and Elyria. He also sent me some newspaper articles, as well as some images to supplement some of my previous posts.
Here’s one from the June 8, 1964 Chronicle-Telegram announcing the multi-million dollar mall project.
“The announcement of the Mall was not only front page above the fold, but was above the CT’s banner!” observed Michael. “It was interesting how the Mall was designed to replace a downtown. At the opening, it had a community room, a barbershop, a stockbroker, a drug store, pet shop, etc. I don’t remember the community room being used much (it was in the original south mall area) and I think became a storage room. The Mall had an apartment where the manager resided.  I found the rarely mentioned coffee shop at JC Penny to be the best place for Mall workers for lunch or dinner.  
“What should be noted was how the community celebrated the opening of the Midway Mall. No discussion about what would happen the downtowns of Lorain and Elyria. The focus was on temperature controlled shopping at a pleasant 72 degrees. Lorain County was booming with the opening of the auto plants.  
Sears store at Midway Mall circa Sept. 1970
(Cleveland Press photo currently on Ebay)
“Sears was the driving force for the Mall,” noted Michael, and for a very good reason. “The original chain stores built in the downtowns of medium size cities were unable to expand and lacked adequate parking. We tend to forget that Sears was to the 1960s what Walmart is in retailing today.
Another article from the January 1, 1965 C-T reported, “Another all-time record for employment may be in store for Lorain County in 1965.” According to Michael, this was another distraction that kept city officials from noticing that their downtowns would soon be suffering because of the mall.
“Look at the number of people hired and the taxes paid,” observed Michael. “Booming communities always assume the boom will go on forever.”
Next: More Midway Mall reminisces including the story behind the dripping wires

1 comment:

Mark said...

Great article!!