Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vintage Postcards: Corte Madera Center

Finally, something entirely different!
He's a vintage postcard for Corte Madera Center, now known as Town Center Corte Madera. Love the trendy stripes. I bet that got old fast.

The back of the card reads "Corte Madera Center, Marin County, California. This extensive Shopping Area (too big for a single picture) of large stores and specialty shops is easily accessible and adjoins U.S. #101."

Like the other postcards of Bay Area Malls, this one was taken by Mike Roberts. I can see he carefully framed Mt. Tamalpais and the surrounding hills. One thing this card confirms, colorization. Clearly the Woolworth's and Thrify signs are colored in. Thrifty glows so bright, it looks fake. But, their 15 cent ice cream cones of yesteryear is worthy of forgiveness.

Regrettably, I know very little of this shopping center. Outside that it opened in 1958 and once had JC Penney. Only after it remodeled did I visit the center. It's also the center of controversey because Barnes & Noble is opening there soon, to the dismay of a local book store, Book Passage. Ah, competition at its best.

Read my Guide to Town Center Corte Madera

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.


Georob said...

Well, if the Bullock's at Fashion Island was a circus tent, then Corte Madera Center was the midway. Or maybe the world's biggest ice cream parlor.

Penneys was not the only anchor. Montgomery Ward took up the west side of the mall in a building that is mostly Safeway now. So you had Penneys, Wards, Woolworths, Grants, Thrifty....IN MARIN COUNTY? I tell you, if any Bay Area mall has done a complete 180 in its format, it's this one.

But it didn't happen overnight. If I recall, this mall struggled a bit after it was remodeled, probably due to The Village across 101. In fact, I think they had a Goodwill store there for awhile, possibly in the old Penney building which is now Container Store.

I believe the Corte Madera Penneys(along with Alameda and Daly City)were the first Bay Area stores in a traditional mall setting, though there were others before that in strip center formats. I'm also certain they were the last Bay Area stores built that just sold apparel and soft goods.

The Corte Madera JC Penney would add a second floor in the 80's and double its size, but even after that it was still not considered a "full-line" store.

dean said...

Like Hillsdale, Corte Madera was not in the realm of places my family visited so I never got to see it early on. The remodel was done by Field Paoli who are also responsible for the Stanford and Stonestown Shopping Center remodels, and downtown places like Pleasant Hill, Napa, and Walnut Creek.

The shift in shopping center design has become profound -- to the point where entire small "downtowns" or similarly themed shopping areas are being recreated for shopping in, (some refer to them as "lifestyle centers"). Ironically, places like Irvine Spectrum and Victoria Gardens are still significantly detached from the surrounding areas a traditional shopping district would connect with. In stead of the Taumbman-style super regional mall in a sea of parking, one now has a quaint shopping district in a sea of parking.

Anonymous said...

I think I like the old stripey version of the mall better than the generic lifestyle format.

justin karimzad said...

It appears that the old Woolworth's space is now occupied by Z Gallerie, Featherbed & Bath, and Shoe Pavillion. Z Gallerie still uses the old large round ceiling air diffusers that were typical of old Woolworth's. I wonder what happened to the original Thrifty; I think it might have relocated, since Rite Aid isn't next to the former Woolworth like it is in this picture. Thrifty has definetly occupied this space since at least 1995, though. Either way, the current Rite Aid has been recently renovated anyway.

heatherdavid said...

The architect behind the original Corte Madera Center was John Savage Bolles (also known for his designs of San Jose's Valley Fair, San Leandro's Bayfair, Concord's Sun Valley, et al). The Corte Madera Center, however, is truly unique in that it was designed to sit on a floating platform. The mall literally moves (ever so slightly) up and down with the tide! Bolles' design of the Corte Madera Center set a precedent for building on wetland foundation systems.