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MACY’S LAKEWOOD CELEBRATES 65 YEARS

 

Since its opening in 1952, Lakewood’s, signature department store has proudly served millions of shoppers. Pictured is the ground breaking for the store in 1950. Courtesy Lakewood Center.

By Tammye McDuff

On Saturday, October 21, 2017, the City of Lakewood, Lakewood Center and Macy’s celebrated the 65th anniversary of the iconic Macy’s building. A collection of posters including historic photos curated by Lakewood’s Historian Emeritus D. J. Waldie was displayed near the Macy’s mall entrance to tell the story of the innovative building and mall, and their impact on suburban culture.

Developers faced a huge task in 1950, to turn six square miles of farmland into a complete community of homes, parks, schools and places to shop. Their solution was Lakewood, the first fully planned suburban community in California to be built after World War II.

At the heart of the community design was a new way to shop, a 154 acre retail center that would include department stores, specialty shops and entertainment attractions along a pedestrian mall.

Groundbreaking for the May company building took place on October 14, 1950 as 300 business leaders and state and county officials looked on, the Los Angeles Times described the Lakewood project as the world’s largest shopping center.

In 1952, the Lakewood Center’s iconic May Company building, which later changed to Macy’s in 2006, opened to throngs of eager shoppers, the first to experience the concept of a regional shopping mall. Lakewood Center changed the way Californians shop, and set the pattern for the next 60 years of retailing, not just in California but in the nation.

Among the May company departments was the west’s largest youth department, a beauty salon, nurses and a doctor were on duty in the stores on clinic as well as a dentist office.

To celebrate, a drawing was held to take a unique small-group tour of special back areas of the historic Macy’s building, including the rarely seen delivery tunnel under the mall that was designated as a community bomb shelter during the Cold War years.

Lakewood Center has a secret that made the car free mall possible.  It’s the half mile long tunnel that runs beneath the mall from Target to JC Penney.  The tunnel made it possible to make deliveries to stores without interrupting the mall with cross streets and loading docks.

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