Sunday, July 2, 2006

Columbus Square Mall


The photo above shows what's left of Columbus Square mall...a vacant Sears which formed the western anchor of the mall. To the left is the demolished footprint of it. In all, fans of Dixie Square unfortunately missed a good chance with this one. Similar in age and basically decayed but opened to the public, Columbus Square Mall originally opened in 1965 as the first mall in the city and one of the first enclosed malls in Georgia. Originally I-shaped, the mall had Sears and JCPenney (Penney's) as the two anchors. In 1979, Kirven's - Columbus' major local department store - added onto the mall.

The problem with Columbus Square is that its anchor lineup was not exactly stellar and they faced competition too soon to be able to adapt. Even worse, the mall was too close to a crime-ridden area full of public housing and urban decay. In 1976, Peachtree Mall opened further up the Lindsay Creek By-Pass (S.R. 1, later I-185), effectively puncturing Columbus Square. Nevertheless, Peachtree Mall didn't start out so harmful. Originally, they co-existed peacefully as Peachtree Mall had just Montgomery Ward and Gayfer's as the anchors while Columbus Square had the Sears and Penney's. The death knell was when JCPenney split for the newer mall and Parisian opened at Peachtree. Slowly the mall started bleeding out tenants made worse when Kirven's went out of business in 1993. Only one of the three department stores was left, and the mall was then on life support. Columbus Square also got the reputation as the ghetto mall by that point, and in the mid-1980's it was already pretty much dying out.

What was peculiar was that Columbus Square sat in moldy squaller for nearly 20 years beyond the time the mall was basically dead. Sears owned its own building at the mall, and it wasn't interested in going anywhere for a very long time. The structure continued to deteriorate while remaining open until finally the city purchased it in 2003 and tore down the mall all except for the Sears. The leaving of the Sears caused an uproar, because the plan was to make it the library when ultimately they left it and built a new library next to it. Just to show how much time has passed, now Peachtree Mall is getting the same reputation that Columbus Square had with an open-air center leeching away its customer base and anchors bleeding away from the mall.

It is hoped in the near future that possibly the living descendents of Kirven's (notably Hal Kirven who corrected me on the Kirven's closure date) or others who took photos of this mall will contribute photos or information regarding this mall. I personally would love to add a piece on Kirven's to this blog as soon as anything comes available.

Here is an interior shot of the mall from this blogsite.

31 comments:

  1. Every time I think of the words "Columbus Square", I so pine for a time machine .... to go back to 1999, when my then-g/f-now-wife and I walked the (mildewy) hallas of CS. Indeed, empty, closed-up storefronts (an early '80s vintage LANE BRYANT sign comes quickly to mind), buckled parquet flooring from the roof leaks -- the only thing missing were tumbleweeds. In '99, maybe half a dozen tenants still existed, one waaaaaay back in the bowels, accessible only via a long traipse through moldy emptiness.

    My royally-missed-the-boat frustration boils over because I didn't think to BRING A FRIGGIN' CAMERA!!!

    It was quite a place. Now PEACHTREE MALL ... that's a weird mall. It's in two halves, requiring one to walk through the middle of an anchor (Dillards, IIRC) in order to get to the other side.

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  2. I really ache that I never got to see this place. Can you tell me any details of the exterior or more of the interior?

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  3. Columbus Square was ahead of its time, I'm afraid. Had it just stuck around as is for another several more years, it would've been the South's answer to Dixie Square!

    Honestly, I couldn't tell you any minute details -- back then the sleeping giant of "pathological old-retail obsession" hadn't reawakened (and my road geekery was still rubbing the sleep out of its eyes).

    Parquet floors, LOTS of earth tones .... very much a '70s-style mall. I don't recall the corridor being very wide (at least compared to, say, Birmingham's Eastwood Mall). The corridor sloped downward in segments between Sears and the middle court. Lane Bryant was on the left roughly 2-3 doors down from Sears.

    There were two stores open waaay back in the bowels ... Radio Shack and one other mom-and-pop specialty store.

    Damn, damn, DAMN -- WHY DIDN'T I BRING A BLOODY CAMERA??!!

    Maybe (!!) someone from the Columbus area DID expose some Kodachrome in there and stumble upon this site, and share any photos (s)he took.

    -TG

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  4. ...GAYFER'S?

    There was a store called GAYFER'S?

    That totally explains a piece of childhood playground slang that I had no idea of the origins of.

    -hx

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  5. Yes, GAYFER'S. As I understand it, the store originated in Mobile, Ala. in the '60s ... and expanded into such places as Montgomery, Ala. (where it bought out the old Montgomery Fair dept. store) and other "Lower Deep South" cities like Cols., Ga., Tallahassee, Fla. and Dothan, Ala.

    The Gayfer's nameplates were taken down in 1999, when Dillard's swallowed the chain.

    Gayfer's lives on in personal lore; in 1998, on one of the first dates with my now-wife, we spent a nice Spring afternoon playing putt-putt at a course next door to Eastdale Mall in Montgomery. The only thing standing between this hilltop mini golf course and the Gayfer's (now Dillard's) parking lot was a tall chainlink fence. Proto-Wife hit two (2) balls through the fence and into the Gayfer's lot.

    Today, any time either of us hits a ball, or other object, out of bounds or off course, we'll say the other has "pulled a Gayfer's."

    But this doesn't change the fact that I never had a freakin' camera when we walked through Columbus Square. @#$%!!

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  6. Columbus Square Mall...I missed it completely!

    I moved my family to Columbus during the summer of 2003. By that time I believe CSM had already been demolished (save the Sears anchor) and "the new mall," open-air Columbus Park Crossing, had already opened.

    Now three years later, even more stores (including a Wal-Mart) are being built across the street from "the new mall." I guess they'll have to change the street name from Whittlesey Blvd. to Retail Row.

    Honestly, we don't get down to the Columbus Square area much. We live minutes from "the new mall" and Peachtree Mall is between our house and Columbus Square, so I doubt we would have gone there much anyway.

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  7. I remember Columbus Square very fondly. I remember several weekends going down to Columbus (I'm from a small town about 30 minutes North of Columbus) and compared to our mall, Columbus Square was THE place to be. (The Mall in my hometown is so small you can walk from one end to the other in less than 25 minutes--INCLUDING making stops along the way!!!) I remember shopping at Gayfer's, Kirven's and Woolworth at Columbus Square....thats also where I bought my first record when I was little, Tammy Wynette and George Jones' Greatest Hits...from Record Bar located in CSM

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  8. Nastalgic thoughts flood my mind when I hear the words, "Columbus Square Mall." My teen shopping dollars/years were spent there. My cousin & I would take our meager earnings & spend hours shopping the clearance racks at Lerner for the lastest fashions. We'd have lunch either at the ChickFilet across from Woolworth's or the Taco Casa,(for a tacoburger) near Kirvens.The lunchcounter at Woolworths was a good place to eat, also. Of course, on dates, I'd often go to the Columbus Square Movie Theater located behind the mall.
    I do have several pictures taken inside the mall but, of course they're old snapshots, not digital, not on my computer. The oldest ones were taken 1977/78. The last pictures that I took were during Christmas Holiday Shopping Season. My 3/4 year old daughter,(early 1990's) loved the Holiday Displays so I took her picture in front of several. Her favorite was the HUGE singing white polar bear, complete with clicking sound with every "word." I also have pictures and videos of her with the Mall Santa & Easter Bunny there. I even have a Columbus Square Pencil that I'm holding onto.
    Anonymous on this blog stated that they shopped at Gayfers at CS. I only remember Gayfers being at Peachtree. Sears, Penneys & Kirvens were the only anchor stores ever at CS.

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  9. Georgian, there are many people including myself that would very much appreciate it if you could possibly send those pics, but that is entirely up to you. Do you have a scanner? A lot of my old film pics were scanned online, because I did not have a digital camera myself until 2004. My Savannah Mall pics were taken on my old film camera.

    Myself, I have a pretty rare pic I have yet to publish of the Rich's in the old Montgomery Ward at Peachtree (before it became Macy's). How is that mall doing these days?

    I have always been curious as to what Columbus Square looked like, especially on the outside, since I learned about it. I heard it was very, very dated in its last days, which is the kind of thing I live for. I'm imagining a typical outlandish 60's mall on the outside that looked sorta plain on the inside but hardly a day older than 1979.

    Mentioning this, of course, always stirs up memories of the long, lost and apparently photograph-free Cobb Center Mall of my youth :(

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  10. JT,

    Great info on CSM. Only correction I would make is that Penneys closed and moved to Peachtree Mall about 1994-1995. Also, the Penney's sign in the 1970s was the "diamond-type" P.

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  11. there are some incorrect facts posted here about columbus square mall that i would like to clear up. i went to this mall a lot in its heyday and it was quite popular in the 1960's - 70's. the addition to the mall occured in 1975 around the time peachtree mall opened, i am certain of this. anchor tennant kirven's left in 1987 after leaving the retail business completely (their downtown store was really something in it's time 3 floors plus a basement it occupied half a city block.)columbus square did pretty well until the late 80's when it began to flounder due to (mostly untrue)rumors of criminal attacks. of interest; in the same area cross country plaza (opened mid 50's) still does pretty well and mid-town plaza a block away remains. a k mart there has been open since the 1960's. i remember columbus square very well and can recall most of the stores and eateries that were there. it was certainly a unique mall with main corridors that were narrow and sloped up and down in places. i have never seen another mall like it, it's a shame it couldn't be saved.

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  12. I apologize for being "out of the loop" for awhile on this topic. I will try posting three pictures taken on the interior of Columbus Square Mall. The first one was taken in 1978 near Kirvens. It really only gives an idea of the decor. Notice the white planters, benches & ashtrays.Also the tiled floors. The two Christmas photos show parquet flooring and Kirvens in the background.
    I'd like some help from anyone able to recall stores in the mall. I remember the following being there at one time or another during the years: Sears, Penneys, Kirvens, Woolworths, Dollar Tree, Kaybee Toys, The Gap, Merry-Go-Round, Schwobuilts, Hallmark, Lerner, Walgreen's, Radio Shack, GNC and Tempo Fashions.
    The only remaining buiding, (other than closed Cols Sq Movie Theater still standing out back)Sears was torn down January 2008. To read more, visit www.wtvm.com and do a search on sears building demolition.
    I will attempt to copy and send more interior pictures.

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  13. J.T.
    Please instruct me on sending those pictures---although they may be a disapointment to you as the subject is the person instead of the mall! I'm unable to send them through Outlook Express.
    Please help an inexperienced blogger! Thanks!

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  14. Send them to the e-mail for this site: talmo346 [at] hotmail.com (replace with @) and attach the files. Thanks!

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  15. I have many childhood memories of CS..I am 34 now. Well I can remember Circus World, the toy store down by Kirven's. I remember when I loved to eat at Taco Casa with my mom , dad & grandmother. Most of my school clothes were bought there at Warren's ,JcPenney's and Sears. I would eat at woolworth with my mom and grandmother alot. There was a store called Fairytales I loved it they sold Hello Kitty stuff. I can also remember there was a A&W rootbeer right out of the back door of woolworth, alot of people don't remember that,I do. There was a acarde there around the curb of the Gap.And it wasn't a dollar tree...it was called Everythings a dollar with lights on the sign.I remember a store called Fashion Conspirity and Foxmoor back when the mall was doing well.I can remeber as far back as when there was a Walgreen's right inside the square by Sears entrance to the mall.Remember that?? I remember the chic- fil- a before the remodel with its'red tile floor , later a corn dog 7 came in the mall too, claire's boutique,G&G...gosh I remeber so much like it was yesterday. I remember the orange julis hotdog place as well.I wish I could see some old pics of the inside of the square ...I have so may memories of that mall...Martha Columbus Ga.

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    1. I remember all of those things you mention and enjoyed eating at Walgreens in the restaurant that looked over the mall. There was also a restaurant next to Woolworths called The Harvest House. Those were wonderful times.

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  16. does anyone remember the wendy's that was on the front of the mall and the Hooter's that was adjacent to the Wendy's?

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  17. Oh yea...I remember the wendy's and the Hooters, it was on the outside of the mall...my cousin worked there.I loved the square.

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  18. Correction:
    Kirven's was opened in Columbus Square in 1975 and celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 1976. Kirven's closed it's doors at CS in 1993.

    Hal KIrven
    Great-grandson of founder

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  19. Mr. Kirven,

    I don't know how else to get in touch with you, so I hope you will read this. Would you mind sharing any photos/history about Kirven's Department Store? I would love to feature a piece on this site about the store. I'm sure a lot of people would appreciate that, and it would help me to get a more statewide focus on this site than I currently have. My e-mail is on the blog here if you are interested. Thanks!

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  20. Please someone post any old pics of Columbus Square, Kirven's or etc. I know that everyone here on this site would love to see some great memories. I wish I could find some myself. I loved the Square , I can remember it all like it was yesterday. I grew up here in Columbus and that place I will always remember. Martha,35

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  21. I would love to see more information about Kirven's. I grew up north of Columbus in Manchester and remember shopping at Kirven's downtown and Columbus Square. The downtown store was amazing. It had a restaurant on the third floor with a huge fake tree in the middle. As a kid, I was fascinated by it. I remember a toy department where my Mom would buy me something for being good and patient while she shopped. Its too bad the great downtown department stores are mostly gone. Kirven's also had a small store in Lagrange for a while.

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  22. I wish someone had more pictures of INSIDE the mall from back in the late 80s, early 90s. I remember going shopping in this mall when I was younger with my mother.. She took me to Warrens and we shopped at a few other stores in the mall. I also remember when we "switched" to Peachtree Mall rather than Cols Square... We used to shop at Gayfers regularly as well as when Montgomery Ward went to Rich's ... I was just in the mall back in May of 09 and boy have things changed... A lot more "urban stores" geared to "hip-hop" lovers, I suppose. Things have definately changed...and not for the good, either. :( I miss the GOOD days of Peachtree.. We knew it was going to be big and bad when Parisian left :(

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  23. Finally!! I've found some pictures of the inside. I really miss this place too. I still remember those sloped floors near Sears. And the Walgreens that had two entrances.

    http://www.angelfire.com/weird2/georgia/page3.html

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  24. John, where did you manage to find those photos? Would you mind me posting a few of yours on my site?

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  25. I remember one time, back in the 70s, they held a fiddlers' convention right there in the mall. Groups of musicians jammed right there in the corridors. Wish I'd had a video camera. Come to think of it, I don't think there were many video cameras at that time. I have lots of other fond memories of CSM. We lived out near Mauk, and a trip to CSM was something else!!! It is sad that it didn't survive.......

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  26. I worked in Kirven's at the mall until 1991. And worked at Circus World Toys until about 1993. There were quiet a few times that the mall was busy up until then. Around that time is when it really started to die off.

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    1. Do you by any chance know the name of the arcade that was in the mall? Had a friend who worked there, wonder what happened to him

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  27. FTR Kirven's actually open at Columbus Square in 1975. We broke ground in 1974, and open in 1975. In 1976, we celebrated out 100th year in Columbus, and 1st year at CS. Hal Kirven

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  28. Columbus Square was interesting in that there was a Hooter's beer and wing place in the mall, right at the main entrance. Hooter's even had an outdoor patio for drinking and dining. This was circa 1990.

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  29. Does anyone else have a 401K that's just a mystery from the 80's? From Roses dept store ?

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