In 1956, enclosed, climate-controlled shopping malls were all the rage. It is the year Southdale Center opened in Edina, Minnesota and became not only a model for modern shopping malls but also, its famous architect’s calling card. Victor Gruen, who was a Jewish refugee from Vienna, Austria, is typically accepted as the father of modern shopping malls. He revolutionized – for better or for worse – American consumerism by designing Southdale as a “retail environment [that] could entertain Americans better than any show, exhibition, or performance,” writes M. Jeffrey Hardwick in his 2005 book Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream. Gruen’s strategies are legendary: “grand fountains, twirling sculptures, and rose gardens” (Hardwick, 4). And of course, performance!
It is no surprise then, that in 1956, one of San Francisco’s most long-standing shopping malls took up Gruen’s call for performance! Stonestown Galleria (“Galleria” was added to the title in 1987) opened in 1952 and its first major tenant was the now-shuttered Emporium department store (it has now been replaced by Macy’s). The below photo, from SFPL’s San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection, is dated march 15th, 1956. It shows two San Francisco Players Guild performers – Patric Hickey and Sybil Siegel – in their “Puss in Boots” production at the Emporium department store in Stonestown Galleria.