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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

November 22, 2013 at 6:29 PM

At the forefront of shopping history

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Sketched Nov. 15, 2013

Gabi_1122_NG_Mall_03Turns out Amazon wasn’t the first Seattle enterprise to revolutionize the shopping experience. Back in 1950, Northgate Mall made its debut as the first shopping center in the country to be defined as a “mall.”

The key difference from other shopping centers was that stores faced each other along a wide pedestrian walkway where cars were not allowed, the mall’s current general manager, Steven Heim, told me on a recent Friday afternoon. “It was a radical idea back then,” said Heim, a native Washingtonian who is very enthusiastic about the mall’s history.

When I asked Heim what interesting traces of the mall’s past remain, he led me to the original service tunnel that runs the length of the mall. Today’s trucks are too big for it, he said, so it’s not used very much. Heim also showed me a relic stored away for years: the eagle-shaped bookends of an old entrance sign. And he walked me through an abandoned restaurant, also hidden on the basement level, that he believes was popular with Sonics fans. He wishes he knew more about it — clues, anyone?

Now, in case you don’t care about the historical trivia and would rather know where to park at Northgate this holiday season, here’s Heim’s tip: “There’s always spaces on the fourth and fifth floor of the parking garage.”

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Comments | More in History | Topics: Northgate

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