Now that the South’s landscape is dotted with shopping malls, it seems almost quaint to consider how startling the advent of Buckhead’s Lenox Square was a half century ago. But when Lenox opened in August 1959, it was not just the first mall in Atlanta but the first in the entire region.
“Everything’s There at Lenox Square” declared the ads promoting the mall, which certainly had a more full-spectrum retail offering than the current fashion-focused shopping destination. The original Lenox Square included two department store anchors (Rich’s and Davison’s), sixty specialty stores, a gas station, a bowling alley, and a grocery store, making it the largest retail complex south of New York City. Today, the mall has three major anchors and 250 stores. Due to its most recent expansion—a second level of stores along the Neiman Marcus wing—Lenox Square now encompasses nearly 1.6 million square feet; when it opened in 1959, the mall was only about half that size.
The originally open-air mall was designed by Joe Amisano, a noted modernist. Not everyone in Atlanta approved of his space-age design; some critics even said it looked like a UFO had landed in Buckhead. But for every critic there was an eager consumer waiting to descend on the new shopping mecca. Within a week of its opening, Lenox had seen more than 600,000 visitors—pretty remarkable considering that the population of metro Atlanta didn’t hit 1 million until that same year.
Photograph of Lenox Square courtesy of Lenox Square Archives
This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Atlanta magazine