Longtime reader/commenter Jonah Norason of Two Way Roads sent us this detailed history of The Galleria in Houston, Texas, that we had to share with you. I haven’t been down to this one myself (though Prangeway has), but after looking at these photos I’m pretty tempted to try and get down to the Lone Star State sooner rather than later. Thusfar, the only place in Texas I’ve even been to is Amarillo! Anyway, thanks to Jonah for all the great swag–the remainder of the words and photos on this post are his.
“The Galleria is THE largest mall in Texas and 7th largest in the United States. It’s a massive beast buried in the heart of Uptown Houston. There is so much about this mall, it’s hard to know where to start. Inspired by Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, The Galleria opened in 1970 as a three-level mall with an ice rink, a hotel, an office building, and a Neiman Marcus. Up until this time, ice rinks in malls were not uncommon, but a mall centered around an ice rink was unheard of. This was the first. During this time, competition included but was not limited to: Sharpstown Mall, Memorial City Mall, and Gulfgate Center.
“But the Galleria expanded. Around 1977, the Galleria was expanded with an expansion entitled Galleria II. Galleria II featured upscale San Antonio retailer Frost Brothers and Lord & Taylor.
“Marshall Field’s was added in 1979, adding a fourth anchor to the mall. Then, in 1986, a third addition was added, entitled Galleria III. Galleria III was interesting because it did not connect to the main mall concourse (you had to cut through Marshall Field’s to get to it) and added one anchor: Macy’s. This was a real Macy’s store, one that was actually opened by the original R.H. Macy company (as opposed to Federated). Today, that’s the only “real” Macy’s left in Houston.
“In 1996, Marshall Field’s pulled out of the Texas market. This was not the only Texas mall affected, it included Town & Country Mall as well. In the Galleria, the store was replaced by Saks Fifth Avenue.
“In March 2003, the fourth addition to the Galleria was finished and the mall embarked on yet another renovation. This was Galleria IV. It featured a very upscale Foley’s and Nordstrom. The Foley’s addition was somewhat ironic, as Foley’s had been a Houston-based department store for years and it had also seemingly been in talks with the Galleria forever to make it happen.
“But change was on the way. In 2005, Lord & Taylor pulled out of the Texas market for good and closed their store. Furthermore, in 2006, a tragic incident happened. The Houston-based Foley’s was folded into Macy’s corporate and the Foley’s stores, which included not only the vast presence it had in Dallas and Houston, but the entire Texas area, as well as areas in New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, to become simply “Macy’s”. At the Galleria, this caused the older, original Macy’s to be redubbed “Macy’s at Sage”, referring to the street it was facing.
“The former Lord & Taylor was partially demolished and redeveloped into a stunning addition featuring upscale stores and restaurants. This included a two-story Borders store. This addition has been informally named “Galleria V”, but it’s not a true addition since the other Gallerias did not replace anything and were entirely new wings with new anchors.
“To really understand the unique layout of the mall, you’d have to look at Simon’s official map that they made for the Galleria or this Google Maps photo. In other words, there’s four distinct sections of the mall, as illustrated by these pictures taken in March 2008.
“The centerpiece of the Galleria, Galleria I is a dumbbell-shaped wing that is three levels (two levels plus a “rink level”) and features the posh Neiman Marcus at one end. In addition, the complex features Westin Oaks Hotel and Post Oak Tower.
“Galleria II is the center portion of the mall. The floor plan resembles a cross. The north end goes toward the former Lord & Taylor area, the east side points toward Galleria I, and the south end either goes outside (1st level) or goes across a skywalk to Galleria III. There’s three levels in this section, and the third level (that goes above the 2nd level, it does not connect with the Rink Level) is carpeted and has banks and whatnot. The cool part about this section of the mall is the Westin Galleria Hotel rooms overlook the mall. I took a few photos inside Borders and the former Lord & Taylor space. Note the modern Florsheim!
“The west end goes into Saks Fifth Avenue and Galleria III. Galleria III is bizarre, because there’s no contiguous way to get from the main mall in the main building to Galleria III without going outside or walking through Saks. Galleria III is a plus-shaped wing with a few more shops and Macy’s at Sage. I really like this wing, because of its low traffic, strange layout, vacancies, and neon!
“The south end of the “cross” at Galleria II connects to the boomerang-shaped Galleria IV, which was dedicated in early 2003. This wing features Macy’s (the former Foley’s) and Nordstrom.
“Finally, the exteriors of the building, which include the detached Dillard’s across the street. Dillard’s isn’t connected to the Galleria and is not considered an anchor. Most of these pictures were from March 2008, but a few of them are from summer 2003.