After spending less than a year in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, Florida, we moved into our new house in the Princess Anne area of the city. One of our first reconnaissance missions was to find ourselves a new place to shop for our school clothes, dad’s tools and mom’s sewing equipment. It wasn’t long before we found that place in the second of the Malls of my Youth- Lynnhaven Mall.
Lynnhaven Mall Mallmanac ca. 1985. View the full PDF version here.
Lynnhaven Mall, from the exterior, could not contrast more severely from its pleasant and airy sounding name. The mall was a straight up, dark brown, brutalist as Leningrad in the 50s, monolith. It was a wall of large mud colored bricks with sharp angles and unforgiving monotony. This sea of bricks was only interrupted by the occasional black tinted glass element over the anchor and the main mall entrances. And what a main mall entrance it was; the two main corridors were at a right angle to each other and at the inner crux of where they met was the mall’s two level, bulging black glass focal point- The Atrium. It was an imposing half cube of dull, lifeless mirrors. I loved it. This mall had personality.
Lynnhaven Mall as I remember. L- From the front. (Source) R- From the rear. (Source)
The interior of Lynnhaven carried on the motif of earth tone extremism displayed prominently on the exterior. The floor tiles alternated between dark beige and dark brown; the small box skylights located in the wide corridors were accented in bronze and wooden tones, counteracting the already limited natural light filtering in. There were large seating areas just outside each of the main anchors that were almost maze-like and obscured enough by their high walls and abundant greenery to encourage engagement in any number of deviant activities. It was the perfect place for an eighties teen to hang out.
Lynnhaven Mall Leasing Pamphlet ca. 1984. View the full PDF version here.
The facility was mostly one level except for the center court area running from the Atrium, through center court, to Leggett. And what a center court it was. It was very large in area and underneath an expansive glass canopy that flooded the area with direct sunlight. It was the only bright place in the mall. The court’s base was sunken a few feet below the rest of the mall with a wide walkway traversing it diagonally. On one side was the obligatory fountain while the opposite half was home to a stepped area perfect for loitering and a unique piece of modern art (?) sculpture.
L- A photo of Lynnhaven Mall's center court mezzanine that was clipped from The Virginia Pilot. I don't know who the subject is or his significance, but it does provide a good view of the sculpture thing. R- The famous atrium main entrance. R.I.P. (Source)
I don’t remember much about the fountain, but that sculpture sure was unforgettable. It was like a piece of stretched white Laffy Taffy twisted into something of a loose figure eight. Like so much of the mall, it far surpassed normal human scale. Somehow, though, it seemed appropriate for the place.
L- The mall's configuration throughout the eighties. R- Lynnhaven in the mid-nineties.
The food court took up almost the entire second level. It surrounded a mezzanine overlooking center court and had about twenty or so different places to waste your money on fattening, nearly inedible but tasty slop. The seating area overlooked that sculpture and made a good vantage point for people watching below (we threw more than a few French fries from up there.) Upstairs were also the two best places to hang out- Mother’s Records and Aladdin’s Castle.
One of Lynnhaven Mall's final configurations under Simon management.
Lynnhaven Mall also had the best Christmas decorations during the mid eighties. They had what must have been a forty foot tree in center court with mechanized elves and reindeer in every corner. I particularly remember one highlight to the main tree. There was a ladder reaching to the top of the artificial spruce with an elf hanging precariously to the top rung. The ladder swung back and forth as if it were losing its stability, and that poor elf just hung there, all Christmas season, never able to regain his balance. Unfortunately, by the late eighties, those automated harbingers of the coming Christmas madness had been replaced by predictable strings of hanging white lights and oversized floating ribbons, decor that seems to follow the basic mall holiday template to the smallest conforming detail.
Lynnhaven Mall Mallmanac ca. 2000. View the full PDF version here.
The mall remained essentially unchanged during my entire time in Virginia Beach. When I left the area at age 15, though, many changes were already in the works. Miller and Rhoads, Thalhimers and Leggett would soon be gone. Specialists in modern 90s interiors couldn’t wait to get their hands on the earthy slab and pastel-ize all personality out of the place. It was more than a decade before I visited the mall again, and I didn’t even recognize the place; I didn’t want to. It went from being a cool, leather clad morose character to a pre millennium Stepford mall. Gone were the wood and copper; the seating areas and the sculpture. Gone was everything that made Lynnhaven, well, Lynnhaven.
Lynnhaven Mall as of 2011.
The exterior wasn’t spared this treatment. Only JCPenney, the last remaining original anchor, retains its original outward appearance. Miller and Rhoads, later Hects then Lord and Taylor (now vacant) was whitewashed into invisibility while the old Thalhimers, with it’s signature “turret” on the left side, was replicated into a tedious Dillard’s stucco clone. Leggett had been demolished and replaced with an outdoor plaza called The Inlet containing two restaurants and an AMC cineplex. This is one of the few changes that I really do like.
L- A drawing of Lynnhaven Mall that I created at age 17. As I was no longer in Virginia, it was done almost completely by memory. R- Lynnhaven Mall from above, 2013. (Source)
Lynnhaven remains extremely popular and relevant thirty years after its opening, and I still think of it as THE main Mall of my Youth. Its design elements shaped and defined so many of my future architectural staples. But no matter how many shades of white that they indiscriminately slap on the floors and the walls, Lynnhaven will always be that dark and brooding place that I fell in love with so long ago.
Lynnhaven Mall Lease Plan ca. 2014. Notice that there is no longer a second level indicated and the food court is now at the back of the mall, near The Inlet. View the full PDF version here.
7 January 2015