Our preferred way to make our entrance into the Big A was always from the west on Interstate 20. It was definitely the most dramatic way to enter the city; before passing the hulking steel roller coasters of Six Flags Over Georgia or the depressing projects of west Atlanta, there was the descent down an incline just at the Douglas County line. And when the ridge was crested just before the descent, the full Atlanta skyline would reveal itself in all of its New South glory, more often than not shrouded in the dense haze of another humid southeastern summer afternoon. But that was of no concern. We were about to make our entrance into the big city, where a full day of spotting airplanes ceaselessly move into and out of Hartsfield International, cruising the sidewalks of Midtown and Piedmont park and dining at some mediocre chain at Lenox Square was surely to commence.
L- The Lenox Square nameplate greets us on a visit in 2003. R- Some of Buckhead's high-rises surrounding Lenox Square.
Lenox Square was a must do on just about every trip to the ATL. Our sojourn would more often than not happen at the end of the day, when the relentless sun and stifling humidity became more than we could bear. Usually, we'd park our vehicle somewhere downtown and just ride MARTA (the city's heavy rail subway system) to the hulking enclosed facility just a few stops north of Midtown. Located amongst an extensive collection of high-rises along Peachtree Road, Lenox had quite the monumental profile. After a quick exit from the Lennox Station and all of its homelesses, it was just a short walk across busy Lenox Road. And from there, the main entrance was framed by two glass towers, rising like silent and glowing sentinels ready to greet us upon our arrival. Just inside the entrance was a large, multi-level lobby with not much more than a set of escalators that readily delivered us upward to what was, at the time, one of the most thrilling shopping experiences that I had ever had.
Lenox Square Mallmanac, ca. 2003. View the full PDF version here.
We'd browse all of the stores we couldn't afford, cruise the waiters we could never have and lived, at least for one evening, in a manner we never could back home in Huntspatch. The first Neiman Marcus I ever visited was at Lenox, as was the first time I ever ate at California Pizza Kitchen. The setting of the latter place was much more profound than their menu offerings, as it sat right in the center of a large open atrium, with three levels of people watching to keep one's mind off of their bland recipes. It really was quite the sight.
TL- The Rich's name, now gone forever. TR- On this visit, the Macy's sign was being removed to be replaced with Bloomingdale's. BL- The CPK-trium. BR- My first Neiman Marcus.
Lenox Square has quite the history behind it. It opened on August 3, 1959 with nearly 800,000 square feet of space (an absolute monster for its time) and with the anchors Rich's, Davison's, a Colonial Stores Supermarket and a Kresge five and dime. From the very beginning, it featured three levels named The Mall, The Plaza and The Market. In 1970, the facility was fully enclosed while a new wing and an attached Neiman Marcus joined the line up. Years later, its first anchor change came in 1985 as Macy's merged with Davison's before the latter name, an Atlanta legacy, was replaced completely by the former in 1986. Eventually, the original Macy's was converted to a Bloomingdale's while the former Rich's became Macy's.
L- Lenox Square in the late 1990s. R- Lenox Square in 2012.
What amazes me about Lenox and this market is that even though the mall contains outlets such as Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Ermenegildo Zegna, it is still considered mid-market, especially when put up against its even more upscale neighbor, Phipps Plaza. Personally, I always preferred Lenox Square anyway, even when no longer a poor college student and with gas prices rising to upwards of three dollars a gallon. It was worth the trip, if for nothing more than its diverse selection of stores. In fact, in the early 2000s, a Christmas trip to Lenox became an annual event.
Lenox Square from the air. (Source)
I'll never forget the impression that I had of Lenox Square all of those years ago as I walked into that place for the first time on that cold December evening with the JW Marriott rising just to my side. I remained in a state of awe from the moment we first met until back on the platform ready to board the next MARTA train for the mass transit trip back downtown. And though I've since walked the corridors of much newer and more extensive facilities such as the SM Megamall and The Mall of America, I've yet to experience that feeling of wonder and awe, to the same intensity, come over me again.