The Burbank Golden Mall, 1967-1989
by Wes Clark and Mike McDaniel
You have to give the city planners credit. The Burbank Golden Mall was a bold exercise in forward thinking: six city blocks long and two wide, it incorporated futuristic, hexagonal designs with restroom facilities, fountains and pedestrian-only access to the stores along San Fernando Boulevard. No dirty, noisy cars would ruin the Burbank shopping experience! The promotional text Burbank supplied said it all: "A six-block, traffic-free 'Golden' Mall has been scheduled for construction during 1967. The area will encompass the present downtown Burbank on San Fernando Road from Tujunga Avenue to San Jose Avenue. This undertaking has been intelligently designed for pleasurable shopping and browsing in a relaxed and attractive atmosphere."
As a kid, I used to view the signs announcing its coming with the same anticipation I had for the 1967 Tomorrowland upgrade at Disneyland; to me, they seemed to be associated visions of forward planning. It was an example of the cities I had seen futurists describe on television, made manifest in my own hometown for me to enjoy. When it opened in 1967 I was eleven, and thrilled to visit the place.
It didn't take long, however, for the dream to sour. My father complained about having to park far away from the stores he wanted to visit, rather than right in front, as he was used to doing. It was a complaint shared by other Burbank shoppers, who were increasingly driving to Glendale to buy. Also, the quality of the stores began to decline, and then they failed entirely. I don't know why - a Seventies recession, perhaps? Bur-Cal (fashions), Thrifty Drug Store, Sav-On, Newberry Co., Woolworth's, J.C. Penney, good jewelers and banks - they disappeared one by one. Rather shabby used bookstores began to open in the large spaces where, previously, impressive department stores could be found. Even the water in the fountains became dirty, when there was water in them at all. The worst became apparent in the late Seventies, when the city opened a job assistance office across from Ed's Town Shoppe; the shabby-looking men ambling around the office was hardly the sort of thing one expected from the futurists.
A 1988 Los Angeles Times article about the mall's woes is here.
Conceding defeat, in 1989 the City of Burbank removed the mall entirely and once again opened up San Fernando Road to vehicular traffic.
I am happy to report that business is once again thriving along San Fernando Road. Whether it's "golden" or not is anyone's guess.
Below: Construction begins, 1967.
The City Fathers couldn't have been real thrilled with Kelly's Pool Hall - seen below, in detail - forming a part of the mall.
In 1973 we bought a piano from Killeen Music.
Note: Scope mouthwash for sale across the street for 68 cents.
By the time the Golden Mall was completed, it appeared on postcards. ("Beautiful Downtown Burbank" postcard #1, "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" postcard #2 and "Beautiful Downtown Burbank" postcard #3.) These may date from the Seventies.
In 1968 the City threw a party for the Marine Corps at the Golden Mall: MARINE CORPS DAY IN BURBANK, 1968.
Thanks to Gregory May, the Copley newspaper family and the Save Our Heritage Organisation collection, here are 113 1968 Golden Mall construction photos.