1953 Design

The original architect's plan for Graceland Shopping Center, circa 1953.
From the Citizen Journal Photo Archives at the Grandview Public Library, Grandview, Ohio.
Click image to enlarge.

There are some interesting tidbits in architect C. Melvin Frank's 1953 design for Graceland. First of all, the center anticipated a bridge being built to carry Morse Road across the Olentangy River at the west end of the center. Astonishingly, debate over constructing such a bridge would linger for 56 years, until it was finally decided by voters in a November 3, 1998, referendum to not construct a bridge.

Detail showing Jetsonian office buildings at the far west end of the center, and a bridge and major road crossing the Olentangy River. It was not to be. A Woolco would take up residence where those office buildings are shown in 1961.

The next picture is a little blurry, but it shows the proposed Big Bear, with the iconic Big Bear sign mounted atop the store. This was actually built. The sign with the bear on it migrated out to the front of the shopping center during a 1980's renovation, and lasted until it was demolished in 2004. Supposedly, the Northland High School PTA salvaged one side of the bear to use as a school mascot.

To the left of the Big Bear is a Hart's, which was a department store similar to Kresge's or Woolworth's, and was owned by Big Bear. In August, 1960, Big Bear opened a newly renovated store that had expanded to take over the Hart's location. When the expanded Big Bear opened, it was the largest supermarket in the state of Ohio!

Detail showing the proposed Big Bear supermarket. There would be a Big Bear at the center until the last one closed in February, 2004, due to bankruptcy of the parent company, Penn Traffic.

Next we see the front of the center, where the Target is located today. The drawing indicates an Allen's Supermarket, but it was actually an Alber's Supermarket that took up residence. By the early 1960's, Graceland hosted three supermarkets - Big Bear, Kroger and Alber's. In 1970, Worthington Square Shopping Center stole away the Kroger, and the Alber's closed soon after. Another supermarket, Cub Foods, tried to make a go of it in the 1990's but it too failed.

Sharing this corner site is a Walgreen's. By 1975, the Walgreen's was a Rite Aid, and Walgreen's had bailed out of Columbus. In the great baby boomer pharmaceutical gold rush of the late 1990's, Walgreens came charging back into the Columbus market, ironically opening a new store across High Street (at the corner of Morse Road) from the one it had opened almost exactly 50 years earlier in almost exactly the same location!

Detail showing the planned Walgreen's Drug Store and Alber's (incorrectly shown here as Allen's) supermarket.

Another major anchor was J.C. Penney, who lasted at this location until the early 1990's, when it briefly became a J.C. Penney Furniture Store, before slumping into a Big Lots Furniture Warehouse. The thing about discounters like Big Lots - they move into a location and they don't change as much as a single stained ceiling tile or bent, entrance door. I think there were still J.C. Penney ads hanging on the walls. Casto had to throw Big Lots out so he could renovate the center in 2004.

Detail showing the planned J.C. Penney store. The J.C. Penney had two enormous glass window areas for displaying merchandise that bulged out around the entrance doors.

The next picture was pure speculation on the part of the architect. When this proposal was drafted in 1953, Casto didn't have tenants lined up yet for the back of the center, so the architect drew this fanciful structure. What ended up at this location, by the late 60's, was Graceland Cinema (later made famous by showing the Rocky Horror Picture show continuously from 1976 until the cinema closed in April, 1991) and Graceland Lanes Bowling. Today the Hobbyland and Seasonal Concepts, among others, are located there.

Generic store structure for an area that had no tenants. This area later hosted the Graceland Cinema.