Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois. A Comprehensive History.

The land that Woodfield Mall was built on was owned by several different farmers. The largest landowners were Ed Oehlerking, Eddie Freise, Bill Rohlwing, and the Clausings. Oehlerking sold his land for $5,000 an acre, while the other farmers received between $3,500 and $4,000 an acre. The farmers were all compensated for the loss of their land, and many of them went on to become successful real estate investors.

Here is a brief overview of the four main landowners:

Ed Oehlerking: Oehlerking was a dairy farmer who owned 60 acres of land that was eventually used for the construction of Woodfield Mall. He sold his land in 1969 and used the money to retire to Florida.

Eddie Freise: Freise was a corn and soybean farmer who owned 40 acres of land that was used for the construction of Woodfield Mall. He sold his land in 1969 and used the money to start a real estate development company.

Bill Rohlwing: Rohlwing was a corn and soybean farmer who owned 30 acres of land that was used for the construction of Woodfield Mall. He sold his land in 1969 and used the money to retire to Arizona.

The Clausings: The Clausings were a family of farmers who owned 20 acres of land that was used for the construction of Woodfield Mall. They sold their land in 1969 and used the money to start a real estate development company.

The land that Woodfield Mall was built on was owned by Homart Development and Taubman Centers. Homart Development was a real estate development company founded in 1957, and Taubman Centers was a shopping center development company founded in 1950. The two companies partnered to develop Woodfield Mall, which opened in 1971.

The ground was broken for Chicagoland's nineteenth shopping mall on October 8, 1969. Designed by Charles Luckman Associates of New York City and Los Angeles, Woodfield Mall was developed by Woodfield Associates, a joint venture of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Taubman Centers, Chicago-based Homart Development and Marshall Field & Company.

The shopping facility was built on a 191-acre plot located 24 miles northwest of downtown Chicago in suburban Schaumburg. The site is adjacent to Interstate 90 (Northwest Tollway) and a newly-opened section of Interstate 290.

Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, opened on September 9, 1971.

A 2-level (373,000 sq. ft.) Sears anchored the original Woodfield Mall as the largest store in the Sears chain. Marshall Field's 3-level (330,000 sq. ft.) unit began business on September 9, 1971, as the chain's third-largest suburban store. The third anchor, a 2-level (299,800 sq. ft.) JCPenney, opened on October 6, 1971. It was JCPenney's most prominent location.
Woodfield Mall on its September 9, 1971, grand opening day. The bi-level, fully-enclosed complex encompassed approximately 1,640,000 leasable square feet, with an initial 28 stores. By the end of September, there would be 59. At year's end, the tenant list had grown to 160.

The official grand opening of twenty-eight inline stores was held on September 9, 1971.
The aquariums at Woodfield Mall were built during the final stages of construction at Center Court, with a one-half-floor lower-level viewing tunnel beneath the fountain. The "Fish Music" was a unique composition for Woodfield designed to musically mimic the exotic fish swimming in the aquariums. The soundtrack was created by a young woman named Suzanne Ciani.

Vincent Price was the Master of Ceremonies. Singer-actress Carole Lawrence and Robert O. Atcher (Mayor of Schaumburg) also attended. Music was provided by the Conant High School Marching Band.
An early 1970s view of the multilevel Grand Court at Woodfield Mall. The complex was the final installment in Chicagoland's graduating progression of ever-larger shopping malls. This trend began with the completion of Old Orchard Center in 1956 and progressed with the opening of Oakbrook Center and Yorktown Center in the 1960s.

Marshall Field's mall entrance faced the enormous Grand Court. The Facade is a Moorish Modern motif. The entry was accented by seven arches, as is the parking lot's direct entrance.

By the end of September, fifty-nine stores were in operation, including Lerner Shops, Casual Corner, The Limited, Stride-Rite Shoes, Gingiss Formalwear and Waldenbooks. At year's end, Woodfield Mall covered 1,640,000 leasable square feet and housed 160 stores and services.

The slide at Woodfield Mall was outside of Chas. A Stevens in the JCPenney wing. The slide had circular cutouts at the top with wooden sides. After sliding down, kids obviously didn't always take the stairs back up to the top. In fact, the brick encasing the slide became part of the whole experience of getting back up to the top. The slide still remains a beloved memory for many people.

Chicago's Marshall Field & Company was one of three anchoring department stores in the original complex. 1971

Retail rivalry was aplenty in over-malled Chicagoland. However, as Woodfield Mall became established as the region's preeminent shopping center, it easily staved off any commercial competition.
Woodfield Mall's 3-Level Atrium. 1971
Randhurst Center (1962), today's Randhurst Village, 5.5 miles northeast of Woodfield Mall in Mount Prospect. Old Orchard Shopping Center (1956), 14.5 miles northeast, in Skokie, held its own, as did Oakbrook Center (1962), 14 miles southeast, in Oak Brook, and Yorktown Center, 14 miles south, in Lombard.

The first Woodfield Mall expansion occurred in October 1972. This project would add a 2-level (118,200 sq. ft.) Lord & Taylor, twenty-five inline stores.
Woodfield Ice Arena 1973-1984. On August 16, 1973, the 2200 sq. ft., 75'x170 ′ skating rink opened. Figure skating lessons for children 3 years through adults were given by Ice Follies performers Mike and Lois McMorran. Hockey lessons were also offered, and figure and hockey skating clubs were formed. Viewing windows between the mall and the rink allowed shoppers to watch the skaters.
The original 1971 mall is shown in black on this 1973 plan. The addition (in dark gray) includes a fourth anchor store and brings the gross leasable area to 1,940,000 square feet, bringing the number of stores to 189. Woodfield Mall would be promoted as the "World's Largest Shopping Center" for several years.

On October 2, 1973, the addition increased the mall's gross leasable area to approximately 1,940,000 square feet. It now contained 189 tenant spaces.

Three separate cinema complexes would operate in or around the shopping hub. First was the ABC Great States Woodfield 1 & 2 Theatres, which opened, as a southeastern out parcel, on July 30, 1971. Next came the ABC Great States Woodfield 3 & 4 Theatres, another freestanding venue. It showed its first features on May 25, 1979. The Ice Arena was rebuilt as the Plitt-Woodfield Mall Theatres. This 5-plex opened for business on June 21, 1985. 
1976 Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler used to have a showroom in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, from 1976 to 1992. It was located on the mall's first floor, near the food court. The showroom closed in 1992 when Chrysler decided to focus on its dealerships. It was 10,000 square feet and featured various Chrysler models, including the New Yorker, LeBaron, and Cordoba. It was staffed by a team of experienced salespeople and was a popular destination for car shoppers in the Chicago area. The closure of the Chrysler showroom was a blow to Woodfield Mall, but it was also a sign of the times. The automotive industry was changing, and dealerships became more important than showrooms.

A second Woodfield Mall expansion was announced in March 1993, with construction underway late in the year. Twenty inline stores opened on March 3, 1995, accompanied by a 3-level (215,000 sq. ft.) Nordstrom and 2-level (124,000 sq. ft.) Lord & Taylor (which replaced the 1973 store).

The Chicago Improv Comedy Club in Woodfield Mall opened on September 14, 1993. The Chicago Improv Comedy Club is a two-story venue with a capacity of 500 people. It has a main stage, a smaller stage, a bar, and a restaurant.
The Chicago Improv Comedy Club in Woodfield Mall.

A major expansion was built between late 1993 and late 1995. A Southwest Wing (in light gray) was anchored by Nordstrom and a new Lord & Taylor store. The original Lord & Taylor (in medium gray) was gutted and reconfigured as an extended mall concourse flanked by inline stores. Woodfield Mall housed 288 tenant spaces, with 10,300 parking spaces.

The original Lord & Taylor was gutted and reconfigured as inline store spaces. These opened in late 1995. With its latest remodeling, Woodfield Mall encompassed approximately 2,224,000 leasable square feet and contained 288 stores and services.
At the time of this 2001 layout, the mall's three movie theaters had just been shuttered. Two twin complexes had been built as freestanding structures, with a third venue operating inside the mall, replacing the Woodfield Ice Arena.

Mars 2112 Restaurant & Bar officially opened on October 3, 2000, in the old Woodfield Ice Arena area, with an $8.5 million startup investment. The interior decor reflected this Mars theme. Lava pools, Martian creatures and a shuttle ride for 32 guests between the entrance and the dining room were also part of the experience. The shuttle ride, a 747 flight simulator used to train pilots, rocked and swayed as if the passengers were on a trip to Mars. The "voyage" lasted 3 1/2 minutes. The walls were red and cratered when you got to the dining room. The theme was meant to feel like you were eating on Mars. Mars 2112 closed after 11 months on November 17, 2001, for no publicly-stated reason.

Mars 2112 Restaurant, Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, IL.

During the history of the mall, only one anchor store was rebranded. Marshall Field's received a Macy's nameplate on September 9, 2006. In contrast, mall ownership has followed a long, complicated series of transactions and acquisitions.

By 1993, Taubman Centers had entered into a joint venture with the Sacramento-based California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). By the early 2000s, Detroit's GM (General Motors) Pension Fund also had a piece of the Woodfield Mall pie. In November 2012, the CalPERS entity purchased a 50% share owned by the GM Pension Fund. After only one month, they sold a 50% share to Indianapolis' Simon Property Group. Taubman Centers, who had been managing the mall, was superseded by Simon on January 1, 2013.

In January 2015, Simon embarked on a 14-million-dollar renovation. New flooring, elevators, escalators and signage were installed. The Grand Court was refurbished, and mall entrances were also rebuilt. The project was completed in late 2015.
A $14 million indoor-outdoor facelift at Woodfield Mall was completed in 2015. The refurbished Grand Court has new flooring, elevators and escalators.

Sears had downsized their store into a 333,000-square-foot operation. A 2-level (40,000 sq. ft.) section was leased as Level 257, a "Pac-Man-themed" restaurant and entertainment center. The grand opening was held on March 2, 2015. In addition to sit-down dining, Level 257 included bowling lanes, arcade games, foosball and ping-pong tables. Level 257 closed on March 19, 2021, attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2017, work commenced on a new Dining Pavilion. It replaced two Upper-Level stores; For Your Entertainment (FYE) and A'Gaci Ladies' Wear. The 12-bay food facility opened for business in mid-2018. 
A 2019 plan shows modifications made since 2001. Marshall Field succumbed to Macy's in 2006. Sears downsized its store in 2015, as the mall was being given an indoor-outdoor facelift. Lastly, a twelve Restaurant Dining Pavilion opened on the Upper-Level in mid-2018. 

Lord & Taylor filed for bankruptcy in August 2020, closed the Woodfield Mall on December 29, 2020, and went out of business in 2021. The chain had anchored the mall in two different locations for over 47 years. 

Enterrium, formerly known as Pac-m an Entertainment, opened on October 27, 2021. It is an enormous contemporary American restaurant and video arcade. The upscale restaurant features an elevated craft bar, a sports bar, eight boutique bowling alleys, Ping-Pong tables, classic and modern arcade games, and private event space. The interior decor is up-scale modern urban-chic in style.

Sears, the chain's last Illinois store, pulled up stakes on November 21, 2021, after anchoring Woodfield Mall for 50 years. 
According to square footage, Woodfield Mall's 2.2 million square feet is the eleventh-largest in the United States.

In April 2022, it was announced that Dublin, Ireland's Primark apparel chain, was setting up a store on the Upper Level of the vacant Sears. According to the plan, it will open sometime in the fall of 2023.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

A partial list of restaurants that were in Woodfield Mall:
[Please comment with any missing restaurants or eateries.]

257 Restaurant
A&W Restaurant
Argo Tea
Au Bon Pain
Auntie Anne's Pretzels
Beer & Brats
Black Forest Finer Foods
Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Cafe
Bumbleberry Restaurants
Burger King
Cafe Bistro
California Cafe Bar & Grill
Charleys Philly Steaks
Cheesecake Factory
Chill Bubble Tea
Chipotle Mexican Grill
China Bowl
Coldstone Creamery
Coney Dogs
Dunkin Donuts
Farrell’s Ice Cream Shoppe
Fuji Grill
Garrett Popcorn
Gloria Jean’s Coffee
Godiva Chocolatier
Grandma’s Soup Tureen
Granny’s Donuts
Greener Fields  (Marshall Fields restaurant)
Hot Sam’s
Jimmy John's Restaurant 
John's Garage Restaurant
Junior Hot Shoppe Snack Bar
Kinfork BBQ & Tap
Kirby’s (Kerby’s) Koney Island
Le Creperie
Leeann Chin’s
Level 257
Limbo Lounge
Lucky’s Diner
Magic Pan
Mars 2112 Restaurant & Bar
Maoz Falafel and Grill
McDonald's Hamburgers
Mickey’s Kitchen
Mr. Submarine
Nestle Tollhouse Cafe
Nic’s Organic Fast Food
Nordstrom Ebar
Nuts on Clark
O’Connell’s Restaurant
Olga’s Kitchen
Orange Bowl Restaurant
Orange Julius
Panda Express
P.F. Chang's China Bistro
Rainforest Café
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Roy Rogers
Ruby Tuesday Restaurant
Sbarro Italian Eatery
Sears (Interior restaurant)
Seven Arches (Marshall Field’s restaurant)
Stir Crazy Cafe
Sweet Factory
The Skewer
The Slicer (Slicer’s Deli)
The Soup Bar (At Lord & Taylor’s)
Stan’s Donuts & Coffee (coming)
The Submarine
Suki Hana 
Surf City Squeeze
Taste of Baker’s Square
Texas de Brazil
T.J. Cinnamons (Precursor to Cinnabon)
Tiffany’s Bakeries
Tropical Sun Nut and Fruit
Uncle Julio’s
Van’s Belgian Waffles
Vie de France
Wetzel’s Pretzels
Wok A Holic
Yogen Fruz


  1. Woodfield Mall's name is an homage to a past president of Sears (Gen. Robert E. Wood) and that of Marshall Field's. Wood + Field.

  2. In all of the years I went their with the kids,I never knew there was a Comedy Improv Shop. Wow!

  3. The Conant Marching Band was in attendance at the September 71 because the Schaumburg Marching Saxons had not yet been founded. They would start up the following week

  4. Interesting article, thank you. Have you found anything about a kissing contest that was held at Woodfield around the time Kiss was popular?

    Also the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played there.

    Great spot, loved Fields at Woodfield!

  5. In 1995, Woodfield celebrated their 25th Anniversary. They invited local high school students to audition for musical extravaganza! Gene Siskel hosted the event. It was the greatest!

  6. My dad was a Chgo area electrician & did some work at the new mall back then. I remember he was surprised by the guys with long hair around there! Ha ha, welcome the 70’s!

  7. I used to love going to John's Garage.

  8. Don’t forget the Frederick’s of Hollywood store.

  9. Any better pictures of the freestanding art sculptures? Kid-me was utter fascinated by the taut-wire pipes; the yin-yang crescent arcs; the orange-yellow trapezoidal tower, etc..

  10. What happened to the freestanding art sculptures

  11. Great article! My kids loved the aquarium when they were little and I loved John’s Garage too!
    I thought the comedy club replaced Mars 2112. I don’t remember the comedy club being open in the 90’s.


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