Video Archive: Miller Hill Mall Grand Opening in 1973

From the WDIO film archive, raw footage of Miller Hill Mall’s grand opening on July 25, 1973 — 50 years ago today. A crowd is seen gathered in the center court near the Flagg Bros store as Duluth Mayor Ben Boo and other luminaries pull apart the ceremonial ship’s chain.

Below is text from the Duluth Herald’s coverage:

Anchor’s aweigh! the Mall opens
By Les Ormandy, Duluth Herald

The glass doors opened. Thousands of shoppers swarmed into the center court of the Miller Hill Mall, and a 12-piece band, heavy on the brass, struck up “Anchor’s Aweigh.”

Little more than an hour later, at 9:40 a.m. today, a symbolic ship’s chain was cut and Duluth’s first all-enclosed shopping center was officially open to the public.

Opening the main doors early apparently erased the threat of a traffic jam on Miller Trunk Highway at the mall’s entrance, however, the paved parking lot, which has space for more than 3,000 vehicles, was well filled between the highway and the facade of the mall, and hundreds more cars were parked at the rear.

The “ribbon,” which hung on the front of a podium in the center court, was officially snipped by Mayor Ben Boo and Herbert Simon, president of Melvin Simon & Associates, Inc., Indianapolis, the mall developer.

Boo commented that “everyone knows I’ve got all the confidence in the city” and opening the mall “is a very positive manifestation of growth in the community.”

He said he was “pleased and grateful for the largest single investment of private money here in many years. This is great for our community.”

Simon said the firm is “glad to be a member of the community. After all, it took us nine years to put this together. I hope we enjoy many more years here.”

Jack Rowe, president of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, called it a “pleasure to welcome the mall into the business community” and “I’m sure you’ll enjoy the stores and fine facilities.

Lew Latto, president of the Duluth City Council, said the mall “is one of the brightest things to happen in the city for many years.”

Invocation at the brief opening ceremony was by Rev. William Brice, president of the Arrowhead Council of Churches.

Larry M. Stillerman, director of promotions for the Simon firm, introduced several others participating at the ribbon-cutting, including:

Paul Louchart, manager of Montgomery Ward and president of the recently formed Miller Hill Mall Merchants Association; Norman Hewitt, JCPenny store manager; Robert Tyler, Glass Block president; David Claypool, president of Prindle-Lachmond Real Estate Co., which provided local real estate services, and Lee Gibson, partner in the architectural firm that designed the mall, William Dorsky & Associates, Cleveland and Miami.

Before the ceremony, the inner area of the mall quickly took on a festive air as the band, directed by C. M. Schultz and provided by Musicians Local 18, played string marches and pop tunes.

Wearing light shirts and white sailor caps, the band complemented the nautical theme of the mall’s grand opening which featured a decor of blue and white anchors, fish netting and other trapping on the podium.

The nautical theme of the festivities, which will run for 10 days of contests and special sales events for customers, was chosen to mark the city’s link with ocean and lakes shipping.

While music filled the air, thousands of men, women and children strolled about the shiny tiled floor of the mall, inspected not-yet-open stores through display windows or metal fences, and busied themselves completing contest blanks for an opening day shopping spree.

Others began their “treasure” hunt in hopes of winning a 10-day windjammer cruise for two in the Caribbean, a sailboat or other prizes.

Still other patient shoppers and the curious whiled away the time in just completed rest areas featuring benches and decorative greenery.

Places serving coffee and other refreshments were kept busy.

With the cutting of the chain and the exclamation “The mall is open!” the band sounded a few bars of the theme song again, and shoppers scattered from the podium and surged into the big department stores and about 50 retail places now open.

Some of the shops are yet to be completed and won’t open until later this summer or fall. And some of them amazingly almost overnight turned their areas from a scene of cluttered debris and installations into modern, fancy, and lavish establishments.

Montgomery Ward has been open since late March. The Glass Block and JCPenney were putting on their finishing touches last week along with the many other stores carrying almost everything a shopper would want, from shoes and ice cream and pretzels to aluminum boats and furniture and other major hard goods.

During the next two weeks, more than 100,000 people are expected to be drawn to the shopping showpiece, which has more than 663,000 square feet of retail space aimed at a 16-county, three-state marketing area.

The Miller Hill Mall, located between Decker and Trinity Roads and off Highway 53 just beyond Central Entrance, is the 25th regional enclosed shopping center completed by the Simon firm and the second of seven opening this year.

It also is the largest, most complete, climate-controlled retail complex in Minnesota outside the Twin Cities.

1 Comment


about 10 months ago

Good 'ol Ben Boo! Do you think they would have been so excited if they had fully grasped what it would do to the downtown business district? Hmmm.

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