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Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall

Alexandra Lange, author of Meet Me by the Fountain, shares the history of malls, from the merchants’ invention to their contradictions. 

In the classic film “Clueless,” the shopping obsessed lead character Cher Horowitz is challenged by her father to have direction. She responds by saying “I have direction.” To which her step brother responds “Yeah- to the mall.”

While Clueless portrayed something of an extreme example – totally- the reality is the there has been nothing more central to the post war American retail experience than the shopping mall. When Fed Chair Janet Yellen talks of benefitting main street over Wall Street, she isn’t talking about the actual main streets of American cities and towns. But just as many of those actual main streets around the country are largely bereft of active retail, so too have many of the malls around the country fallen on hard times. Does the mall actually have a future in a post-Amazon world?

The history of the great American shopping mall is laid out in loving detail by architecture critic Alexandra Lange in her new book, “Meet Me at the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall.”

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