Memories of Livonia's Wonderland Mall

Mall closed in 2003

Photo: DetroitYes

DETROIT – If you grew up in Metro Detroit between 1960 and 2000, you likely remember Wonderland Mall.

Wonderland Mall, originally named Wonderland Center, sat on Plymouth and Middlebelt (or Middle Belt) roads in Livonia, Michigan.

The 74 acre site, dual level facility was opened in August 1959, designed by Louis G. Redstone.

The 1959 mall roster included Zuieback's Suburban, Marianne's, Winkelman's, Lerner Shops, Kinney Shoes, Leib Brothers, Singer Sewing Center, Hughes & Hatcher apparel, Rafter's Restaurant, F.W. Woolworth and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10s and Wrigley's and Food Fair supermarkets.

It was originally an outdoor mall, before being enclosed in 1986, and then being reopened as Wonderland Mall.

An expansion of the mall started in 1989, when a 129,000 square foot, 1 level extension was built for a Target and a 6-screen movie theater.

Over the next several years, many popular chains filled the mall, including Office Max, Old Navy, and Bath & Body Works.

An entertainment wing was opened in 1997, which featured Jeepers!, a family restaurant and animated indoor amusement part. The mall's food court expanded and was renamed Boardwalk Cafes.

After some of its main anchor stores vacated, Wonderland Mall closed in early 2003, with only Dunham's, Office Max and Target open, with exterior entrances. 

By 2007, after much debate, a Wal-Mart SuperCenter was opened where Wonderland Mall once stood.

The Wal-Mart became an anchor for the Wonderland Village, which opened in 2007, as a strip mall, including Chili's, Potbelly, LA Fitness and Target.

You can actually still see the Wonderland Mall website (last updated in 2000, it seems) right here.

Memories of Wonderland Mall

There are many memories in forums and blogs online about Wonderland. For many who grew up in the area, it was a childhood haven.

I used to live in the neighborhood right behind there. I remember when it was open and then when they closed it. You had to walk on boards (for what seemed like a year) from store to store while they enclosed it. I never understood why they didn't start w/ a floor first. In my teens I worked at the Foot Locker and Wilson's Leather. I'm glad they finally closed it, it had been going downhill for such a long time. - Anonymous

Anyone remember the kiddie rides on the Plymouth Road side of the parking lot? I remember them being there all summer, with 10 cents rides on Wednesday's. My mom is claiming that to be a distorted childhood memory and that the rides were only there on select weekends. - Anonymous

My Grandfather Joseph Thompson ran the kid rides at Wonderland mall!!! He also played Santa at Christmas time even though he was very skinny!!!!! - Steven Seiler

I lived in Ypsilanti when Wonderland was in "full bloom" My family and I drove over to eat some kind of great corn beef meal. In the ensuing years, I lived in FL and recently moved to Livonia. The only thing recognizable is the sign saying it is Wonderland. I am glad it is being utilized but I still have great memories. - Anonymous

I remember going to "the Shoe tree" ca. 1963 with my folks, getting fitted for shoes by the clerk. The centerpiece display was a three-dimensional tree, with shoe styles arranged on little shelves. and the Marshall Fredericks sculptures, before they enclosed the mall. My grandparents shopped at Monkey Wards there. - 56packman

Wonderland Mall was prominent in my childhood. School clothes shopping at Wards was an annual event. My sister and I would distract my mom when we passed Winkelmans because they only had one chair near the dressing room! This is all when it was open air! - DetroitTeacher

I spent a great deal of my childhood at Wonderland Mall. My dad owned the discount drug store (Mark Down) that was located in the Marketplace, and I worked there helping him out. We used to eat at Smart Alex and Big Boy, and yes, there was a Kresge there. The stores I remember: Wards, Kresge, K-B Toys, Baskin Robbins, an ophthalmologist''s office, a pet store, an art store (next to Mark Down), and a music store, among others. And I remember the monkeys. - Julie S.

There was a Spaghetti Company restaurant at the Wonderland Mall from 1977 to about 1981, but it did not have a train motif. When it first opened, it was probably the most popular restaurant in the Detroit area for awhile. Every day of the week there was at least an hour wait to be seated, and this was a big restaurant. There were 3 different dining rooms and a bar with entertainment. The place had to seat at least 300 people. - Steve B.

I grew up right near Wonderland Mall. I can assure you that the mall had both a Kresges AND a Woolworths. I believe that the Kresges closed first, probably around 1982, definitely before the mall was enclosed. The Kresges location, if my memory serves me correctly, became a Designer Depot. I went to Catholic schools and had to wear white blouses, and my mom stocked up on them at Designer Depot! As for the theaters, I am fairly certain that the existing location (which was the AMC theaters) is not the original location. - Shannon

I saw a quite a few movies there as a teenager, I remember the mall vividly when it was open air and when it was later enclosed and a giant food court added along with the movie theatre. Yes there was a Kresge and Woolworth store, along with Montgomery Ward, and lots of smaller stores (I vaugely recall Federals, but was too young to really remember it well). I remember the mall fondly as a child going to the annual Livonia Jaycees Spring Carnival which was always held around Memorial Day weekend in the Plymouth Road parking area near Montgomery Ward. This carnival ran there until around 1984, then was moved to nearby Detroit Race Course at Middlebelt and I-96. - Chris H.

Sources: DetroitYes, Malls of America, Mall Hall of Fame

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.