This photo has been in our collection for quite a while and it is a puzzler.  The back of the photo says, “Once Upon a Time” and is dated 03/04/81.

Upon first glance, it seems it might be Woodfield Mall, due to the amount of open space and the size of the project.  The background is what throws that supposition off.  Even though there appears to be a farm in the middle background of the photo, there is also a hint of a neighborhood in the upper left of the photo.  And that was simply not the case in the area that surrounded Woodfield prior to construction.  An aerial photo of that locale in 1969, before construction began, would have shown only farmfields, houses, barns and outbuildings in a checker board pattern.  There would not have been a grid layout of streets and houses anywhere close.

It also appears that the area was excavated, given what looks to be an accentuated incline that runs behind the building.  It is also curious that there are a couple of buildings in the foreground of the photo.  One appears to be a barn and there is a type of drive-thru garage to the left with two construction trailers in between.  Interestingly, there is a power pole behind the garage.  Which begs the question, were these buildings there before development began and then incorporated into the construction site?

I strongly suspect this is not Woodfield.  Is it even Schaumburg Township?  The only other clue is that the photo came to us with a collection of other local and regional photos.  Sooooo, it could be another suburb.  Do any of you have a clue?

***Photo identified!  In addition to the comments from JKunzer below, I also received an email–with photos attached–from another reader of the blog explaining why this is Stratford Square Mall under construction.  Through their views it is not only possible to compare the basic shape of the building in the photo to an aerial of it on today’s Google Satellite, but both commenters agreed that the angular walls along the berm are, in fact, near the rather unique northwest mall entrance that is between Kohl’s and Macy’s.

And, as local realtor Bob Dohn noted, the mall opened in 1981 which makes the date on the back of the photo even more relevant.

JKunzer also mentioned that the farm is the current Bloomingdale Walk town homes.

Leslie Drewitz, Maretta Britt and Abby Budznynski of the Bloomingdale Public Library graciously assisted me too, and passed the photo back with identifications tabbed all over it.   You can see their handiwork below.


Some of the details they provided are:

  • The farm in the background of the photo is the Benders Sod Farm which is, as JKunzer said, today’s Bloomingdale Walk town homes.
  • The diagonal corner behind the farm, in the very background of the photo is the corner of Schick Road and Springfield Drive.   Springfield is just a dirt road that runs to the right.  Schick Road is the diagonal road that runs to the left of the photo and separates the farm and the subdivision.
  • Abilene Trail is the road running through the subdivsion.
  • The road at the left middle part of the photo is the Entrance Drive to the mall that is emptying into the excavated property.
  • The far left portion of the mall being excavated is today’s Carsons.  Montgomery Ward’s/Burlington Coat Factory is in the undeveloped portion in the very forefront of the photo.  The closed J.C. Penney portion is in the right forefront.
  • The left portion of the skeletal structure is Sears lower level and the right portion is Kohl’s lower level.  Macy’s undeveloped lower level is on the far right of the photo.
  • In the very middle of the photo, above where two sections of the berm meet, is the location of the current Cinemark Century Theater.


All of the clues provided by contributors were a big help in determining the photo’s subject and the many details in the photo.  Many thanks to all of the commenters for their analysis and the identification methods they used to determine the identity of the photo.  Your collective brains are always much appreciated!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library


  1. jkunzer Says:

    Hello Jane. Based on some old aerial photos of the area, I am pretty confident this is Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale. The photo was taken facing northeast, with the intersection of Schick Rd and Springfield Dr at the top of the frame. The farm would be the future location of the Bloomingdale Walk Townhomes. Only the west side of what would eventually be the mall is visible. The buildings at the bottom of the photo were built for the construction effort and did not previously exist. The “excavation” was necessary to accommodate the lower-level of the mall. The angular walls in that area is where the mall entrance between Kohl’s and Sears exists (near the theaters).

  2. Tracey Partin Says:

    The grid-like pattern of circular objects in the upper right area of the screen is reminiscent of the preparation they went through when excavating for the shopping center on the northwest corner of Barrington and Irving. It was a boggy area and I remember them having to install underground cement or steel pilon supports before they could build.

  3. Leslie Drewitz PLCGS Says:

    Hi Jane. I have sent you a summary proof argument that this aerial shot is, in fact, Stratford Square under construction. If anyone would like a copy of this, please email me at the Bloomingdale Public Library.

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