History hidden in plain sight

Valley Stream Historical Society: Green Acres Shopping Center planters


In 1956, the Green Acres Shopping Center opened. The Chanin Organization, owned by Irwin S. Chanin and his brother Henry, was its builder.

On the east and west ends of the shopping center, near the anchor stores (Lanes and Gimbels, respectively), and coursing down its center, were circular concrete planters that were placed in either singular or multiple groupings. The planters’ smooth and flowing geometric shapes — a signature element of mid-century design helped to define the open-air shopping center’s common space.

In addition to their attractive form, the planters also proved to be exceptionally functional – providing much-needed seating for weary shoppers. Previous to the construction of the shopping center, the brothers built the Chanin Building on 42nd Street, several theaters, hotels and some of the largest apartment buildings around Central Park.

In 1938, the Chanins built the Art Deco-inspired Sunrise Drive-In theater, which boasted classic period elements including ziggurats on either side of the screen and neon lights that dazzled the eye.

The shopping center has gone through many iterations and expansions. Miraculously, two planter groupings from 1956 remain intact. You’ll find them at the southwest corner of the mall near Macy’s.