Cortana Mall

The mall that "shaped" Baton Rouge.

Cortana Mall

While I'm sure some folks have some not-so-fond memories of Cortana Mall, I strongly suspect that the vast majority hold at least a few good memories of Cortana.

I will admit that I have many great memories from the once great mall, not the least of which is it was where I met my wife (JC Penney - 1987). Teri and I also met Judy Norton Taylor (Mary Ellen on The Waltons), at a book signing, at Waldenbooks there, in 1988, I think. As a police officer for the Baton Rouge Police Department, I also worked security for the movie "The Toy," starring Jackie Gleason, Richard Pryor, Ned Beatty and Scott Schwartz (Jackie Gleason's son in the movie). Those four stars, along with the film's director, Richard Donner (directed Superman and a host of others), spent many hours on the second-floor of Goudchaux's, in 1982. Perhaps the most memorable scene from that floor was with the "Wonderwheel." 

Sorry, I felt compelled to share some of my more personal memories in the mall. Those were but a couple of highlights of many from over the years.

Cortana Mall came about as a result of Frank G. Sullivan Jr. and Milton J. Womack, who had acquired the 417-acre Cortana Plantation site, in 1970. They, in turn, got Morton L. Olshan, president of New York-based Mall Properties, to join their partnership to build a shopping mall at the intersection of Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard. Mall Properties would oversee the architectural and engineering layout, attract top national and local retailers, such as including Sears, J.C. Penney, Dillard’s and locally-owned Goudchaux’s, and establish the mall management.

Construction began in 1974.

It was an ambitious $7.7 million project. At the time, Cortana was the largest enclosed mall in the South and the largest single-story mall in the nation, with 1.5 million square feet of space.

Mayor-President Woody Dumas had plenty of help cutting a ribbon to formally open Cortana Mall at Florida Boulevard and Airline Highway on Aug. 4, 1976. Dumas, fourth from left, was assisted by, left to right, Don Bell, manager of the new Cortana Goudchaux's; Milton Womack, contractor and owner; Morton Olsham, president of Mall Properties, developer of the shopping center; Dumas; Frank Sullivan, Baton Rouge, contractor and owner; George Murphy, New York, with J.C. Penney Realty Co., developer; Joe Pearch, J.C. Penney store manager; and Paul Redgate, general manager of the mall. The J.C. Penney's store opened simultaneously with the mall.

I never knew, then mall manager, Paul Redgate. I later met and became a long-time friend of the longest tenured manager the mall ever had, Norman Landry. I always felt that Norman was the "quintessential" manager for Cortana, being the near perfect liason between the store managers and the shopping public.

Norman Landry

Norman P. Landry, born in Youngsville, LA and a resident of Baton Rouge, LA, passed away October 28, 2019 at the age of 82. R.I.P. Norman.

As I said earlier, I have a lot of good memories of Cortana, as Teri and I used to walk the mall, after going out to eat or her getting off from work (she worked part-time at Penney's while she attended SLU in Hammond).

If you have any memories or photos from the old mall, that you would like to share, I would encourage you to head over to Memories of Cortana Mall, a Facebook page dedicated to preserving those memories.

What's Your Reaction?