This image of Eastgate Center, at Gratiot and Frazho in Roseville, crystallizes many social and cultural facets of the 1950s, both locally and nationally. Several once-prominent Detroit-area businesses are pictured: Federal Department Store, Wrigley’s supermarket, and S.S. Kresge Co. — all vanished today. The design of the signage, with the modified atomic energy symbol, virtually screams 1950s. The photo also suggests the urban sprawl of that decade.
New homes were springing up in the suburbs of America, and metro Detroit was a prime example. After reaching an apex of nearly 2 million residents in 1950, the city proper lost nearly 180,000 people in the following years of the decade. On the east side, Roseville, East Detroit (now Eastpointe), Harper Woods, and St. Clair Shores experienced a population boom. According to Jackie Saturley of the Roseville Public Library, the Federal store in this photo opened in 1954, but the entire shopping center debuted in 1955, with a grand opening featuring Clarabell the Clown, Chief Thunderthud, and other Howdy Doody Show characters, as well as Lee Meriwether, Miss America of 1955. A new Buick was raffled off, too.
Saturley adds that the area where Eastgate stands was formerly Packard Field, later known as Hartung Airport and Gratiot Airport.