Westwood Mall Hippo: Jackson, Michigan Icon
New York has the Statue of Liberty, Philly has the Liberty Bell, and Hollywood has their sign. In Jackson, Michigan, they keep their iconic statue indoors, where children can climb on it, nostalgic adults can take pictures with it, and out-of-towners can look at the Westwood Mall Hippopotamus and wonder aloud: "What is THAT"?
The Birth of a Jackson, Michigan Icon
The year was 1972 and Jackson watched for months as the newest mall in town was being constructed. Paka Plaza (now Jackson Crossing but it's Paka Plaza to anyone who grew up during that era, don't argue) had been open for over a decade and things were going gangbusters there, so why not add another one? This one would be anchored on either end by Montgomery Wards and Wurzburg's Department Store of Grand Rapids.
One of the owners of the Westwood Mall, Forbes-Cohen, began building the latest craze of the 70s "fully enclosed malls", there was a niece who worked with bronze sculptures, so she created a piece for each one of the properties. Jackson was lucky enough to get "The Hippo".
A Destination for Generations
The Westwood Mall's "Hippo" is so much more than just a bronze statue. It's a friend that kids looked forward to seeing after their parents had already told them no to 'Aladin's Arcade', Hot Sam's, and The Cookie Factory. This was an attraction that cost absolutely nothing for parents to let their kids enjoy.
Zero dollars for a 'hippo hug', a slide off his nose, or a pretend ride around the mall. If you were to take the Hippo at the height of its notoriety and introduce it to today's culture with the same feeling, no Facebook timeline in Mid-Michigan would be without a selfie taken with this iconic statue. And would you look at how happy that Hippo is! The same smile for over 50 years. Thank you Westwood Mall Hippo, for a lifetime of hippo-ridin' memories.