Monday, April 23, 2007

Hampshire Mall; Hadley, Massachusetts

Ever since those guys over at Dead Malls did a report on a few rivaling Hadley area malls a couple years back; Hampshire Mall and nearby Mountain Farms, I deemed to do a full-scale updated report on them both myself. As the months kept scaling back, it was apparent that Mountain Farms had turned inside out, so I then put my focus on Hampshire Mall, which was always my original focal point after viewing such alluring images.

I originally made to Hadley half a year ago, time cramped, unable to do the job. Factoring in my frequent trips up I-91, it was decided when weather was finer, to do a true, much deserved expose on a gem of a mall for a few, particular interesting reasons you'll discover, nestled outside the bounds of space-time in Hadley, Massachusetts.

Hampshire Mall opened in 1978 by Pyramid Companies, in the small college-farming town of Hadley, Massachusetts within Hampshire County (granted the namesake) and in between "affluent towns Amherst and Northampton".
It's located on MA-9; on Russell Street, about four miles off Interstate 91. The center is adherent to the basic interior today [imposed by town bylaw to stay below 42 feet and at] one-level, with a boomerang-shaped layout originally containing two major anchors on opposite ends. Being the only recognized indoor mall in the county and within a good atom-bomb blast in a many mile radius outside, seemed only necessary to deem it Hampshire(‘s) Mall.

Several years after Hampshire Mall, Pyramid Companies finished construction on its kingpin; Holyoke Mall at Ingleside and what’s now the dominant servant in regional malls for miles along the Northeast I-91 corridor.

Owning two malls within approximately 15 miles away? Shooting themselves in the foot? Not quite.

As a matter of fact, both malls fates have depended and survived largely based upon them serving their niche markets and the spectrum in demographic. Though it seems the gap is closing in as Holyoke Mall just seems like the better choice unless you're looking for local digs; which is exactly what factors into keeping Hampshire Mall vital today.

As an outsider, you’ll almost have to have stumbled upon Hampshire Mall if you’re not integrated into the nearby area, unlike Holyoke Mall whose megaphone regional-status visibly rises over the highway like bloody sunrise. You won’t find Hampshire Mall entirely easily accessible off Interstate 91, but instead, you'll trail about four miles off the highway, on Hadley's rather cramped MA-9. As we all know, lack of interstate access usually cripples the fate of malls who survive solely on their interstate arteries to garner mainstream traffic.

Serving the surrounding areas is what they do, which has grown much over the years due to the mall’s [somewhat isolated] presence, Hadley has also been designated the shopping district shotgun to nearby Northampton and US-5 (King Street), whose patronage is also mostly influenced today by droves of an overwhelming "Five Colleges" population; University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College and Smith College.

More than ever, the mall keeps in lock-step with not only the college town mold with its decidedly "discount" and trend bend but also the humble nature of the towns and surroundings like originally proposed, keeping things outside the bounds of neighboring juggernaut Holyoke Mall. After all, Hadley is a town consisting mostly of homebrewed business (some of which are frighteningly abandoned) and as-far-as-the-eye-can-see-farmlands which includes the breeding of pine trees.

Hampshire Mall, unlike its younger brother Holyoke Mall, serves today as more of a supplement to Holyoke Mall, while not originally intended, this one passes for a quaint, local indoor shopping mall who could only have concepted in 1978 whose original anchors were clothiers; Steiger’s, JCPenney, a discounter Kmart and a 6-screen Movie Theater. Today, the focus has changed with the market but sticking largely intact with the original offerings of discount-centric, trendy selections of stores. Luckilly, there aren't any contenders beyond northbound for many miles, so the mall is able to control the area.


STEIGER'S; 1978-1994, became MEDIA PLAY; 1994-2005, demolished; subdivided into exterior-access only BEST BUY; 2005-CURRENT, and interior only parcels; AMERICAN EAGLE OUTFITTERS, PAC-SUN and STEVE & BERRY'S UNIVERSITY SPORTSWEAR; 2006-CURRENT
KMART; 1978-2002, demolished; became expanded exterior-access only TARGET; 2003-CURRENT
HAMPSHIRE SIX THEATER; 1978-1999, became expanded 12-screen CINEMARK; 2000-CURRENT
DICK'S SPORTING GOODS; former REX TV, CVS/pharmacy closed 2002 (unconfirmed)


Steiger’s closed when the May Company shuttered the Springfield, Massachusetts-based chain in March 1994 gaving way to Media Play, a once beloved Sunday afternoon time-trap dealing with everything from video games to books to movies which finally shuttered all remaining scrap locations of its brand in 2005 and as part of parent company Trans World Entertainment's centric branding of all existing stores as "f.y.e.".

Meanwhile, the mall's other anchor Kmart almost instantaneously drafted plans to expand their existing store an additional 25,000 square feet. Unfortunately
, it wasn't soon later before Kmart finally closed its doors after 24 years in 2002 trailing the company's various post-millennial cutbacks. The space, almost immediately up for grabs was proposed to accommodate today's big box-centric, discount market by adding appealing, trendy Target (no complaints here, admittedly better than Kmart), whose nature has saved many staggering centers built in the 70's small mall boom-era. Undoubtably, the move was picture perfect to battle it out with Wal-Mart, who was opening across the street, originally planned to boost Mountain Farms.

The 6-screen Hampshire Six Theater was replaced by Cinemark on November 22, 2000; a size-doubled 12-screen stadium-seating theater, originally slated in 1998 to include 24 screens, then bogged down to 16 and finally 12, to replace an aging, faltering theater which was under prolonged negotiations from the late 1990's, finally completed in 2000. The former, was once drafted to compete, which it did and helped quickly seal a ghastly (in final years of its life) AMC Mountain Farms Four Theater next door, which the Dead Malls crew also managed to snag photos of before the clearing shortly after the millennial bend.


Ever since Hampshire Mall began, developers over at a neighboring development, Mountain Farms, have been at it trying to trump Pyramid's spotlight into becoming the premiere center for the area, seeing as the two where isolated, neighborly rivals for miles. But it was always Pyramid that was bringing people in while many shifts over at Mountain Farms kept it troubled with on-and-off vacancies for decades. Today, that's almost flipped around where as Hampshire Mall's minor, mostly cosmetic agings are slowly passing the torch to Mountain Farms, anchored by the ever-crippling Wal-Mart.

Following a wave of reprisal by Mountain Farms, Pyramid proposed their own expansion in 1998 for their Hampshire Mall in response to nearby notorious long-struggling Mountain Farms; whose reprisal drafted for a vastly expanded outdoor lifestyle center. In today's world, the lifestyle homogenization is just enough to threaten the lives of any aging, indoor mall enough to scare it inside out (quite literally)! Pyramid had a plan; to partially give in to the enemy to keep things hot and competitive with a trend of lifeless lifestyle adaptations which aren't going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, an expansion sought to include a 16-screen theater and another anchor, Sears, which was only overzealously hoped but was scaled back to just an expanded theater.

To get an idea of the fierce battle between Hampshire Mall (right) Vs. Mountain Farms (left), you must understand how close these guys are to each other. As you can see, Google Maps doesn't recognize Mountain Farms as a mall (to the left of Hampshire Mall via the map), even though it once was indoor, but not quite to the scale of Hampshire Mall. (Courtesy: Google Maps)

Following the demise of K-Mart in 2002, and pressures to conform to the nearby, vastly developing Mountain Farms, Pyramid quickly signed on for the mall to undergo a lifestyle-oriented expansion, seeking to add trendy, discount anchors before their rivals could snatch 'em up.
Target ended up replacing, demolishing a further expanding the ghost of a short-lived K-Mart. Best Buy replaced a fallen Media Play in 2005 (when that arm of Musicland chain finally folded) and Dick's Sporting Goods; whose placement developed within a newly-etched corridor, in the shadow of departed stores whose access extends to both in and out of the mall unlike the others.

Inexplicably, this Target (and Best Buy) doesn't open into the mall like past anchors once did, and like their store over at Holyoke Mall and other, comparable sized Pyramid Mall of Ithaca (also known as Triphammer Mall) does. Still, it's not unlike the Target Corporation today to build stores disassociated to malls they serve at. At one point in time, discount department stores would require interior only access, to cut down on thievery while today the store's would rather keep things on a micro level.


Recently, the mall has decided to anchor other trends at malls in recent years with hopes to attract an exuberant influx of college demographic adding other homogenous chain clothiers American Eagle Outfitters and Pac-Sun to contrast to the mall's otherwise left-behind decor. Ever so recently, Steve & Barry's University Sportswear, whose presence is popping up at many regional malls, has opened next to them, across the center court.


While the mall has been through a lot over the years, it certainly doesn't look like it's changed with those times--in part. Hampshire Mall is stuck in a rut; as well as within the bounds of adhering to a twilight of times whose decor and a handful of dark storefronts keeps it nestled within the disco-ball realm of 1978, struggling to see the white light of the 2000s.


Pyramid malls have become synonymous in their category with leftover centers built around the 1970s which hearken back into those realms today. Like many other Pyramid, the company's suspected financial tight spots have largely halted their attempts to modernize many aging centers built around the 70's including Sangertown Square in New Hartford, New York to which it mirrors according to an Ames Fan Club poster. Aviation Mall in Queensbury, New York; a mall whose Bon-Ton (former Caldor) court is legendary among the Pyramid malls, comparable to Hampshire Mall's JCPenney court, and even the nearby regional mammoth Holyoke Mall, you're in for, at best, something of a timewarp experience.

Because of the companies woes, the company has even aborted the scale of expansion projects, like one proposed at Aviation Mall, and left many older amenities inside the malls. Like the others, architectural treats at Hampshire Mall will feed the need to shop at the same mall with the same amenities your parents might've had in their time--and they've basically keep it all the same! Just for you!

From trends long past, something of a wooden-trimmed, globe-lit, hexagonal-themed, brown-draped paradise exists in a dimly-lit shadow realm of where ever you came from. While not scaled quite like its neighborly brother Holyoke Mall, Hampshire Mall exceeds the bounds of grandiose, expressively themed design centered around decadent Euro influence that seems to have been a mainstream influence in much 1970's design (although none of those Italianesque aqueducts are to be found). Heck, even their arbor tree logo, presumably original, is plenty groovin'!

So take an odyssey into the past, right here at Hadley, Mass!


Visuals must express the unique vibe Hampshire Mall gives; it's a marveling historic experience that makes the mall, beyond the purpose of shopping, a true museum for the charm and bombastic showcase malls once were all about rich, flavorful and experimentative nature of the 1970's. Enthusiasts looking for an interesting experience are urged to make a hours-length pilgramage to Hadley, if for anything, for the incredible JCPenney court which bleeds to for post card imagery.

That's only until you've seen the food court. Not just a food court but one that contains a stage, "Laster Storm" laser tag facility, "Interskate 91" roller skate rink which circles and balconies around almost entirely over the mall's central!

The court itself is modeled after a country flair of New Orleans-style heritage complete with a faux-forced perspective cityscapes, with silhouette wooden cut-outs of trumpet players atop the second-story windows with accentuated neon-expressives coming out the ends of the brass instruments (like frickin' laser beams!). Meshed with the amentites of a European cafe-court, in the center lays a grandiose multi-tiered fountain structure, which has sadly, but not entirely disappointingly since become sterlized as a planter display.



It's a busy scene almost indescrible, even when the quaint setting is largely absent of people, the mall manages to create an atmosphere always ready to put on a grand show. Certainly, this is a unique atmosphere vacant from many malls of today. There's also something of an upstairs portion, along with other visible nooks and crannies in the central. While I attempted to get up there, I ended up running into a set of closed doors, and mall office hallways, unable to find the passages to a pair of mysterious walkways over the theater entrances.

Behind the Cafe Square is Cinemark, whose managed to stay associated with the mall, with two entrances on both ends for those who simply want to slip in for the theaters.

No, they sure don't make them like this; heavily-themed and equally bizarre, anymore.

Sadly, most of the rest of the mall has a bit of a scarsity problem coupled with many vacant, aged storefronts towards and around the JCPenney sector. The revolution of mall kiosks (and cellular peddlers) have remedied that in part, but all the side corridors stay mostly empty or walled off, like the Target wing, which dons the chain's logo against a whitewall instead of an entrance as you won't be able
to access from the mall itself.

As I cautiously wandered the chrono corridors, I was awaiting the vision of an apparition Rod Sterling, welcoming me into a starfield-draped realm, better known as The Twilight Zone within the dark hollows of Hampshire Mall.

Time just seems to roll back as you make it closer to JCPenney, you'll notice the neglect at first hand: lower ceilings, vacancies, often dark spots and "UFO" blub-equipped hexagon crafts hovering over typically Pyramid uncomfortable wooden seating planters, streetlight globe lighting (though a few have been removed from the JCPenney area), and bizarre floor-emerging, tiled planters dressed in brown. All around the mall features assorted wayback flooring too; glazed cobblestone tiles contrasting with terrazzo hex-tiles both of which plenty shaded in lighter browns and random spots of carpeting, unmistakenly 70's. Oh, and you can't forget the Pyramid-seal wooden-draped fantasy which extends to even the trash recepticles, like one evident over at Holyoke Mall.

You'll also find another wormhole marvel adjacent JCPenney: The Ground Round; a restaurant chain who appears to be just hanging on in Massachusetts, having almost completely vacated neighboring Connecticut with recent closures found in the homestate itself; Stoneham and Springfield to name a few.


Exterior the mall is quite the same story, one that adheres to mismatched-eras, and forgotten against today's largely soulless design. A facade whose look complements the big box age with the homogeny of Dick's, Target, and Best Buy unmistakably mirror each other all across the land while the other half, JCPenney, gives a window back into earlier times with leftover half-hexagon scaffolds over the entrances; the very same ones which also onced hovered over other parts of the original anchors before the big box expansion efforts in the recent years.

There's more vestigial charm to be found around back with a commonly aged glass-skylight covering, which must be a few decades old, over the Cafe Square entrances adjacent to an expanded Cinemark. Behind Target you've got some forgotten vacant storefront next to Jo-Ann Fabrics and its own oddly-placed outside access.

Throughout at least half of the exterior, mostly extending around JCPenney, the mall appears to have had a ripple-plated theme adherent to what's left on JCPenney, who may have influenced the original design of the mall's exterior, has since been two-tone painted; oddly-justified pair of clay and tan hues contrasted from an otherwise interesting combo on a facade who resembles one seen at Arnot Mall in Horseheads, New York.

Hampshire Mall has also benefitted well by clustering, placing a newly-built Trader Joe's on the outskirts of the mall's lot who contrasts well with the Whole Foods Market over in Mountain Farms.

Doing a News Library search on the mall turns up some interesting bits; talks of an early expansion in 1991 to bring in a "fourth anchor", possibly uncovering the two stores;
Rex TV and CVS, who eventually made way for Dick's. There sheds some light on the mall's flourished center court display once holding true to fountain origins as the report leads one to suppose an E. Coli outbreak in the water supply sealed its fate around 1997.

Around the time of the late '90s expansion efforts, Sears was proposed for the mall, but never happened along with adaptation of the proposed 16-screened theater (which eventually became 12), likely due to the company's own inability to expand to unnecessary markets and proximity to the Holyoke [Mall], and decades-old Eastfield Mall locations. There's even a report of a brutal stabbing, where such related yet isolated crimes are sadly not alien within the histories of many malls.

If there’s ever a reason to chug off course to Hampshire Mall, it’s all about the d├ęcor; and not much has changed since ’78. This mall is a classic, a gem and a quintessential Pyramid mall and portfolio for the feel of a one such mall built in the late ‘70s.
In the end, we decided not to shoot any of Moutain Farms; if you've seen one cookie-cutter lifestyle clone, you've surely seen them all.

Go check it out before Pyramid Companies reads this and decides to paint the entire place over in a rush of brights! Until then, gander the complete photo album of Hampshire Mall.

As an added bonus, we found the original AMC Moutain Farms 4 Theaters sign, circa late 1970's, is still standing! The Dead Malls crew shot this one upon its last days, as seen on their Mountain Farms page. I almost felt bad for this lonely forgotten relic, who toppled under Cinemark in 2001. While the theater itself is history, once accessible from inside the now-demolished indoor portion, the pylon stands, sharing a current backdrop to the vastly expanded big box center today. Part of me wants to urge the developers to put it out of its misery, while it's an amazing, lost artifact from times long gone, nestled in the greens.


EDIT: June 10, 2007; ANCHOR HISTORY edited, cleared up thanks to a few posters including MIKE I.