Tuesday, July 03, 2007

History of Meriden Square

Last Fall, The Caldor Rainbow did a story on one such Connecticut mall: Westfield Meriden, otherwise formerly known as Meriden Square. Recently, Marc Bramhall and myself chugged down to Meriden Public Library to unearth some history on the mall and came back with an impressive array of newspaper articles with accompanied photos from the times.

Meriden Square circa 1970s: G. Fox & Co., the Lewis Avenue-facing mall entrance and JCPenney. Today, the mall has slight vestiges of its past with only an enormous extending wing, plus the 1993 added Sears anchor obscuring any viewpoint beyond what's now Macy's.

Meriden Square days before its opening in 1971 already features a burnt-out "L" on the Child World parcel.

Meriden Square opened to much fanfare on October 19, 1971 as one of the first enclosed malls in Connecticut having had a full-pages spread in the weekend edition of Hartford Courant. G. Fox & Co. and Penney's (later renamed as JCPenney), who later opened on April 6, 1972 were of the featured anchor roster along a double-decker, climate-controlled corridor of shops including all the tenants of the times: Kinney Shoes, Bakers, Lerner Shops, Child World all of which who have since faded away into retail's past. Notably on that list includes CVS who astouningly holds its placement today as the eldest tenant aside anchor, JCPenney who holds the card today of least renovations since 1971.

Grand Opening advertisment featuring the now fallen toy store chain and once rival to Toys "R" Us, Child World; who opened with Meriden Square in 1971.

Meriden Square 1971: While still within the same mold of tub-like openings between floors, various in-ground stonewalled planters and shiny tiles are long gone today.

Upper Level: G. Fox & Co. readies for opening days before Meriden Square celebrates a grand opening. Today, this space is occupied by Macy's in a largely unchanged setting, who swept up the Filene's name last year.

People Mover conveyor belts enabled patrons to access both levels of the mall's 50 plus parcels with ease. They've since been removed for conventional escalators upon the 1988 renovation along with a reworking of the entire central court and inclusion of an elevator.

"15 Years Later": The People Mover escalating ramps in 1986 shortly before they were removed for the upcoming renovation and conventional escalators.

A new logo is unveiled in the early 1990's as mall management stands in front of the glass elevator to discuss two proposed expansions (and veterans of Meriden Square might also notice that dedicated tenant "Country" store in the background that smelled like rich cinnamon potpurri everytime)

Meriden Square endured its first full-fledged renovation marking the 15th anniversary which was to be completed in the Fall of 1988 with features such as increased seating, upholstery and removal of many in-ground planters as well as the inclusion of a steel-framed, glass-encased elevator and conventional escalators to replace a Disney World-inspired "People Mover" ramps which once hoisted patrons between the opposing levels of shops. While many changes have been made, it would further appear G. Fox never received any exterior improvements including the trendier "thin" faced logo Filene's later adopted upon the phasing out of G. Fox.

October 1988 squares for a hip renovation and color scheme including all new upholstery, tiling, a larger geodesic skylight dome and a neon-glass elevator which still exists unchanged today.

Shortly after, the mall was underway for expansion in 1993 with the coming of a new anchor Sears and accompanied new wing which would include a host of new shops along two-levels, a food court and a multi-decked parking garage connecting to Sears. In 1997, the mall sought to flank the Chamberlain Highway-facing end of the mall with yet another expanded wing making for a complete "plus-shaped" center which would seek to add a Lord & Taylor, and along with it roof-access parking and its own bevy of new shops along an enclosed upper-level only corridor.

A clearing for a new wing as Lord & Taylor joins the Meriden Square anchor roster in 1998... for only a few short years also featuring the now swept away Filene's namesake.

Short lived as it may have been, Lord & Taylor survived a few years before they fled Meriden only for the space to become subdivided into Best Buy, Dick's Sporting Goods and in late 2006 a Borders Books. Today, the original corridors of Meriden Square as Westfield Meriden remain a window back into 1988 and in 2007, feels the itch to renovate an aging center now 19 years later. Seeing all the progress owner Westfield has made in just under ten short years with Meriden's premiere mall, we wouldn't be surprised if a renovation plan is no more than a few years away.

For more referrence, please visit our Westfield Meriden page and one superb write-up found at Labelscar where you'll find more current aged photos and information so you can see how the mall progressed throughout the ages under different owners. We've got much more vintage material to share on other Connecticut malls and retail so please stay with us!

See the entire gallery of newspaper clippings and other snippets we've uncovered on my always updating Flickr.