Sunday, April 29, 2012

Take Me Back To Holyoke Mall '82

Wood you like to take a ride on the Ingleside? Turn the time circuits on, we're going back to 1982!

Last month, The Caldor Rainbow has been out-of-the-blue obsessive about the Holyoke Mall's history in pictures, attempting to find whatever we could from the mall's roots to share with you. We searched the archives, sent inquiries to Pyramid's marketing division only to come against a concrete wall. Then we came across a fascinating postcard that came up on Card Cow, a vintage postcard thrift site that sells existing printed cards from days past or from when shopping mall postcards (and the like) were not quirky things to send your grandmoms. Sadly, the aforementioned $15 card was sold with only the stock scan available to view. 

The postcard, shot by Holyoke local Dan Overton, peaked our interest enough to contact the source for the original image. He was unavailable to respond to our request.

Recently, Flickr user KaizenVerdant directed us to an article on MassLive, the online side of The Springfield Republican, which caught our attention. The Holyoke Mall Facebook page at the behest of the marketing director Lisa L. Wray randomly posted a couple of buried treasures; a 1982 mall directory with accompanied concourse shot. Much like the postcard, the shot displays the garish basement-like "Cafe Square" complete with earthtoned fountain, brown slate flooring, multi-platform seating (and what looks to be a stage) complete with wood mania; planters, tables and benches everywhere! What an exciting place to be!

In case you despise Facebook, we posted both shots here for your enjoyment.

The Cafe Square was remodeled in the late 80's, only ten years after the opening the mall, the developers must've responded to sour reception or just the changing retail times. Guess the developers recognized it wasn't such a great idea after all though it takes a chunk of character out of the original mall. The $1 million remodel replaced the cramped cavern setting, pool-like fountain with "canals" and eight-screen movie plex and blew the entire thing open for more seating and a brighter, whiter Italian marble-floored openness and more retailers to fit into most of the old theater space like Macy's Close-Out, Filene's Basement and a indoor mini-golf course at one point. 

You can see the "current day" 2007 Cafe Square (though, not from the same angle) food chasm here because, really, on a Saturday night the place is dreadfully crowded.

Some years into the millennium, they just stopped referring to the food 'chasm' as the Cafe Square, a moniker given to Pyramid mall food courts, which really didn't show up on malls until the later 80s, Holyoke Mall's food and entertainment concept was among the early ones.

My history with Holyoke Mall only dates back to the early 90's and for the most part, the mall's 1979 wood craze hasn't changed so I never got to see this amazing iteration of the Cafe Square in its heyday. I know I'd totally hang out here on a weekday with a cup of coffee and a flared collar shirt. OK, maybe no flares of any kind.

It's all here; the enormous geodesic dome, wood-decor from top-to-bottom, gardens, a fountain and a busy, dark original Cafe Square food court!

One thing that plagues our curiosity in this three-fold directory is the absence of G. FOX in the full-color shot. Perhaps it was taken during construction of the store and was still hidden from the mall. If you just look horizon-level and up, you'd be hard-pressed to believe this shot was taken 30 years ago seeing as the mall hasn't changed too much from its original design.

Let's take a closer look, we find a lot of familiar shops of the time and even some of my favorites like York Steak House, a sauteed onions 'n steak chain found at most premiere malls in the 70's featuring medieval decor, cafeteria-style dining, and your option of JELLO cubes or pudding dessert choices. Service Merchandise (a two-level one!) which I never knew was an early anchor lasting all the way up until the chain's final days, American Eagle and The Gap in their earliest years, Holyoke Dental which is in the same place and in its own timewarp today, Friendly's who just closed their over 30-year restaurant location in the Cafe Square, The Ti Shop, who had a tiny store in Westfarms, Original Cookie (remember the BIG cookie?!) and so many more.

If you're interested, check out the Pyramid Group's nearby, immaculately preserved albeit sister 1978 Hampshire Mall has a brown-draped Cafe Square over in Hadley still kind of resembles the bygone browns of Holyoke's. Sadly, it too, has had its fountain dismantled but not entirely removed.

Mall geeks will be joyed to see Holyoke Mall's wood-paneled mania still sporting the three-level mall some 33 years later though the mall got an exterior earth-toned repaint a few years back and even ditched the 1995-added neons for hanging fixtures even more recently.

We have a bevy of photos of the Holyoke Mall, mostly from 2007 (before the exterior repaint and neon removal) on our Flickr page, most of which have been revamped or replaced with better quality edits from years past. 

Share your memories! And see more historic stuff from our archives here.

The first photo was provided by, the directory and photo provided by Holyoke Mall Facebook Page on behalf of the Pyramid Group.


Molly G said...

Your posts are great. Love this one, esp. the 70s wood work. The directory shot is fabulous!!!!!

Colleen said...

I clearly spent WAY too much of my youth at the Holyoke Mall. I was 4 when the mall opened, and I remember that there were fountains everywhere in Cafe Square. That fish-eye shot doesn't do justice the amount of water. My parents would only eat at the Friendly's when we shopped, because otherwise all we wanted to do was to put our hands in the water--and there was water everywhere. I don't remember the fountains being around for very long and the postcard confirms that, by 1982, they were indeed no more.

If you notice, the big color shot seems to remove many of the signs. Perhaps this was to prevent the photo from becoming outdated if non-anchor retailers changed, and/or to prevent those retailers not depicted from crying foul. Or, G.Fox (G.Fox!) balked at paying money for extra promotion.

I wonder if part of the issue with Pyramid accessing its archives about the mall is due to construction problems. You might want to research the Republican archives about that. My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to remember a few issues popping up just after the mall opened. The too-steep staircase is (apparently) just the tip of the iceberg. One of my great uncles worked on the mall, and was very dubious about the building's quality, and in fact, never went inside after it was completed.

Anonymous said...

great, great stuff Nick! thanks!

GeorgeL said...

Great write up Nick. Love the photos and mall directory! Great to have you back.

GeorgeL said...

While we are on the subject of malls....

Did anyone get in on this awesome project besides me? Should have the book by this winter.

MJ said...

Colleen's uncle was right, though it took a decade before a large section of the roof of the Sears collapsed. Wasn't the mall built on a landfill? Weren't there a lot of ground-settling problems? Cracks in the floors everywhere?

The Holyoke Mall was the first multi-level mall in the area, the first I'd ever been in. Eastfield, Springdale, Fairfield, Enfield Square ... they were all one floor. Okay, Baystate West was two levels, but I never really thought of it as a mall, though I explored it intensely throughout my childhood (anyone remember the mysterious "Court 4" staircase?)

They were also the first mall I remember to have a food court. Hampshire mall got one later when it was built, and Eastfield in the big renovation when they took the original theaters down.

Back at the start of the access road there was a Paysaver. I always wanted to stop there and gawk at the electronics (old-school stereos, even reel-to-reel tape decks) because the mall had nothing quite the same.

Oh, the days!!!

adam said...

Holyoke Mall used to have a movie theater in the basement? what is in that place now? the Burlington coat factory? woah.

Anonymous said...

The summer of 82 or 83, I rode my bike to that mall every day I could manage it. Nestled in the cavern of Café Square was the nearest arcade, Just Fun, with all the biggest games of the day, and its tiny satellite arcade, Fun Too which housed a couple of rows of cast-offs, knock-offs and oddball games.

Those arced paneled outcroppings that looked over the court from the second and third story used to vibrate in a very unsettling way when more than a couple of people walked by.

At some point in '87 I video-taped in the Holyoke mall. Sadly, I haven't seen that tape in years, but if it ever turns up, I send it along!

Unknown said...

I used to work in Cinnamonster back in 1996 in the Holyoke mall! I miss Toys R Us and KB Toys. Remember Nobody Beats The Wiz in the mall when they added on to it.