Long-time Labelscar readers may be curious to learn that one of the most popular malls in terms of search referral traffic to our site is the Meriden Mall, an abandoned and forlorn center located near downtown Meriden, Connecticut. I meant to post awhile back about its bigger neighbor, Meriden Square Mall–later re-christened “Westfield Meriden,” a regional mall that gave it a good beating, but I put it off. Why? Well, truth be told… we got a bit upstaged. You see, if you haven’t checked out The Caldor Rainbow, you should–it’s quite good. Not only did Nick, the site’s author (who is known to lurk around here and comment on our posts), have the good sense to name his site after the greatest dead discounter in history, but he also takes great photos and talks in depth about retail history goings-on in Connecticut. If that’s your bag, give him a click. Needless to say, he beat me to this one with a post about Westfield Meriden.
The Westfield Meriden Square Mall (which is not its proper name, but is rather a synthesis of its official name now and before Westfield stripped it away) serves a gap inbetween the New Haven and Hartford trade areas. The aging mill city of Meriden, located near the geographical center of the state of Connecticut, is near the crossroads of a handful of freeways about halfway between Hartford and New Haven. As both cities are comparatively undermalled and neither boasts an enclosed mall on the side closest to Meriden, it fills the void for a rather expansive and populous region.
Meriden Square originally opened in 1971 as a rather simple and short two level mall connecting JCPenney and Hartford-based G. Fox department store. A large expansion in 1993 added a long, two-level wing ending at a Sears store and also included a brand new food court, creating a “T” shaped floorplan. In the mid-1990s, the entire G. Fox chain was converted to the Filene’s nameplate as a result of a merger, and in 2006 this store became a Macy’s. The mall was expanded again in an ambitious renovation announced in 1997 and completed in 1999. This expansion extended the second level (but not the first) out one side, so that the second level was shaped like a long cross and the first level remained a “T”. The new anchor, built opposite Sears, was Lord & Taylor, and opened as part of that chain’s over-ambitious late 1990s expansion. As part of this mall renovation, some changes were made inside and out, including the addition of a new parking deck outside of Sears. In an unusual twist, the mall’s new wing included a parking lot on the roof which is accessible via stairways leading down into the mall.
The Lord & Taylor store at Meriden Square was short-lived. Like many of the stores built by the poorly-branded chain in the late 1990s, it was somewhat ill-conceived from the start. Meriden Square isn’t located in a particularly upmarket area, and the mall itself is decidedly mid-range; Lord & Taylor drew the kind of shopper more commonly found at the nearby Westfarms Mall in West Hartford. The store closed in a wave of consolidations in 2003(ish), and has since been replaced by several big box stores including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, and Borders. The mall concourse literally blasts into the original Lord & Taylor store, with the boxes falling to the sides of the expanded corridor. Note in the photos that the Dick’s Sporting Goods store has mostly retained the Lord & Taylor storefront!
Since Westfield Meriden Square was built piecemeal in many different eras, it doesn’t have much of a unified theme… which is what makes it cool. Note that the short cross-wing between JCPenney and Filene’s is the oldest portion, and note also that each of those anchors shares a very strangely-designed mall facade. Also, give special attention of the exterior of the JCPenney store, which has some great old spaceship-looking architecture! These photos were all taken in July 2006, hence the continued presence of Filene’s signage.