I was going to write something about football in here, and about how I kind of want the Bears to beat the Colts, but I really just figured I should diffuse the uber-dorkiness inherent in writing blogs about malls while I’m not only watching the superbowl, but also hosting a superbowl party. Ouch. I am so cool it hurts.
A few weeks back, I was up in the Portland, Maine area and managed to swing by one of my favorite New England malls, the massive Maine Mall in South Portland. It’s the only true super-regional shopping mall in the entire state of Maine, and the only real enclosed mall serving the state’s largest metropolitan area, a somewhat cosmopolitan and affluent region with a population of about 500,000. (The next closest major mall is Newington, New Hampshire’s Fox Run Mall, an hour to the south)
Located on Maine Mall Road near I-95/I-295, the mall was built atop some former pig farms in the mid-1960s, in an area on the western side of town that was at the time considered very remote, but is now the state of Maine’s largest retail district. This site covers most of the detailed history of the center, but I’m pretty sure it began as a smaller dumbell-style center spanning between large Sears and Jordan Marsh anchor stores. This concourse is broad, with wildly vacillating ceiling heights and the grandiosity that’s common in most classic malls. The mall was expanded in 1983 with the long, meandering concourse heading to the back of the mall, which also brought new anchors in Filene’s and JCPenney, as well as a space that housed an outpost of Portland’s own Porteous Department Store.
Today, Macy’s occupies the space once filled by Jordan Marsh (whose nameplate disappeared in the mid-1990s), and Sears remains at the opposite end of the concourse. A third anchor in this portion of the mall–which was built in 1994 for Lechmere, who remained until 1997–is now occupied by Best Buy. The wing leading to the rear of the mall has also seen major changes; while JCPenney remains, a large food court was added in 1994, and the former Filene’s store now sits dark. Similarly, the Porteous store was demolished and replaced with a new store carved into two pieces: a Sports Authority on the second level, and a Filene’s Home Store on the first. Obviously the latter is now vacant.
I can’t help but love this mall; despite its success and many attempts at modernization, its retained enough of its classic gravitas that its personality is largely unchanged.
I was able to dig up one really neat vintage photo (of admittedly unknown origin) of the mall. The wintry shot of the mall at the top of this post–taken from the one of the twin cylindrical towers of the Sheraton hotel across the street (which I’ve enclosed pictures of below) was taken sometime pre-1997, as Lechmere was still operating in the front anchor space. The store is now a Best Buy.
EDIT 10/22/2007: Prangeway found this great 1986 Maine Mall commercial on YouTube! Remember when local malls had local commercials?!