New Harbour Mall; Fall River, Massachusetts

The New Harbour Mall is a 350,000 square foot dumbell style mall in the old industrial city of Fall River, in southeastern Massachusetts. Fall River has a population of approximately 92,000 people and is located about 15 miles east of Providence, Rhode Island, or 10 miles west of New Bedford. Technically part of the Providence metropolitan area, Fall River and its twin New Bedford are aging mill cities who saw their greatest successes during the industrial revolution in the 1800s and early 1990s, when hundreds of thousands of immigrants flooded the textile mills looking for work. For many decades now, however, Fall River has been something of an economic backwater, struggling with a lack of industry and a high unemployment rate. The city continues to welcome immigrants, however, and today has one of the largest percentages of Portuguese residents in the United States, giving it something of a unique character.

Originally named simply the “Harbour Mall,” the center opened on the south side of Fall River, just feet from the Rhode Island state line, in 1970. Bradlees and Grant City where the mall’s two original anchor stores, staring at each other from opposite ends of a small corridor housing around 30 smaller shops. Originally, the mall was fairly dark and moody, characterized by its external wood-shingle look and ’70s mod logo (which featured a captain’s wheel and the “Harbour Mall” name in a Helvetica-style font). In 1976, Grant City went out of business and was replaced by Kmart, and in 1984 a movie theatre was added to the center.

When it opened, the Harbour Mall was kind of the only game in town, but this didn’t last for long. The larger North Dartmouth Mall (now just “Dartmouth Mall”) was simultaneously under construction ten miles east, closer to Fall River’s twin New Bedford. That mall opened in 1971 but didn’t impact business all that much. The bigger blow came in 1975 when the even larger Swansea Mall opened just a few miles to the west of Fall River, strategically placed to serve both Fall River and the eastern suburbs of Providence. Although the opening of the Swansea Mall didn’t kill the Harbour Mall, it did solidify its place as the lesser “dirt” mall serving the area, an image it was never able to shake (locals call it “Harbour Hall,” even today). As the years went by, the entire commercial strip along Canning Blvd. in Fall River would become increasingly secondary in comparison to the strips surrounding the other two malls, reinforcing that this area was the least desirable of the major shopping districts around.

In 1993, perhaps recognizing the obsolescence of the mall that connected two still-popular anchors, then-owner Yale Realty Services decided to spruce up the Harbour Mall. Skylights were added to the interior and the moody hallways were redone in a queasy blend of mint and pink. Lastly, the exterior shingles were removed and replaced with green siding, and the main entrance facing route 24 was given a much grander facade to be visible to freeway traffic. Topping off this rather silly renovation was than even-sillier renaming of the mall to the “New Harbour Mall.” Because it was the NEW Harbour Mall. There is no such thing as a “new harbour.”

Nonetheless, it seemed to work alright for awhile. Business picked up a little bit and the mall continued to house a standard blend of the types of stores that frequented smaller discount-oriented malls at the time, such as Radio Shack, Fashion Bug, Rainbow, and Record Town. There was also an arcade, a McDonalds Express, and some other merchants. Unfortunately, in 2000, Bradlees announced that they were going out of business and closing all stores, including this one. That initially seemed like a bad omen for this mall–especially since Bradlees was its most popular tenant–but within a year, Wal-Mart announced their intention to fill the space. This gave the New Harbour Mall the distinction of being the first and thusfar only shopping center in the United States anchored by both Wal-Mart and Kmart, giving each other a death stare down this minty pink mall corridor. Over the years, the mall’s somewhat ill-considered renovation began to age very badly, and today there are many signs of neglect. On one 2006 visit from both members of the Labelscar crew, we found that the restrooms were bizarrely labeled “boys” and “girls,” and that they had just put bars of soap on top of the sink for anyone to use. Communal bars of soap. In a mall. Yuck.

In 2007, the movie theatres finally closed. Four years later, in 2011, Walmart announced that they would be closing their store at the New Harbour Mall to open a brand new supercenter an exit north along route 24, at Bryant Avenue. That store will replace–somewhat ironically–what used to be one of the city’s many old factories that had been converted into an enclosed outlet mall in the 1980s and 1990s. With the departure of Walmart and the somewhat unlikely nature of finding a tenant to replace them, management of the New Harbour Mall have hinted that the building may be big boxed, removing the center’s declining interior corridor for good. I hold out some hope that Kohls or Target (neither of whom have stores in the area, or to serve the Newport County RI area to the south) will take the space and the mall itself will be renovated and saved, but I’m doubtful.

This dopey little mall actually has some close ties to the Labelscar crew. I grew up about 15 miles to the south, in Newport, Rhode Island, and other than the long-since-departed Newport Mall, this was physically the closest enclosed mall to my hometown. We didn’t go here all that often because of its size, but I do have quite a few childhood memories of shopping at Bradlees for backpacks, sweaters, and Escape Club cassette tapes. Also, I wrote the deadmalls.com entry about this mall back in 2001, and it was one of the very first pieces of content that the crew over there posted from a contributor. (Admittedly, what I wrote was not my finest hour, but this whole write-about-malls thing was pretty new at the time).

The photos here were all taken on December 26, 2000, making them amongst the oldest original photos featured anywhere on the site. They’re the same set that I sent to Deadmalls, and were taken with a relatively low-res (but then seemingly pretty cool) digital camera that died within the first day I was using it. December 26 was also the exact day that Bradlees announced they were going out of business, and I was unaware of the announcement until I visited the store at the New Harbour Mall and saw all of the ominous yellow signs announcing that they weren’t accepting returns or taking checks. I was in the middle of a weird populist phase where as a broke college student I un-self-consciously did a lot of shopping at stores like Bradlees, Caldor, and Ann & Hope (the Targets of their day), who would all go out of business soon after. Pretty sad.

19 Responses to “New Harbour Mall; Fall River, Massachusetts”

  1. The fact that it has both Kmart and Wal-Mart appeals to me but the main mall just seems gross. I’ve only been to a Kmart once in the last seven years, and regular Wal-Marts are quickly becoming an endangered species, as my local Wal-Mart is undergoing remodeling. The main store isn’t so bad but the parking lot is particularly hellish.

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  2. I agree with you, Kmart isnt what they used to be and Wal-Mart is trying to make itself more upscale, hope that works for them, i think this mall is kind of weird looking but i love those vintage photos with Bradlees on the background! Classic!

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  3. I’m glad this was posted on Labelscar. I used to live on the other side of the highway and could see the kmart store from my window, and I went to elementary school at Letourneau which is right behind the mall. Every year they used to have us go trick or treating in the mall during school and we even used to have field trips at the end of the year to the old movie theaters. It definitely has seen better days, and was just convenient to shop at but not really the greatest place to go.

    @Caldor, is there any way you could do a profile of Swansea Mall? I’d love to see what you think of it and how it’s fallen on such hard times lately considered at one time it was a powerhouse that basically killed Downtown Fall River.

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  4. It’s a shame to hear the mall isn’t doing well. I lived 3 streets behind it on Ames St. as a little kid and I have fond memories of my Great-Grandfather taking me for walks by it when it was under construction. Hopefully it’s owners can figure out a way to turn things around.

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  5. Wow… I used to visit this mall quite a bit as a kid. The things I remember most is going to Bradlees right after Thanksgiving to “spy” on my mother and father doing their Christmas shopping for me and my sister. Their toy department was like a candy store to me. It was always a relatively clean and busy store. Of course, there were times when we’d trek across the mall to the K-Mart, which I remember as always being a pigpen of a store-just a really run down and depressing place. But like Bradlees, it was a busy store. Had the full sit-down restaurant and everything. I also loved the KB Toy Source store across the street near Ames; there was also (and think still is) a Sears outlet and Chuck-E-Cheese rip-off restaurant based on circuses and clowns. The closest I’ve come to visiting the mall today is going to the Sovereign bank in front. Dartmouth Mall and Swansea seem to have made travelling to Harbour Mall pointless, even for Wal-Mart.

    Great job with the pics and history, Caldor. Hope you can take a trip to the much more successful Dartmouth Mall someday.

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    Caldor Reply:

    @Tim W., interestingly that “Chuck-E-Cheese rip-off” restaurant actually WAS originally a Chuck-E-Cheese. I remember having my birthday there sometime in the ’80s, and many of my other friends had theirs there at various times too. I forget when it originally “closed” but it was a long time ago now… probably around 20 years.

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  6. Is this mall still enclosed today? What is it’s current occupancy rate?

    The combination of Wal-Mart (previously Bradlees) and K-Mart seems really interesting. However, the main thing I dislike about this mall is its ugly green roof.

    On a somewhat unrealated note, I also remember the exact day that Bradlees announced they were going out of business. I was actually pretty shocked, since I thought Bradlees was safe following Caldor’s liquidation (which occurred in 1999). (I incorrectly figured that there would be room in the marketplace for either Caldor or Bradlees, but not both of them.)

    I always thought that Bradlees was a nicer store than Caldor. (Please accept my apologies, Caldor fans.) However, I no doubt had an inaccurate view of Caldor as a chain, since there was only one Caldor location nearby (which was never renovated), whereas I had shopped at several (much cleaner) Bradlees locations. When retail-oriented internet sites started popping up, I learned (to my surprise) that so many more folks preferred Caldor over Bradlees.

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  7. Still enclosed. No clue on the occupancy. There’s not even a leasing listing anywhere online.

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  8. Amazing post on an amazing site, well done!!

    I too remember the Harbour mall since I grew up in Somerset (small town to the west of Fall River, over the Taunton River). My recollections of the mall go all the way back to my childhood in the early ’70s. When I was real young, my family and I would occasionally go to the mall to shop, and it was a big deal for me since it was a one or two month occurance. Going to the North Dartmouth mall was a twice a year event, and going to the mammoth Warwick and Midland malls in Warwick R.I. was a once a year event.

    Here is what I remember from my childhood visits to the Harbour Mall. It was always dark, back then, sporting the mentioned dark brown shingled roof. It did indeed feature a T.W.Grants at one end and a Bradlees at the other with a Stop & Shop seperate building across the parking lot from Bradlees (this store became an NHD Hardware and a Staples office supply after being vacant for some years when Stop & Shop moved out). I remember a brick lined fountain in the middle of the mall, where the middle entrance corridor met the main corridor. There was always lots of change in the bottom of the fountain, and I remember my parents always had a penney for me to throw into the fountain to make a wish by, lol.

    I don’t remember all the small shops that were there then, but I do remember there being a Radio Shack (my older brother would always dissapear in there when we went shopping, he is 10 years older than I), and Images, Sights & Sound stereo store, Kay Bee Toy & Hobby, and I think a Cherry & Webb clothing store (located where the cinema got put in in ’84). I remember seeing many movies at that cinema, including “Vision Quest”, “Romancing the Stone”, “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.

    The surrounding area featured Harbour Crysler – Plymouth dealership out in front and just to the side of the mall (now still a Ford Dearler I believe). Across W.S Canning Blvd was Empire Chevrolet (now gone) and across from that was another shopping plaza where the before mentioned Ames and Chuck e Cheezes ripoff is. That plaza used to have a Zayre store where Ames took over, several smaller stores and a McCrory’s department store as well. Were there is now a Shaw’s supermarket across from Harbour Mall was once a restaurant (forget the name) and up the street from that, an S & H Greenstamp store.

    Thanks again for the update on the “New Harbour Mall”. My only regret is that I do not have any photos of the area when I was a kid, they would be a blast to see now. Oh, and the Swansea Mall? Yep, used to go there with mom and pop thru my grade and high school days, every Friday night almost, stopping in Papa Gino’s for some Pizza, good timez!!!

    Robert C.

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  9. Found this site from a Fall River Blog.

    Those pictures came from 2000? Other than the change from Bradlees to Walmart, and the removal of the movie theater, the inside looks almost entirely the same. Oh, the stores are different, but it’s the same look, and probably the same banners hanging at Christmas time as well.

    Payless and Radio Shack are the big 2 non-anchor stores … which gives you a good idea of what is inside.

    I remember the now Burger King in the parking lot when it was a Burger Chef, in the late 70′s.

    Most of the shopping in that area just moved down the street. In the same parking lot as the mall, you’ve got a Staples and Dollar Tree. On the other side of “the ave”, you’ve got AJ Wright, Savers, Burlington Coat Factory, and Stop and Shop. Another block away has a Blockbuster Video, Ocean State Job Lot, and Benny’s. There’s also a Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreen’s. For fast food in that same area, you’ve got Burger King, McD’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Papa Gino’s, Uncle Mike’s (?), D’angelos, 2 Chinese food places, Tim Horton’s, Dunkin Donuts, and a few local pizza joints,

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  10. I have lived in this hell hole for over 16yrs and I have seen it go from something vibrant, a place where the Tiverton townies could escape to and have fun in a bad city, into a place much worse.

    It’s not just the pathetic attempt at removing Mc Donald’s remnants, putting up a new sign and painting while trying to pass it off as renovation…it’s the entire city. Big Top which used to be Chuck E Cheese is now a hardware store. Toy Works, the ONLY toy store in the city is now a DENTIST’S OFFICE!!

    The air quality sucks. The citizens, also, for the most part, suck. Drugs, crime, gun violence and that’s just for starters!! Got a city councilmen who got arrested in a prostitution sting. Never went to court. Haven’t heard a peep on the news about him since. This city rules….sarcasm.

    If you want to know the true inner workings of a city then check their housing projects. The worse the project, the worse the corruption…pause for thought….Fall River’s government officials have been naughty.

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  11. I too grew up a couple streets over from this mall, on Ames Street (my parents still live there). I remember the arcade, Radio Shack, Sights and Sounds, Papa Gino’s, Brigham’s Ice Cream, and there was a toy store (KB?) next to the KMart where I remember begging my parents to buy me Gobots, Transformers, and GI Joes. I have vague memories of Burger Chef and Stop & Shop as outparcels, then the Stop & Shop becoming NHD hardware and Simply Sportswear (I think). I also remember when you walked into the main entrance, to the right was a Wurlitzer store or some other piano place, which was replaced by a comic book shop. There is a men’s barbershop now in the corner that used to be a jewelry store and a men’s chothing shop (ozone?).

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  12. Just wondering where you grew up. On one site you say Newport, and on another you say Middletown. And no, they are not the same.

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    Caldor Reply:

    @George, I grew up in Middletown

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  13. The “Harbour Hall” is really on it’s last legs now..

    The WalMart is being relocated next year, which will probably be the final nail in the coffin. The Fashion Bug closed, which was by far the best of the non-anchor stores. Even ‘Dots’ (sort of like a poor man’s Tello’s–if you can imagine that) is moving to the plaza across the street.

    All that remains are a Rent-A-Center, Army Recruiting Office, several salons and hair product stores which seem to do relatively ok and a GNC (of course).

    I keep meaning to take some pictures before it does close-particularly of the creepy abandoned arcade and boarded up movie theater. The K-Mart side of the mall has become a ghost town.

    Sad, I remember buying cassettes at the Strawberries and seeing the likes of Good Will hunting and The Wedding Singer at the theater. I fear for the future of the K-Mart, which has hung in there throughout the years…

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  14. Can someone tell me what happened to images sights and sounds. I use to model for them and they had lots of pics of me up. Sure would like to have them. Anyone know any info on them?

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  15. New Harbour Mall is losing Walmart.
    http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x898153794/No-definite-plans-as-New-Harbour-Mall-loses-an-anchor

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  16. Does anyone remember Images sights and sound stereo. Where did they go?

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  17. Got to love the internet!

    Here I am working the overnight shift at my job in Los Angeles. I was talking to a co-worker (and fellow New Englander) about growing up in Rhode Island … started reminiscing about a run-down mall that I used to visit …. google Harbour Mall and find a blog post about it …. lol!

    Some random memories –

    Even back then, Fall River, MA was a “dying” city in the mid 1970′s when I was a small boy. I was actually born in Fall River but grew up just over the state line in Portsmouth, RI.

    The mall itself was small compared to the Swansea Mall that was 20 more min up the road, but it was a convenient 15 min drive from Portsmouth, so we sometimes went. It always seemed low-rent, even back then.

    When we would visit my grandmother (who lived in Fall River) we would take her here to shop. She was mugged outside of the main entrance in 1980 or 81 by some punk kids while waiting for a bus.

    The Papa Ginos pizza was always good.

    As I got older they spruced up a bit and installed a theater (in the mid 1980′s) I mostly just went to the movies here as a teen – this mall was not really a teenage hangout spot as I recall.

    “Ghostbusters” was the first film I saw here – the film broke 5 min into show, so we waited while they fixed it and then started it from the beginning. Also remember seeing “Rambo First Blood 2″, “Indy Jones and the Last Crusade”, “Unforgiven”, “Dracula”, “A Few Good Men” …. I moved away in 1993, so I don’t think I ever went back.

    I also remember the round brick fountain that someone else noted in the comments.

    Think there was a Spencer gifts in here.

    This was where I first remember seeing a Gap store … before the Gap was “the Gap juggernaut” it would become in the early 1990′s.

    Thanks for posting this blog, brings back some nice memories. Please do a Swansea Mall review if this blog is still active.

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