The Watertown Mall is a small, 250,000 square foot mall located on Arsenal Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. A week or so ago, I posted about the Arsenal Mall, which was built directly across the street in the early 1980s. The Watertown Mall is its older and smaller sibling, typical of the tiny dumbell-style malls built around New England in the 1970s. This particular mall opened in October 1975 with much fanfare, anchored by a Bradlees Department Store and a Stop & Shop Supermarket. The small enclosed mall between–which is shaped like an “L”–was considered state of the art for the time.
Over the years, there have been many changes at the Watertown Mall, and it’s perhaps surprising that it even remains enclosed. Stop & Shop left the mall eons ago to be replaced by one of the few Omni Foods locations, which closed in 1999. Omni Foods was replaced by a Best Buy (one of the earlier Boston-area locations) in 2000, only to have the mall’s other anchor, Bradlees, die in early 2001. That space would be filled by Target in 2002, and this relatively compatible pair of anchor tenants has kept the small mall space alive. The fact that the mall is literally across the street from (and thus well within walking distance of) the slightly larger Arsenal Mall has undoubtedly helped it survive.
Beyond its anchor stores, most of the tenants in the Watertown Mall have been relatively typical of smaller enclosed malls. There’s an Old Country Buffet and a Registry of Motor Vehicles–both of which are significant draws–and until 2006 there was a location of New England’s once-venerable Strawberries’ Records and Tapes chain, which was a pretty cool place before being acquired by TransWorld and turned into FYE with a different name (later they would just be FYE in every way). Also until 2006, the Watertown Mall was the location of the only Gap Outlet in the immediate Boston area, but that recently moved across the street to the Arsenal Mall. There’s a Papa Gino’s location and some smaller shoe or clothing stores sprinkled throughout the mall.
On its own, the Watertown Mall isn’t a terribly interesting mall, but because its located across from the unusual Arsenal Mall, it’s kind of an interesting place. Truthfully, the Watertown Mall would easily lend itself to big boxing, so it’s shocking (and neat) that it even exists, even if it’s too small to make much impact.
In March 2007, the Boston Globe ran a piece about the mall’s history, continued existence, and (marginal, given its size) malaise, and it’s well worth reading. Like with the Arsenal Mall, we have a limited number of 2001 photos (most of whom look the same as today, except Strawberries is still operational), and we also have a few photos taken in 2006 before The Gap Outlet moved across the street.