Elmira’s Arnot Mall was perhaps my favorite of the malls I visited on my recent jaunt through upstate New York. The long, twisty center had several distinctly different areas built in separate eras, including some rather irregularly-shaped courts, surprise corridors, and even a few oddly-justified anchor frontages.
The Arnot Mall is located just west of Elmira, New York in the town of Horseheads, along NY-17 (future I-86) in the central portion of New York State’s “Southern Tier” region. Chris, one of our readers, graciously offered some history on the Arnot Mall: The mall opened in 1967 as “The Mall” and originally included Iszard’s, a local department store chain with stores in Downtown Elmira and Downtown Ithaca, along with JCPenney and 40 small stores. MallsofAmerica has an excellent vintage photo of the mall in its original state, complete with the classic JCPenney logo. In 1980, the mall underwent a very significant expansion that more than doubled the center’s size, added a new wing that was longer than the original mall, a second level food court, and Sears, Bradlees, and Hess as new anchors while renaming the center as the “Arnot Mall.” There was also an indoor mini golf course! The new Arnot Mall held 120 stores spread across 1,050,000 square feet.
Iszard’s eventually became McCurdy’s, who were ultimately bought out by The Bon Ton. The Bon Ton also bought out Hess in 1994, but the mall today has only one Bon Ton: the former Hess became a Kaufmann’s and ultimately a Macy’s. Take a look at the mall directory:
I got the clear sense that the western portion of the mall, the strange “T” wing with JCPenney and the Bon Ton, was much older than the remainder of the mall (this section also held a strangely-oriented Olympia Sports with an external entrance–possibly a former Woolworth or McCrory’s?). The remainder of the mall represents the 1980 expansion. Bradlees left in early 2001, and their space today is occupied by Burlington Coat Factory.
Arnot Mall seems to do relatively well (despite some vacancies, mostly on the Sears wing) by virtue of being the only major enclosed shopping center for miles around, but I enjoyed it for its architecture. The mall’s large, airy center court features a second level food court and movie theatre, along with a Friendly’s restaurant whose dining room overlooks directly into the mall’s first level. The center court includes a stately old-fashioned clock (like the ones that used to be so common in classic malls) set on the side of a fountain, and the planters and conversation pits set in front of anchor stores only add to the ambiance. In addition, the strange orientation of Olympia Sports against the mall (Look at the floorplan and note how, when walking down the main corridor, it ends at Olympia Sports. Their dramatic interior facade makes them look like an anchor store; a truly unusual design element).
It was a cool little mall. I’m glad I went out of my way for it.
I’ve organized the photos below into three groups so they make the most sense. The first group is of the mall’s exterior, moving from the 1980 expansion backward towards the original 1967 portion:
The next group is of the interior of the 1980 expansion: