It’s been a really long time since we featured a mall in the New York metropolitan area–probably a result of my moving out to the west cost, sorry guys–so let’s go back to Long Island’s Smith Haven Mall, with a set of pictures taken in May 2007.
The Smith Haven Mall is a 1.4 million square foot, hybrid indoor-outdoor enclosed shopping mall located on the north shore of Long Island, about halfway between New York and Orient Point. The mall originally opened in 1969 in a fairly mid-market-skewing portion of Long Island. I’m not 100% sure of the original anchors, but I am assuming that the original anchors were Stern’s, Sears, and A&S (though this could’ve always been a Macy’s).
Newsday actually has a pretty informative article about the growth of enclosed shopping malls on Long Island, which touches briefly on Smith Haven:
In 1968-69, Klotz supervised the building of Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. The project was made more difficult by Moriches Road, which ran through the proposed mall and had to be relocated.
Opening day also presented challenges. “It was a fiasco,” Klotz said. A water main break early in the morning cut off water to Smith Haven and led town officials to propose cancelling the grand opening because the sprinkler system and toilets wouldn’t work. “I told them, `We can’t cancel it. Thousands of people are going to show up and you don’t have enough police officers to turn them away,”‘ he recalled.
Town leaders agreed, allowing Klotz to invite volunteer fire departments to encircle Smith Haven with pumper trucks in return for allowing them to ask shoppers for donations, and to set up bucket brigades to keep the public toilets filled while a work crew fixed the broken water pipe by mid-afternoon.
But to Klotz what made Smith Haven unique were the works of art commissioned from sculpter Alexander Calder, painters Larry Rivers, Peter Max and others. Much later, sculptures were placed outside Roosevelt Field and The Source mall, both commemorating Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo air flight to France in 1927. (The Calder is still in Smith Haven’s food court, but the paintings are gone.)Placing fine art in shopping malls symbolized their growing importance in suburbia. They had become like cities to the surrounding housing developments, said William Severini Kowinski, who toured Long Island and other areas for his 1985 book, “The Malling of America.”
Ironically, the people who fled crowded neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn after World War II for their dream house with a yard in Levittown and other places found that they still needed a central place to meet neighbors, see a movie, shop or simply hang out. By default, he said, the mall became a new Main Street or corner store for these GIs and their families.
Smith Haven Mall was somewhat notable for its incorporation of legitimate public art in the mall’s food court, as mentioned above. The inclusion of artwork of Rivers and Max was a nod to the original Gruen-esque concept for American shopping malls–that they should be a place of civic gathering and multi-purpose spaces not intended purely for commerce.
I’ve personally visited Smith Haven twice–in 2000 and 2007–and much changed between the two visits. In 2000, the center was fairly dated, and still retained traces of its original 1960s glamour. Also, at the time, Sterns still anchored the west end of the mall. Nowadays, the west end of the mall has been turned into a fairly standard “lifestyle village,” anchored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cheesecake Factory, Barnes & Noble, and some others, and a 2000s era renovation added modern lighting and softened the interior color palette. When we visited in 2007, there wasn’t much out there, other than Coldwater Creek, which seems positively allergic to enclosed malls.
Architecturally, Smith Haven Mall is a fairly prime example of the types of suburban centers built during the golden age of shopping malls in the late ’60s and early ’70s, with grand, imposing department stores that recalled their urban cousins, and a sprawling, open layout inside that vaguely mimiced the feel of an urban streetscape. The dramatic feel of the malls interior and exterior spaces wasn’t lost in the various renovations, even if the center doesn’t boast the retro glamour of, say, the Bergen Mall.