There’s been so much talk about the Moorestown Mall’s future lately, it’s easy to forget it has quite a history as one of the region’s oldest malls.
Opened in 1963, the mall was built on farmland that had been in the Roberts family from the early 1700s through at least the 1800s, according to Stephanie Herz, vice president of the Moorestown Historical Society. The Society’s records don’t indicate who owned the property in the 20th century.
However, according to researcher Bill Archer, who works with the Historical Society, in the years before the mall was built, it was an apple orchard. A Federal-style brick farmhouse (circa 1820s/1830s) sat on a small hill facing Lenola Road, roughly where Macy’s now stands, Herz said.
The mall—the second-oldest enclosed mall in the greater Philadelphia/New Jersey area, with Cherry Hill Mall, which opened in 1961, being the first—was designed by architect John Graham Jr., who was most notably responsible for the design of the Seattle Space Needle, as well as more than 70 other malls in his lifetime.
PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust), the current owner of the mall, didn’t purchase the property until 2003. Though PREIT doesn’t have any special events planned to commemorate the mall’s golden anniversary, spokeswoman Judy Trias said the company is definitely excited about its future.
“The mall is a great example of continuing to evolve to meet the changing needs of our shoppers,” she said in a written statement. “We look forward to opening the region's first Regal Premium Experience theater, renowned chef Marc Vetri's restaurant Osteria, and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill later this year, and introducing other exciting restaurants and retailers that appeal to the community.”
So far PREIT has only announced two of the four restaurants it plans to open at the mall, using the liquor licenses it bought from the township—at $1 million apiece—last year. Trias said she expects the company will be able to make an announcement soon regarding the remaining restaurants.
Mayor Stacey Jordan spoke positively about the mall, as well as PREIT’s commitment to Moorestown, calling the anniversary “an incredible testament to doing business in the town.”
“It’s a big deal that they’re reinvesting,” she said. “By investing all that money into the mall, you know they’re serious about wanting the mall to succeed.”
A few more interesting facts about the mall:
Moorestown Mall was originally anchored by a two-level (203,000 square foot) Gimbels and a two-level (178,900 square foot) Wanamaker’s. These stores, retail adversaries of Strawbridge & Clothier, had been blocked by Strawbridge's from anchoring at the Cherry Hill Mall. As a result, Moorestown was developed as a showcase for new, suburban Gimbels’ and Wanamaker's locations not permitted to lease (or own) space at Cherry Hill.
In addition to its two anchors, the mall included an F.W. Woolworth/Harvest House Cafeteria, Thrift Drug, Bond's Clothes, Blum apparel, a ShopRite supermarket and single-screen Plaza Cinema.
A fire devastated the mall on Dec. 23, 1992. Starting in Herman's Sporting Goods, the blaze destroyed five in-line stores and damaged an additional 37.
For more interesting nuggets of mall history, visit the Mall Hall of Fame blog.
Have an interesting piece of Moorestown Mall history you want to share? Tell us in the comments below.