WASHINGTON SQUARE MALL: EVANSVILLE, IN
Heath Gross' Commentary:
Posted March 21, 2005 (user submitted)
Washington Square Mall opened up to much fanfair in the mid to late 1960's. It was the first enclosed mall in the state of Indiana (according to city records). The mall had two major anchor stores at each end of the mall. Sears was on one end and Stewart's was at the other. Sears has remained in the mall since day one, but the other anchor location has has several different stores in it including, Elder-Beerman, L.S. Ayres, and now is home to a odd lots type of store that sells mostly oriental rugs, computer chairs, and outdoor furniture. The new store only occupies about 50% of the first floor and the second floor esculators are turned off.
In the malls heydays of the late sixties and the 1970's the mall was home to several stores such as Harry Levinson's, The Baby Shoppe, Woolsey's Toy's, Burger Farm, Chess King, Foot Locker, JW, and many more. The mall at its largest, had about 90 stores total.
In 1981 a new mall was built just down Greenriver Road.
It was called Eastland Mall and opened with 2 major anchors, J.C. Penny's and Lazarus, and two smaller mid sized anchors, Ben Snyder's and De Jongs department store. The new mall had/has over 120 shoppe's total, but that is another story.
When the new mall opened many of the corporate America stores moved to the new, updated mall. Both major anchors stayed in Washington Square, but many of the mid line sized stores moved to the cleaner new mall. Both malls continued into the 1980's with Eastland getting stronger, and Washington Square getting weaker. Washington was outdated, not very well lighted and much smaller than the new replacement mall. Around the year 1990 Washington Square received a much needed "facelift" the mall was cleaned up with a coat of fresh white paint and some signature purple neon throughout. Business picked up in the mall. Such stores as Lens-Crafters Eye wear, Fashion Bug and Fashion Bug plus, Deb Stores, Foot Locker, Lakes Sport Shoppe, Record Town, Regis Hairstyles, Libb's Candies, Pass Pets, and several others. Both malls co-existed for awhile but then in the mid 1990's Eastland Mall was extended, adding yet another major Anchor, Famous Barr, and several more major mall stores seen in most malls across america. So in the mid to late 1990's Washington Square once again started to slide. Harry Levinson's went out of business alltogether (in both malls and all other locations) Fashion Bug moved to the new Target Pavillion Center, Lens Crafters defected to Eastland Mall, Regis Hairstyles pulled out alltogether. In 1998 Elder Beerman closed their store in the mall leaving only Sears as the sole surviving corporate store.
New owners purchased the mall two years ago and have made improvements. Unfortuntely, the Carnival like food court is only home to two restaurants, Subway Sandwiches and Noble Romans Pizza. Just Cookies is also still in business. Pass Pets is gone, Libbs Candies shut their doors, even the Foot Locker closed up in the fall of 2004. New additions include non-traditional stores such as a Weight Watchers facility, a Realtor has set up shop inside the mall. Two discount furniture stores now occupy the former Fashion Bug and Dollar Tree stores. One wing of the mall has been redone to occupy two St. Mary's Senior Centers. Additionally, a non-name brand affiliated hair saloon has taken over the space formerly home to Regis Hairstyles. There are a few "non traditional" mom and pop antique shoppes and a calendar store comes and goes with the holiday season. The end of the mall near the former Elder-Beerman is completely dead. All that remains are the empty shells of what was the Foot Locker, Chess King, A flower shoppe, Baynam Shoes (turned into a Don Hardesty Photography Studio) all setting empty. The discount store in the former Elder-Beerman does not offer much and does not look to be in good shape long term.
There is talk of new places moving into the mall. Currently (March 05) they are constructing a new restaurant that will pay tribute to the 1960' and 1970's icon. The new restaurant will have pictures of the mall during its good years. Hopefully this mall will see yet another re-birth.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An A&P was also located in this mall at it's infancy]
Nate Mayfield's Commentary:
Posted March 19, 2005 (user submitted)
Washington Square Mall of Evansville Indiana opened back in the late 1970's or early 1980's. The mall was built with two main anchor stores on each side. On the east end of the mall was Sears and on the west end was Elder Beerman. The mall boasted a food court with food destinations such as Subway, Noble Romans Pizza, an Ice Cream and Yogurt shop of some type and a locally owner sandwich shop of some type. The mall was the teenagers destination back then but, all of that was about to change.
In 1990, a gigantic mall owned by Simon Mall Corp. called Eastland Mall was constructed and was made with four major two story department stores for National retailers like Lazaurus (NOW MACYS), JC Penney, Dillards, and another Sears store. The new mall had a carosel in the food court and boasted with many, many food destinations. Stores like Claires, American Eagle, the Disney Store, Kay Jewelers, Radio Shack and many other "big" name stores ventured into the mall, leaving Washington Square a relic of history and a declining shopping center.
Within time, many stores left Washington Square and moved to Eastland. A yogurt and ice cream shop left the food court, a photography store closed, Foot Locker closed due to a robbery in the mall, and many other places moved out. Then a big hit came, one of the two main anchors, Elder Beerman left and along with it, 15 other store closed leaving a high vacancy rate throughout the mall.
In 2004, the mall was sold. Two men, residents of Evansville Indiana purchased the mall. They decided that the mall was no longer going to fail. So, they added a mall security office, they put a huge import store in the former Elder Beerman's, a Weight Watchers moved into the mall, several furniture stores moved in, a news studio moved in, along with a ST. Mary's medical clinic, an antique shop, claires, Limited Too, Just Cookies, and they added an arcade to the food court. This really brought the mall back to life.
I go see the mall at least every week and it improves each time. This mall was on the verge of dying but, the new owners were very bright, and they have landed many new stores into the mall. Washington Square is not at it's full capacity yet, but, I would say that within the next year or so, there will not be a vacant spot in the mall. It has saw such an improvement over the last year. I hope it continues to be successful and who knows, maybe Eastland Mall will bow down to Washington Square for once.
I recommend a visit to this mall. Mall employees are very friendly and willing to help you any way they can. The water fountain is beautiful and the antique shop has all kinds of cheap prices on really valuable goods. The malls hours are 8am-9pm Monday through Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.