A New Kind of Village Green

By October 4th, 1951, Shoppers’ World was ready.  

State Treasurer John Hurley was on hand to deliver the keynote address and welcome 25,000 visitors and 3,500 cars.  Actress Anita Ekberg was there to lend the festivities some star power.  Planners of the opening were concerned that the World Series game being played between the Yankees and Giants might dampen turnout.  They stationed “Ask Me” girls throughout the crowd equipped with portable radios ready to report the score to anyone who asked.

Opening Day in 1951. (Framingham History Center)

When entering Shoppers’ World for the first time, the public saw something that had elements of both the modern and the traditional. 

After all, the town square had been a staple of the New England town for centuries.  That tradition was replicated here in a new way.  A long grassy rectangle, almost two football fields in length, provided the centering feature of Shoppers’ World.  Running alongside this central quad ran a cement walkway some 100 feet wide and 600 feet long, intersected by two crossing paths.  The mall’s 44 stores were mostly lined up along the outer periphery, complete with 360,000 square feet of floor to ceiling plate glass windows that put merchandise in full view of strolling customers.  

The second floor of Shoppers’ World, suggesting something of future mall design, was set off in the same pattern with extended walkways built directly above the cement sidewalks of the first floor.   

Two pedestrian pathways crossed the mall horizontally with a view of the grassy area below.   Shoppers walked up and downstairs by utilizing twenty-foot wide cement ramps, similar to the ones found in the underbelly of Fenway Park.  The mall’s ground level existed in between, situated four feet above the first floor and eight feet below the mall’s upper story.   

It was generally agreed that this was the future.