Ketchum and Company designed Shopper’s World in the Space Age style that was at the height of its popularity in 1951.
This modern feel was enriched by the dome that was the mall’s most startling feature. The rectangular mall space was to be bookended by two large anchor stores. Huston Rawls had won a major coup for Shoppers’ World when he signed New England’s biggest store to be one of the anchors. It was the first time that anyone had persuaded Jordan Marsh to move outside of the safety of Downtown Boston. Its home would be the enormous dome which observers felt had the look of an alien spaceship that had chosen Framingham as its earthly landing spot.
Four times the size of the golden top of the Massachusetts State House, it was the largest clear-span dome in the United States and soon became Framingham’s most visible landmark. But if the Jordan Marsh dome was a “7th wonder of New England” on one side of Shoppers’ World, the other side was a disappointment. Despite an enormous effort, Huston Rawls was not able to attract a second anchor store, causing economic problems for the mall’s parent company in due time.
Perhaps the most important element of the mall’s construction was the least imaginative — the gargantuan parking lot.
Upon opening, Shoppers’ World was able to claim 6,000 parking spots, more than enough to guarantee a parking space for everyone. As Jack Scanlon put it in an article on Shoppers’ World in New England Construction, “You would put the Missus and the kids into the Fireball Eight and drive up the Turnpike to the Natick-Framingham town line. If you got there early, you would have 6,000 parking spaces to choose from. If you got there late, you might only have 2,000 to choose from. Bewildering if you think about it, isn’t it?”
The final element of the mall’s design was the movie theater that was located just to the northeast of Shoppers’ World, connected by an overhead walkway.
Today, movie theaters are an expected component of any shopping center hoping to draw weekend crowds, but “The Cinema” was both the first mall movie theater in the country and its twenty foot-high red “Cinema” sign marked the first time that the word was used commercially in America.
Taken altogether, the new mall was something completely new in New England.
A “Special Information” sheet pointed to a bright future: “If properly maintained, Shoppers’ World should last forever. And that’s a long time, even for another world.”