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July 6th, 2006

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09:40 am - wayback time
"All Roads Lead to Shopper's World"

All right now, Sherman, we're setting the Wayback Machine to October, 1951. The place, Route 9 in Framingham, Mass... or maybe it's Natick. Sherman, which side of the border are we landing?
Ready for Official Opening of The Shoppers World
Framingham News October 1951

The newest and largest "sales rooms" in the world - Shoppers World - located on the Worcester Turnpike will be opened officially to the public on Thursday, Oct. 4 at 12 noon.

Built on 70 acres of landscaped land, 50 acres of which are reserved for the free parking of 6,000 cars, like a palace from another world, this unique grouping of 44 independent business enterprises is the result of more than eight years of scientific planning by Suburban Centers Trust, Incorporated, Boston.
(That's right, Sherman, Shopper's World was built by science!)
This new concept of using the purchasing habits of families to inspire the building of a super shipping center, and to determine its construction and design is the story of more than a million man-hours of work by skilled laborers and the technical skills of countless consultants and architects.

Designed to house 50 stores, 44 of which are now complete, Shoppers World is a U-shaped 2 level structure which opens on the 100 foot wide central green that is the length of two football fields.

White paint and concrete accentuate the perfect geometrics of the "world." The base of the U is a dome, 227 feet in diameter and 54 feet high. It is the only permanent suspended domed ceiling in the world and is 4 times the size of the State House dome in Boston.

The "arms" of the U have 325,000 square feet of selling space and are fronted by 15-foot covered walkways on both levels. ...
Shopper's World existed until 1994, when it was unceremoniously razed to make way for the giant Big Box complex of warehouse-style stores around a central parking lot (which was, at that time, the brand-new and shiny "scientifically-designed" retail innovation. Snakes eating snakes and all that.) The Shopper's World sign hung around for a few more years, but eventually had to fall in the name of progress.

Shame, really. I miss that awesome dome.

There's a bit more of the 1951 article at this pretty cool site, along with some great candid shots of the old Shopper's World plaza, including this freaking amazing view of the old Cinemas from the roof.

"I saw at least 20 movies that I didn't see"

The site also has a bit on the old Natick Drive-In, including a 1977 article from a local newspaper reporting on the Drive-In's imminent demise. Most interesting is the mention of the "Adventure Car Hop", a Route 9 establishment I'd never heard of but can totally see happening, plus some crazy facts (at its peak, over 100 speakers a week! were stolen or demolished) and a couple of nice black-and-white views of the sign and screen.

You'll also get some handy tips on how to sneak into the Drive-In, from locals who know!
"We would come in over the back fence, pick up stubs at the concession stand, and just for the hell of it line up in one of the parking spaces as if we were in a car. Someone from the drive-in would come up to us and ask what we were doing there. We would show him our ticket stubs and tell him we drove in."
You just can't do that anymore in America, and maybe that's part of the problem.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
Man... I didn't even know that place had been torn down! I grew up in Framingham, and I used to go to Shopper's World all the time! They had an excellent Toys R' Us.

Rest in Peace, mighty Shopper's World!
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
It was a Route 9 institution! I'd totally forgotten about the blocky toy soldiers in the courtyard til I saw the demolition pictures.
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
I KNOW!!! It had a friggin' COURTYARD!!!

Do you remember the electric passenger train that used to drive around the mall picking up kids along the way? It was mainly driven by local high school kids. My neighbor Lisa was one of those elite.

The original Shopper's World complex was also completely wheelchair accessible. The whole damn thing. Not only that, but wheelchair users and upright folk used the same ramps to go between floors.

[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC)
Dude, I had forgotten both the giant toy soldiers and the train, but it's all flooding back to me. Now I really miss that place!
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC)
Or a place to park your Arcturan Laser Camel.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)

Re: I think you meant...

Well played!
[User Picture]
Date:July 6th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
Rob, thank you so much for this. Honest, in that bottom-of-my-heart buy-you-a-beer kind of way.

it was an awesome dome.
Date:July 6th, 2006 06:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks, man. Even though I didn't know this institution at all, I love to see snippets of life as it was from the 60s and 70s.
Date:July 7th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
Even as a jewish kid, I couldn't wait for Christmas just to see the place decorated and to climb those giant blocks that spelled out "Peace" and "Joy".
I was around for the reindeer but never saw, (as one of the pictures in the links shows) the elephants. I wonder if they walked them down the ramps!

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