The Opening of the Chelmsford Mall, 1973 – Remembering Child World and Bradlees

In the early spring of 1973, if you were to drive west along Chelmsford‘s Route 110, just beyond the Lowell city line, you wouldn’t get far before you came across a large clearing outside your driver’s side window.  Masses of steel would be shooting skyward, well back on a newly-cleared 12-acre parcel of land.

With locations in Nashua, Salem NH, and Chelmsford, Child World saw the spending of many childhood allowances during the 70's and 80's.

There might even be a sign, advertising the fate of the new development – not far from the junction of Rtes. 3 and 495.  A “Neighborhood Mall” is planned, and with it, Child World and Bradlees Department Store are both coming to Chelmsford.  A Stop & Shop Grocery Store also announced plans to move into the new mall.

A lot of excitement surrounded the mall’s opening.  “Who wants to go downtown?  Who wants to drive all the way to Burlington?” quipped one man to the Lowell Sun in early 1973.

With construction beginning around December 1972, the mall was seen as a welcome alternative to the at-times sweltering, and at-times freezing, streets of downtown Lowell, or the larger and more distant Burlington Mall some miles down Route 3.  The idea of a mall at the site actually surfaced as early as 1970, but several hurdles needed to be cleared before construction even started.  First, no less than 14 separate parcels of land needed to be purchased.  Later, the project was almost derailed (and ended up being delayed for two months) by the Conservation Commission, while the question of wetlands found on the site was discussed.

Originally opened as the Neighborhood Mall, the Chelmsford Mall acquired its current name soon after opening.

After all the hurdles had been cleared, and as construction progressed in March 1973, the development’s leasing agent joked, to a Lowell Sun reporter:

“Have you seen the new Hatch Act?  Conservation is all right.  But it needs some moderation!  In this one, any marsh, meadow, wetland, the sea coast, any brook, all treated the same.  They’re not the same.  It’s all got to be reasonable. . . . Really, who cares about saving the mosquitoes?”

The seventies sure were different times. . . .

Construction continued through the spring and summer of 1973, and the mall was scheduled to open that October.  That large parcel of land along Chelmsford’s Route 110 eventually came to accommodate 1,200 cars and a ‘huge’ mall, as it was then called.  In addition to Child World, Bradlees, and a Stop and Shop, the mall also housed some 25 speciality stores, including Hit or Miss, Radio Shack, and Fayva.

A Stop and Shop in Chelmsford on 110? Deja Vu? No, this ad heralds the opening of a Stop and Shop location at the Chelmsford Mall on February 4, 1974.

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19 responses to “The Opening of the Chelmsford Mall, 1973 – Remembering Child World and Bradlees

  • Dick Howe

    I remember the original Chelmsford Mall very well. As you looked at it from Route 110, Bradlees was to the right where Kohl’s is now, and Child World was to left, about where Michaels or the shoe store is. There was a common interior hall that ran from left to right. Right inside the main entrance, where Best Fitness is now, there was a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. Along the back part of the common hall was a bookstore – Paperback Booksmith, perhaps? Then way down to the left where Staples is now there was a regional big box hardware store the name of which I forget. It was a predecessor to the Home Depot/Lowe’s model.

  • Bill

    The store was named “Channel”.

  • Forgotten New England

    Ah – Baskin Robbins – they moved down the road further into Chelmsford for a while, in the 90’s. I remember the bookstore too. Just across from the Baskin Robbins, at least in the 80’s, was a hobby shop. I don’t remember its name. A quick question for those who remember the original Chelmsford Mall. I remember two anchor stores in the 80’s – Child World and Bradlees. I don’t remember Channel, the hardware store, or the Stop & Shop that the Bradlees ad records as opening in 1974. That Stop & Shop couldn’t have been there too long.

  • kkrantz74

    Hey Ryan, sorry I haven’t visited in awhile. Yep, at this time shopping was moving from downtown to the ‘burbs. I love how you integrate history and social demographics into genealogy.

  • Karen Spence

    I loved Hit or Miss. I bought suits there and put them on layaway, paying a little every week until they were paid off. They had great in-between season sales, too. I forgot all about Fayva shoes! There was a music store in there too that sold all kinds of instruments including large pianos. That was a common thing in those days, so much so that a stand-up comedian included the absurdity of it in one of his bits where he says he told his wife while walking in the mall to “wait, before we leave I’m going to pick up a piano.” Back then, malls were considered places where you would buy things you could take away with you on the spot.

    I remember Channel, bought some superglue and some picture hangers one time, but I only vaguely remember Stop and Shop being there, probably because I was too young to shop for food at the time when it was there.

    Later in the early 90’s there was a store in that space called F&M that sold everything from housewares, to beauty supplies, to baby stuff and so much more, all for cheap. It was a fun store. My grand aunt used to call it “that F& store,” which came out really funny. I still use a big boar’s hair bristle hair brush that I bought there.

    • Forgotten New England

      Hi Karen – it’s good to hear that someone remembers the Stop & Shop at the Chelmsford Mall. I couldn’t picture where it was or could have been. I’m thinking it must have been in Channel’s spot, where the Staples is now.

  • Pat Armstrong Burns

    So-Fro fabric store was there. That was when there were at least 3 fabric stores in town. The Silver Thimble was in Parlmont Plaza. There was one at Drum Hill, but I can’t remember its name.

  • Eileen Loucraft

    I remember riding my bike inside the mall when it was under construction. There was also a GAP, smoke shop, Garden of Eden and a tiki hut that made the best blender drinks.

  • Brett

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, we used to visit that mall a lot when I was a kid, now I work just down the street from there. I miss Child World and Bradlees. However, I do not remember the Stop & Shop being there at all.

    For a while there a was an old Bradlees cargo container (from the back of a semi) parked near the Target in Leominster, but sadly it disappeared a couple years ago as well.

    I’d love to see you write up a piece on Whalom Park.

  • Jo

    I loved Smokers Corner

  • Scott

    Stop and Shop was in there to the extreme left maybe two years at most. Replaced by ‘The Food Outlet’ (great homemade peanut butter!), then Channel, then F&M. I worked at Child World there from ’85-’92. A great mall for it’s time. The opening of Pheasant Lane Mall in 1986 spelled the beginning of the end for this unique ‘Neighborhood Mall’.

  • Gretchen

    Does anyone remember a juniors clothing store in that mall? It was a small long narrow store in the middle of the mall. Not Hit or miss… I bought bongo jeans there! Lol.. Mid to late 80s…

  • Johnjohn Gibson House

    The bookstore was Waldenbooks! I used to go there all the time, and I bought some really interesting books there when I was young (dirty joke books, LOL…).

    And right next to Waldenbooks was a small pet store. I got my kitten there.

    Man, I’d totally forgotten about the music shop. I got some sheet music there once.

    My mother used to dump me at Child World while she went shopping at Fayva and Hit or Miss. Gah…I feel really, really old.

  • Beth Giguere

    I do remember at one point there was a women’s clothing store in there called Maryanne’s. They had all sizes from small to plus sizes. I loved that store!

  • Seth Taylor

    Does anybody have any links or pictures of the inside of the mall? I have been trying SOO hard to picture the interior mall corridor. I remember sorta scoffing at the fact that it was referred to as a “mall” because by the time I came around Pheasant Lane had already been built. I do remember MVP Sports well because I think we went there to get wiffle ball bats and balls. I picture the mall looking like the old Nashua Mall did (the one that’s now Kohl’s, Babies R Us, LL Bean, Christmas Tree Shops, and Burlingotn Coat Factory)

  • Kevin moloney

    I worked at Wood Abbott Jewelers one of the original stores in the mall at the Bradlees end.Next to us was a store called You& You later to be renamed The Gap across from us was The Village Bazar a gift shop,Debbys pet land came later,also there was Curtis Music then renamed the Music Mall ,So Fro Fabrics, The Garden of Eden a hair salon,Gloria Stevens a womens fitness salon,Paperback book smith,The Big L it was like a cvs store and Putmans Hallmark store, Merle Norman was there for awhile and Smokers Corner. The Tiki Hut was the only place to get something to eat or drink besides Baskin Robbins. Later Bradlees was able to open a snack bar but that didn’t happen until the eighties. I remember not being able to park in that huge lot at Christime that was how busy the mall was in those days.

  • Kevin moloney

    I worked at Wood Abbott Jewelers one of the original stores in the mall at the Bradlees end.Next to us was a store called You& You later to be renamed The Gap across from us was The Village Bazar a gift shop,Debbys pet land came later,also there was Curtis Music then renamed the Music Mall ,So Fro Fabrics, The Garden of Eden a hair salon,Gloria Stevens a womens fitness salon,Paperback book smith,The Big L it was like a cvs store and Putmans Hallmark store, Merle Norman was there for awhile and Smokers Corner. The Tiki Hut was the only place to get something to eat or drink besides Baskin Robbins. Later Bradlees was able to open a snack bar but that didn’t happen until the eighties.

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