12 May 2013

Extant Assets - Hamilton Place, Chattanooga, TN

Before I initially passed through Chattanooga in the winter of 1988, all I knew about the southeastern Tennessee community was something about a Choo-Choo. I thought that the city had to be the center of the universe as far as trains went, and being the airplane guy that I am, I didn't really care. Not until that first trip when, on the outskirts of town, there was something else that grabbed my attention right off of the interstate. An extremely grandiose retail facility called Hamilton Square. From that day on, the city held some relevance.

 
Hamilton Place Mallmanac, ca. 1997. View the full PDF version here.

On a subsequent trip through Chattanooga as we drove from Huntsville back to Virginia Beach, I remember that we pulled off of the superhighway and toward the massive mall. Could it be, I thought. Are we actually going to visit this place? We turned into the seemingly endless blacktop, still empty on this Sunday morning, then parked way the hell out. I gazed at the huge structure just a few hundred feet outside of my window, with its glass trusses, neon labels and a Hess's. Have I mentioned how much I loved the Hess's nameplate? Anyway, all hope of seeing the inside of the Place and getting my hands on a mallmanac faded when, after a few minutes, my dad reentered our old station wagon after fixing whatever problem necessitated a teasing stop outside of the fabled center and we drove away.

 
The upper level mall entrance between Proffitt's and Sears.

It would be a few years before I would make a full visit to what was, at the time, Tennessee's largest mall. I drove to Chattanooga specifically to see Hamilton Place in all of it's magical glory. I arrived to see that one of the most anticipated elements was gone- the Hess's. I entered one of the glass foyers serving as a mall entrance, underneath the stylized H logo, and was instantly, well, disappointed. The place was magnificent, almost palatial on the outside. Inside, though, the corridors were narrow and crowded while the ceilings were highlighted in several bland shades of violet. I did like the footprint of the mall with it's many angles and turns, but I did leave the place feeling a bit let down.

 
Hamilton Place Mallmanac, ca. 2001. View the full PDF version here.

Hamilton Place was opened in 1987 by Chattanooga-based CBL and Associates. Though renovated in 1998 and 2011, the mall has never been the site of any major expansions. There have been some major anchor shuffling, as Sears remains the only original anchor of six. JCPenney has been the only store to occupy their pad, but their space didn't open with the rest of the mall. Hess's delayed their opening as well, then was replaced by Proffits, as was another original anchor, Loveman's. This gave Proffitts two locations in the mall that both later became Belk and Forever 21. The original Belk location was swapped with Dillard's, with Dillard's maintaining a second location in what once was Parisian. The anchor dance can be as confusing as the mall's twisted layout.

 
L- Hamilton Place in the early 2000s. R- Hamilton Place as of this writing.

Nowadays, I know Chattanooga for much more than just a train and a large mall. It has since become one of my favorite towns. The city has awesome trails, beautiful parks and an exceptional downtown that has become both the envy of and model for many like-sized cities in the region. And though I came to prefer the boutique shopping on the Northside, Hamilton Square was still good for an occasional stop when visiting the scenic city.

Hamilton Place's official website

2 comments:

  1. Hello...

    The Curator (from Mall Hall of Fame and Shopping Mall Museum) here. I am here today trying to dig up info about the early stages of HAMILTON PLACE MALL. It doesn't look like it's going to be an easy task, though...

    Fortunately, you have posted these wonderful 1997 and 2001 HP brochures. They will be invaluable if I do go ahead and complete a HAMILTON PLACE article for the Shopping Mall Museum site.

    Cheers,

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