The single level structure was positioned to the south-southeast of downtown Nashville in a neighborhood that had definitely seen better days. The first time I visited Harding Mall was on an excruciatingly torrid July afternoon just as my old Ford Escort's cooling system decided to start being a bitch. Not a very lengthy drive past 100 Oaks Mall, I found the inconspicuously profiled and inconsequential retail facility sitting idly by in the heat. It was flanked by a relatively large and looming Castner Knott, but not too much else.
I escaped to the dark and cooled corridors of the shopping center to find that the this was where the real action resided. Most of the stores were still occupied and there was a healthy amount of foot traffic to browse them. But the real star of Harding Mall had to be its daring scheme. The most recent renovation was in-your-face eighties in every way. There was drab, gaudy and mismatched flooring beneath my feet. My eyes were accosted by all of the greys, reds and blues playing hide-and-go-seek with the scant natural lighting and flickering neon tubes. It was like being perpetually trapped in some bad Tiffany video. I took some pictures, but damn it all if I have no idea what happened to them.
Harding Mall Mallmanac, ca. 1997. View the full PDF version here.
Harding Mall opened in 1969 with Castner Knott as the sole anchor surrounded on three sides by winding and twisted concourses and a diminutive Martin Theaters movie house. The place saw very few changes during its lifetime, with the only notable ones being Dillard's taking over the Castner Knott space after a buyout of the Nashville-based chain, Marshall's moving in as a junior anchor, Martin Theaters becoming Carmike in 1985 and, of course, the eighties Debbie Gibson explosion.
Harding Mall with its final anchor lineup.
Even on my first visit in the latter part of the nineties, I knew that Harding Mall wouldn't be around for too much longer. There just really is no place for these insignificant little niche malls any longer. After Dillard's vacated their space, we lost another enclosed shopping complex to the wrecking ball in 2006. It was expeditiously replaced by a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Because, God knows, we don't have enough of those around.