The birth of a mall

An Aug. 18, 1955, advertisement touted the center's 350,000 square feet and free parking for 2,400 cars. The slogan read: "Yesterday an idea. Today a plan. Tomorrow a fact."

Sometime in the late 1950's or early 1960's the name was changed from the Latham Shopping Center to the Latham Circle Mall, according to the assessor's office.

John DeLap, a lifelong resident in Colonie and owner of the All-Star Driving School located at the Latham Circle Mall, said he recalls the shopping destination in its prime.

"It was quite successful when it was built," he said. "We used to do all of our shopping there."

DeLap said it continued to improve when it become a closed-in mall under new ownership in the '70s, but he said he began to notice a decline about eight years ago with multiple vacancies at the center.

Franklin said there was some competition from a Menands Montgomery Ward store, Stuyvesant Plaza and stores between Route 55 and the Latham Circle known as "The Miracle Mile," but for the most part the Latham open air shopping plaza remained a popular destination.

"When I was a kid, Sears and Macy's malls had not been built yet," Franklin said.

He said traffic from Route 9 before the Northway was built in 1967 helped the mall, but after the Northway opened up channels to other shopping outlets, the mall started to see a decline.

According to Eugene Weiss, who purchased the shopping center in 1973, the development that opened to such fanfare in the '50s was "a dilapidated little strip center" nearly 20 years later. At the time of the purchase, rent for a shop there was between $1.50 and $5 per square foot, he said.

Weiss said he promptly began making improvements to the tune of $30 million, eventually closing in the mall in 1977.

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