01 October 2023

Washington Square, Tigard, OR

 An extant asset

It’s true that enclosed shopping malls, at least the way we children of the eighties knew them, are on the decline.  But I doubt they will ever be completely gone.  Most metros of at least a significant size still have one or two that still see success.  For the Portland area, if only one shopping mall were to survive, I would put my money on its being Washington Square.

The east facing exterior of Washington Square.

Located just over the Tualatin Mountains in the western suburb of Tigard, Washington Square seems not to have missed a beat while so many others have succumbed to the double whammy of the pandemic and the effects of online shopping.

Washington Square lease plan ca 2011.  See the full PDF version here.

Still one of the top grossing malls per square foot in the country, most patrons seek out big names like Dick’s Sporting Goods, The Cheesecake Factory and Williams-Sonoma.  But not this weirdo.  I was all about the seventies-fabulous grooviness of the JCPenney and ex-Sears locations.

Along the west facing exterior with a view of the expansion.

JCPenney has always had some interesting architecture in their stores.  See the “Starship Penny’s” at Northgate Mall, the distinctive brutalist concrete overhang of the Southcenter outlet and yellow tinted porticos of the old Military Circle location.  But I had never seen one like Washington Square’s.

The geometric fabulousness of the JCPenney store.

The handsome clay-colored bricks seem not to have aged a day since its opening, but the real draw was the distinctive entranceways and their unique geometric features.  On either side of the JCPenney nameplate are a cylindrical turret and a concave, mini “amphitheater” lounge area, though built without seating of any kind.  It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and I was loving it.

1 & 2- Nordstrom. 3- Macy's.  4- Dick's Sporting Goods.

On Washington Square’s southern end is the now darkened Sears store.  The labels have been removed, but the straight lines and right angles covering the exterior entrances and walkways are still on display.  This look definitely brings out the nostalgia in me and I’m glad to have seen it as there is no doubt that any future occupants will demolish these unappreciated and outdated elements.

Gotta love that seventies Sears exterior.

Though not able to hold my interest nearly as much as the previous two gems, the balance of Washington Square serves its purpose well enough.  The concourses are, unsurprisingly, covered in mainly white polished porcelain tiles with splashes of reds and blues throughout.  But at least the skylights above them had some personality.  Seriously though, I would have loved to have seen this place forty years ago when the look of the entire complex was more concordant with the iconic anchors.

1- Mall entrance abutting JCPenney.  2- More eighties realness at the JCPenney mall entrance.  3- Looking down the east-west corridor toward JCPenney.  4- The former Sears entrance within the mall.

Washington Square opened in 1974 in more or less its present L-shape.  Portland’s own Meier & Frank, located on the north end, Sears and Lipman’s opened shortly before the remainder of the shopping center in 1973 with Honolulu based Liberty House and Nordstrom opening for business in 1974.

The Washington Square interior.

Liberty House, also located on Washington Square’s northern façade but just to the east of Meier & Frank, departed in 1978 with Frederick & Nelson later taking their spot.  However, just a year later when the Seattle based firm took over all Lipman’s locations, they moved into Lipman’s much larger facility on the square’s west facing front.

Washington Square pamphlet ca 2018.  See the full PDF version here.

Mervyn’s soon took occupancy of the space originally occupied by Liberty House while Nordstrom, having taken over Frederick & Nelson in the early nineties, shifted to their much larger building.  The former Nordy’s was converted into smaller mall stores and the second level food court.

Scenes from the expanded concourse to the west and Nordstrom's mall entrance.

In 2005, a major expansion opened on Washington Square’s western exterior with a new wing running parallel to the main north-south concourse starting from the Nordstrom location.  Not long after, Mervyn’s departed and their former home was eventually taken over by Dick’s.

The Summit, Washington Square's upper level food court located in Nordstrom's former home.

Despite all of the anchor shuffling and Sears’ closing in 2018, the rest of the shopping facility has seen much consistency and stability over the years.  And I expect Washington Square to hang out for a while, though it will be a sad day when my favorite two parts of it are inevitably flattened and forgotten.

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