The management offices of Dixie Square Mall were situated in a corner of Block C behind Armand’s Restaurant (later-occupied by a greasy nightclub called City Life), which overlooked the service corridor. After the mall’s shutdown and bankruptcy in 1978 everything in them was left behind, and a year and a few wrecked police cars later: the entire property was officially abandoned.
About two decades later or so: these offices were set ablaze by arson, collapsing the floor and flooding the basement, making them completely inaccessible. Fortunately, however: those offices were not where thousands of blueprints, plans, and internal documents were being stored – those were actually kept in what appeared to be a cheaply-made expansion that was built over the shitters for City Life. Paw Filmworks, the crew behind the Dixie Square documentary, was the first to raid them in the mid-2000s, and from there it was believed everything had been taken; until my 7th trip to the mall in August 2010 – what turned out to be the final PF reunion at the mall which I crashed – when I was shown where everything was, and how much was still there.
Finding a moldy box up there, I packed it with whatever I could find, and collapsed part of the plywood floor to bring it down to the ground. The ladder opening was too small, and this floor was so bad that I actually went through it twice – fortunately, stopped by ductworkings underneath. By the time I lugged it across the parking lot to my car, the bottom finally gave-out from the weight.
The next visit took place that October, when I met-up with Brian Ulrich and his assistant; and the two of us went at and split what was left. By-chance, in a bag full of stuff left there from what appeared to be someone else’s abandoned raid: we made an awesome discovery of about 60 black and white prints showing the mall under construction – likely a progress report by one of Meyer C. Weiner’s, or Inland Construction’s reps!
With traces of snow on the ground, and phase-one of Dixie Square: Montgomery Ward, already open and decked for the holidays: it’s believed that these photos were taken between late-November 1965, and early-January 1966 at the latest. It’s entirely-possible that these photographs, understandably damaged by three decades of neglect, had not been seen in 45 years!
A few different areas of the mall were under construction, at the time. The first being the area of the main Mall Entrance next to Montgomery Ward. A few bricklayers can be seen working on the ground, while others are installing roof trusses over what became Armand’s Restaurant. Beyond that, the cinder block skeletons of Block A can be seen on the other side of the Wards atrium.
In 2006, Wards and this atrium were ceremoniously-demolished on live television in what was supposed to be the ultimate redevelopment of the mall. Getting to that point was, in fact, a fiasco in itself; as in 2005 the Wards building was first sold to American Kitchen Delights, a manufacturer of airline food, who gutted the building and planned to use it as a warehouse, while the rest of the mall was to be sold to developer John Deneen, of the Emerald Property Group. In gutting Montgomery Ward, debris was pushed into the atrium, and later found to contain asbestos; prompting an EPA-issued cease and desist. As this was being sorted-out: on New Year’s Eve demolition crews working for Deneen began tearing into the Montgomery Ward building, destroying a significant part of it before Harvey mayor Eric Kellogg happened to drive-by and halt work. Ultimately, the entire property was sold to Deneen, and the publicized demolition took place that March – only bringing down about 35% of the mall before running out of funding and aborting the project entirely. It would be another six years before the rest of the mall came down.
Woolworth, a sub-anchor of Block A, can be seen in early-stages of construction. This store was completely-destroyed by fire in 2004, then mostly-demolished in 2006; ironically, leaving it in a rather similar state to these photos.
Block B is nonexistent, however Block C appears to be mostly-complete, structurally; except for the Armand’s area and Jewel. It was along this corridor where much of the chase sequence from The Blues Brothers was filmed in the summer of 1979, after the mall had already closed.
Also absent is what would become the Chicago suburbs’ largest JCPenney department store, which was phase III of the mall and scheduled to open the following November, in time for Dixie’s grand-opening ceremonies.
Finally, seen in a handful of photos, is the Wards Auto Service center. This building stood at the corner of Dixie and 154th, and in the 1980s was demolished to build the current Harvey Police Department.
I originally uploaded these on Christmas Day 2010; however with a newer scanner since-acquired: this week I’ve decided to re-scan them at double the resolution. The entire set can be seen here. Enjoy!
Special thanks, especially, to: Mike B. and Brian Ulrich!