Museum of Loot & Interesting: Lorraine Kula letters

In August 2010 I tagged along with the Paw Filmworks crew for what was ultimately their final visit to Dixie Square Mall. “Paw Filmworks” was the collaborative effort between Paul McVay, Mike Brown, Chuck Janda, and others who extensively documented the abandoned mall’s corpse and history starting in 2005, with the ultimate intention of releasing a feature-length documentary film. The film itself is still stuck in limbo, but I largely credit the series of photographs, artifacts, and teaser videos released between the three of them for not only inspiring my own work, there; but making Dixie Square the urban exploring and internet legend it was.

It was on this trip that Mike showed me where many of the mall’s internal documents were being stashed: above the shitters in City Life – a (greasy) nightclub shoehorned into a space that was originally divided into a few separate tenants late in the mall’s life. To my amazement, there were still a fuck-ton of things still up there that hadn’t been burned or too badly waterlogged; so being 19 at the time and unable to join them at a bar or wherever they wound up after: I stayed behind and loaded up a box I found of whatever caught my eye. Among which was a folder marked “Human Relations”, which was actually more full of PR things than internal employee concerns, etc. The most fascinating find in that folder was a letter, written by Mrs. Lorraine Kula, of Markham, Illinois – the apparent victim of a purse snatching incident only a few months after the mall opened, which evidences that Harvey was already in trouble just as the mall was in its infancy…

The Kula IncidentMrs. Kula’s final paragraph is most-eerie, as it accurately predicts the mall’s fate 12-years early. By the mid-1970s, the mall’s security force was completely overwhelmed with the spike of violent crime in Harvey and tenants were fleeing en masse for other malls in the area – particularly the newer Lincoln Mall, in Matteson. Dixie Square would ultimately shutter completely in November 1978 and file bankruptcy, with the mall’s Walgreens and Jewel Food Store (both having external entrances) holding out until early the following year.

Incidentally, I also located the mall’s two-page response – which admittedly has to be one of the most well-written and sincerely-apologetic corporate letters I’ve ever run across. I’ve redacted Mrs. Kula’s address, as a few years ago it appeared she was still alive and wellRe: Lorraine Kula (1/2) Re: Lorraine Kula (2/2)

I’m curious to know if she ever did return, and meet with Terry.

(Welcome back to the Museum of Loot & Interesting; a recurring defiance of some idiotic, unwritten “take only pictures, leave everything for the bulldozer” creed in the urbex community.)

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