Disco Mall

Disco Mall

Initially planned as an anonymous, open-air shopping center by the Montgomery Ward & Company department store — in partnership with developer Landau & Heyman, and the architect firms of Sidney C. Finck, and H. Thurber Stowell & Associates — the Belvidere Mall ushered-in a new era of commerce and socializing for the city of Waukegan, IL when it opened as an enclosed center in 1965.  With Wards as its primary anchor store, the mall lured away the first major name in retail from downtown Waukegan – a gap that would only grow in the decades to come. Together with Walgreen’s, Fairway Supermarket, a restaurant, and the 1966 addition of a General Cinema theater: Belvidere Mall was the first in Lake County to offer shopping, dining and entertainment all under the same roof.

Despite initial success, Belvidere has a turbulent history since the 1971-opening of the colossal Lakehurst Shopping Center only five minutes west. In 1987, that very mall poached Montgomery Ward, leaving Belvidere anchorless for some time. The mall survived by hosting indoor swap meets and flea markets through the late-80s into the ’90s, eventually rebranding itself as a discounter hosting family-owned (primarily Hispanic) retailers, community events and local services. In an ironic twist of fate, it was Lakehurst that ultimately faltered and met its demise in the mid-aughts.

The Montgomery Ward building, empty for years, was torn down and rebuilt as a 120,000 square-foot Builder’s Square, Kmart Corporation’s home improvement chain, with no mall entrance in 1995. Upon completion, however, Kmart had sold Builder’s Square to the similar home improvement chain, Hechinger, who subsequently crashed and burned into nonexistence by the end of the millennia. Fortunately The Home Depot was in the midst of aggressive expansion, and quickly filled the recently-vacated space at Belvidere.

Belvidere Boogie Nights

The mall, despite age and battle scars, still survives to this day.

Polaroid 600SE
Mamiya-Sekor 127mm f/4.7
CineStill 800T

Polaroid SLR-680 SE
Impossible Project Color 600

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Prints from this entry are available at ArtWauk, on the third Saturday of each month.

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