Dixie Square Mall; Harvey, Illinois

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When you look at a city, you’re viewing a kind of publication – a publication written on the landscape in the form of buildings, roadways, parks, and much more. Although these publications in the landscape are not like the ones you can experience in books or newspapers, they can still be read. In their reading, they disclose a product of the set of dreams, visions, aspirations, accidents, and mistakes of people who by various means left a legacy of “text” on the landscape. I’ve always been fascinated by reading this textual fabric and how people have used the built environment to publish their lives and legacies.

A large component of the built environment consists of retail and shopping centers. Since I was very little I was intrigued by retail chains, malls, and the like. Over the years it has become a dedicated interest, and I’ve toured retail landscapes from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine and everything in between. A common misconception is that this hobby is married with that of ’shopping’ – it is not. I have little to no interest in shopping or any sort of excess, but merely in seeing how these retail landscapes transform over time and publish a legacy, for better or worse, relating to the places where they are.

My first post will discuss the former Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. Dixie Square Mall was located at the intersection of 151st St and Dixie Highway in south suburban Chicago. I feel it’s an appropriate place for me to start, because it not only represents the most extreme example of what can go wrong in retailing, but it is also one of the first exposures to this genre of downtrodden retail I had in 1999 (The first of which being River Roads Mall in Jennings, MO). Because Dixie Square Mall is possibly the most publicized ‘dead mall’ and there are more complete articles on wikipedia, and even a film documentary currently being made about the mall, I’ll instead focus on my own personal experiences with the mall and the implications the mall has on the urban millieu of Harvey and that part of Chicagoland

I first wrote about Dixie Square Mall almost exactly five years ago in 2001 on deadmalls, following earlier trips in 1999 and 2000. In fact, it was somewhat of an accident that I discovered Dixie Square Mall in the first place. Caldor and I were driving around Chicagoland in 1998-99, when he noticed Dixie Square Mall labelled on my map. I quickly discounted it as ‘nothing’ and we kept on going. I was so sure I had at least heard of most of the malls in the Chicago area that a mall called Dixie Square, being in Harvey of all places, was simply preposterous to me. Then, a few months later, I investigated further and shockingly discovered that not only was Dixie Square a mall, it was a huge mall. Whoops! Furthermore, the reason I hadn’t heard of it is because it was only successful for a few years in the 1960s. Throughout much of the 1970s the mall was a failure, and everything in it had closed permanently by 1979, several years before I was even born. Even more amazing, I learned the mall had been sitting abandoned ever since.

I’ve been back several times since I first published about it on dead malls dot com almost five years ago. I’ve also learned a lot about the Dixie Square Mall, most notably that the mall was used during the chase scene in the original Blues Brothers movie in 1979, and that a young woman was raped and murdered in the abandoned JCPenney store in 1993. Wow.

But back to what I wrote about at the very beginning of this article. How does Dixie Square Mall function as a text of the landscape of Harvey, or on a greater scale? More succinctly, why did this mall fail? Much of the resources online are dedicated to ‘what happened’ but few delve into ‘why’ – I think an understanding of the events that caused Dixie Square’s failure is as interesting as the downfall of the mall itself. Probably more important than anything else is urban sprawl, which both created and destroyed Dixie Square as well as Harvey as viable places to live and shop. In the post-World War II economic boom, suburbs sprouted up very fast around Chicago as well as many of the nation’s industrial centers. As a result, suburbs such as Harvey grew from zero population to tens of thousands in a matter of less than 20 years. The problems with Harvey, and with all urban sprawl, are twofold. First, there’s nothing dynamic or unique about these suburbs to distinguish them from any other suburb. They don’t contain functional centers where people work, because all the people are commuting into the city. In fact, most 1950s-1970s suburbs look much the same no matter where you go in the entire country. Second, urban sprawl doesn’t stop – it just keeps going (like the Energizer bunny!) Before Harvey was 20 years old, development began to move farther and farther out to places like Orland Park and the exurbs in the Land of Beyond. At the same time we have people both moving out to ‘better’ newer places, we have Harvey, with nothing unique to retain people’s interest. Sounds like trouble to me!

So what’s driving urban sprawl? It has to be more than just the economy. And it is. There are also other considerations, such as the notion of white flight. The issues of who is moving where also drives what happens with urban spaces. As urban sprawl pushed development farther and farther out, the land value in places like Harvey plummeted. As this happened, the (predominantly) African-Americans living in poor conditions (caused by urban sprawl) on the south side of Chicago moved into Harvey and surrounding areas. Because of this, the remaining whites in Harvey also left. Land values plummeted even more, crime rates rose, and more people left. People began to shop at newer, bigger malls in newer suburbs like Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, or Orland Square in Orland Park. This feedback negative cycle makes places like Harvey worse and worse, while constantly investing in things that are shiny-and-new. No one wins except for greedy developers and the brand new suburb-du-jour, and places like Dixie Square become the retail equivalent of a fossil record, indicating poor decisions in urban planning.

As for the future of the mall, your guess is as good as mine. Since 2002, several companies have expressed interest in the site. According to one source, the mall began coming down in February 2006. However, I drove past more recent than that and it was still standing.

I took the following pictures in July, 2001.

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73 Responses to “Dixie Square Mall; Harvey, Illinois”

  1. The mall is coming down, but only in stages. From the pictures I have seen, it would still still look very similar to pre-demo pics. The “developer”, from what I gather, only has crews on site when he is has cash from another deal he has made.

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    Bob Reply:

    @Kelly, it is now December 2011 and they are saying again it is about to come down. I believe they have federal “rebuilding” funds this time, so we shall see.

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    Scott Reply:

    @Bob,
    The Mall is on it’s way down. They finally got the funding and took the heavy machinery to whatever may have been left after 30-40 years of decay. It is now a memory, either as the most well-known dead mall in America or the mall the Blue Brothers trashed. They are preferring people remember it for the movie.

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    Rick Reply:

    @Kelly, The mall is pretty much gone. Was there twice this year and once last year. As of today, only the JC Penny is standing, and it will be gone within the month.

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  2. Wow…that would explain the mall’s current condition then. I recently drove past the mall and saw the former Montgomery Ward building torn down and in a pile of rubble. The rest of the former mall doesn’t appear to have been touched by the demo crews yet; however, access to the mall is sort of limited (by car, anyway) due to the fact they placed a fence around the entire property. It didn’t look like there was recent activity, or even any wrecking equipment around the site…interesting, though. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. A quick clarification or two for you, since I live nearby and have hooked up with the guys at Paw Filmworks, who are doing the documentary about it.

    The Wards building was the only building that was supposed to be saved during the most recent round of shady dealings. The developer had crews on site over the holidays last year and, for some reason, started tearing down the mall at the wards building on christmas or new years (i forget) in the middle of the night. A city planner was appearantly driving past at the time and stopped then. Soon after, the crews disappeared and the mall still stands as is.

    As yet, no further plans have been announced. You can barely see it from Dixie Hwy anymore due to the newer outbuildings, such as the recent police station. After dark (an dangerous time to be there anyway), the mall is almost completely lost in shadows and invisible from the street.

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  4. when it was in a better condition this dead mall was renovated and used for a car chase in the movie The Blues Brothers.

    but now in the condition its in its pretty much toast.

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  5. In some photographs of the interior you could see remnants of the mock stores made in the movie.

    For example the former Walgreens was converted into a Toys R Us in the movie and you can still make out Toys R Us markings in the interior of the former Walgreens.

    Maybe in previous years this mall could have been reusable…

    but now with the condition its in, its pretty much toast.

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  6. WOW….
    I worked a summer job at Montgomery Wards in 1975. The mall was pretty bad then. Hardly anyone there then. Even when they built it, I remember the “adults” saying it was a bad decision. The area was considered a “bad neighborhood” then!

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  7. I remember it as being pretty shabby, even back in the late 70′s when we would occasionally hang out there.

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  8. Harvey’s death was mostly due to intergrated school busing. In the 60′ Harvey was about 95% white. The school district in Harvey was forced by the courts to intergrate some black students from nearby South Holland. The whites were horrifed at this and fled the area (stupid white people!!!). By 1980, Harvey was 98% black, poor, and crime ridden. White flight at in absolute worse. Ironicly, South Holland is now about equal population of blacks and whites.

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    dorothy Reply:

    @Chip,

    I was a child in harvey in the 1960′s and it was far from 95% white. I think it was more like 70% at best, at least my neighborhood.

    We moved there in 1958 and i went away to college in 1970 .

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  9. It should also be noted that corrupt politics in Harvey over the past 20 or so years has had a direct impact on whom could do what to that land.

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  10. I drove around the perimeter of the mall this past Sunday (18th May 2008). It basically looks the same as in your pictures: horrible, rotting, depressing, but a very intriguing place nonetheless.

    There appears to be a chainlink fence surrounding the entire property. But if you wanted to get inside, I doubt anything (or anyONE) would really stop you. I would never, ever, attempt to gain entry by myself. Maybe if I had some friends along (and some decent weaponry), it would be cool. The Harvey Police Dept is situated very close to the mall. Maybe you could get permission from them, though I doubt they would explicitly allow it.

    I come from a rather sheltered upbringing, so it surprises me that there are places in the US that are allowed to look like this. It is a truly disgusting display of neglect and apathy.

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  11. You should go and see River Oaks Mall in Calumet City, IL.

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  12. I was born in Harvey in 1958 and went to the Mall many times in the 60′s. I remember the great snow storm of 67; many folks were stranded slept in the mattress store. This place went to hell because excess shrinkage or what we like to call shoplifting. It also suffered from white flight as folks were terrified of the changing demographic. I remember my Aunt on 154th street telling me that Harvey cops cruised down her alley many times a day (early 70′s). She never even saw them before that. Another time I attended my grandfather’s funeral at the 1st Methodist church. While inside the rims on my 75 Malibu Classic were stolen (1981). Classic newspapers like the Harvey Tribune are only a memory. Massive factories such as Whiting and Ingle Shepherd turning out tanks and planes for our defense in the 1940’s are but a memory. I remember the parades on holidays where the fire fighter’s would throw candy to the kids from high upon their pumping trucks. There also used to be the “ABC” outdoor theater which used left over building from the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Harvey is a great old city and it holds scores of memories from my early childhood. It is sad to see it in its current state.

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    Dale Johnson Reply:

    @Craig, I used to work for Wurlitzer organ store in Dixie Square. I also worked for the Harvey Park District. I was born and raised in Harvey.

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  13. There was also a great restaurant at the mall called Armonds. I remember the menu’s with a picture of baby Armand on the back. They also had a novelty store there were you could purchase a cigarette holder in the shape of a donkey. When you lifted its tail a cigarette would automatically come out of its backside. My older brother worked at the Hickory Farms store and would always bring home whiskey sour candy. We used to purchase tropical fish from Wards. I remember my father purchased a boat and outboard motor from wards. Sea King. In inherited it several years later and could not get parts for it. This was the first place I ever saw indoor water fountains. I remember watching the blues brothers when I was in the Air Force at McChord, AFB in 1980. No one believed me when I said I used to shop at the mall in the movie. Enough babbling. This is what happens when an old man takes Gingko Biloba. Thanks for the pictures of Harvey. I am all that is left of my family and it brings back so many memories.

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  14. ^^ Yep. It’s still there. …lol

    The place is fascinating.
    Ironically, this monument, or tombstone, if you will, of the demise of Harvey, IL is what may become the city’s salvation someday.
    The popularity of this ‘dead mall’, and it’s movie stardom, draws curious visitors to the area, whom would otherwise never have reason to come anywhere near.

    Despite the site’s worst criminal happenings before or after closing down, and the locals who could care less anymore, it is somehow more appealing the place has been left a rotting nostalgia. Isn’t it?

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  15. I was born in harvey. And watched the mall many times the city or someone should buy it and restore it. does anyone think that can be done.

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  16. Retail History Blog…

    I drove around the perimeter of the mall this past Sunday (18th May 2008). It basically looks the same as in your pictures: horrible, rotting, depressing, but a very intriguing place nonetheless.

    There appears to be a chainlink fence surrounding the e…

  17. I was just at the mall last week 9/08 and I agree that it is a pretty cool peice of history, but it comes with a price. The area is bad and I have done some plumming in Dolton and it’s surrounding area’s but we don’t go into Harvey. Now I know why. I have grown facinated with this whole dead malls thing and this is the mall that got me started. The Blues Brothers is an alltime favorite movie of mine so I had to check it out. I suggest you do to just be careful there are dogs, homeless, and plenty of trash and rubble. I did however happen to get a nice big brick from its original structure that made my day, but be carefull in the area. (I almost felt safer around the mall) Check it out hopefully it won’t be around much longer to see!

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  18. I wish it could be saved and reopened. Harvey and its residence; however, don’t seem to have any pride so it will never be.

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    bankhead Reply:

    @Paul,
    I remember how excited we were when they were building and then opened Dixie Square and how quickly it seemed to decline. My dad who has lived in Harvey since the 1940s, and my best friend’s parents who still live across the street from him, have plenty of pride. There is a Harvey reunion in Harvey every year and many current and former residents return to celebrate the glory years. My dad started his adult life working at one of the factories in Harvey and retired from Metra. I take exception to your comment about the current residents seemingly having no pride. Harvey has gone the way of many urban manufacturing cities…no factories, no reinvestment of capitol and no jobs.

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  19. Reopened? It’s a pile of rubble that has been completely abandoned for over 20 years. I doubt the remaining structure is sound.

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  20. “It’s a pile of rubble that has been completely abandoned for over 20 years.”

    Actually, it’s a mountain of asbestos, shrapnel, and toxic waste that’s been abandoned for 20 years in a dangerous, crime-ridden slum that nobody would ever want to go to except to view this amazing deadmall.

    Other than that- yeah, it would be a good idea to spend a couple billion dollars to restore it to the crummy mall in a bad area it was a few years after opening.

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  21. Lol… it will probably fall down on its own before anyone can take it down. No ones going to ‘restore’ it. I’m surprised anything is left at all.

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  22. This mall reminds me of an eerily similar empty, crumbly, dangerous yet somewhat haunting structure, the Ryungyong Hotel in North Korea, the hotel itself is 110 stories with 7 spinning restaurants on top, like good ole Dixie Square it was the talk of the town, it was put on a postage stamp BEFORE it was even built, but unlike the Ry Hotel, this mall was a nice, happenin’ place back in the day, :) the hotel NEVER opened and it’s left to rot as a great disgrace, just like poor ole Dixie, NoKo decided not to finish that building and left it alone, undone and with a crane on the top, here in Harvey, the same thing has happened, it’s time to put both the Ry Hotel and poor Dixie out of their misseries :(

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  23. It is very sad. I remember those stores (Wards, JcPenny , Sears, Woolworths) from my youth. From some of your pics (even in the horrid condition) I can still see them how they looked in their day.

    I am always amazed how what when out of fashion (in this case indoor malls) are now starting to come back.

    I think the demize, lack of restoration and/or not demolished is squarly on the corrupt goverment of Harvey. Pure and simple.

    The main thing I still find totally amazing is that alot of it;even after all the fires, vandalism, stealing, criminal activity of all types, and mother nature herself,; that alot of it is still standing (abit unsafe).

    I see modern houses built and occupied today that don’t last as long as this mall has AFTER being neglected for 20 years. Think of how it would have been if it had been kept up.

    Maybe the true lesson to be learned is to build buildings like we used to.

    Modern building teniques may not be all that great.

    My 2 cents.

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  24. I have never been to the mall personally when it was open or even closed but by looking at pictures and videos this mall is far beyond repair for any needs. What shocks me is that harvey is not getting rid of this 1970′s mall that has been closed for more than 30 years exposed to the elements. The mall is unsafe and for anyone’s protection it needs to be raized no questions asked.If demo crews dont take this down I give jc penny about 6 months to a year and if the mall itself can stand without jc penny then turn style in the next 2 to 4 years and if that mall can withstood another anchor falling then i give the mall about 6 months after turnstyle falling so about 2013-2014 and it will be in peaces.

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  25. Is it true that you can gain access by contacting the Harvey police department? I’m sure they don’t have anything better to do. Ha

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  26. Like Craig, I grew up in that mall. I lived in nearby Markham and would often ride my bike to the Jewel at Dixie Square to pick up groceries for my mother.
    I remember Armonds too and also Hardy’s Shoes, Turnstyle, Thom McCann and of course, Wards and JC Penny. Sears was never apart of this mall, as I remember. Sears did have a coupon redemption center in Harvey. In fact, it occupied the space built by the Jewel company when it moved the store to Dixie Square. In the early 70′s there was even a great little “Head” shop in the mall that sold incense burners and black light posters in it.

    As has been mentioned previously, crime is what ultimately doomed that mall. I’ll never forget the time my front bicycle wheel was stolen right off the bike rack and I had to walk my bike back home to Markham (about two miles). On the way down Wood St. I was stopped by two cops who wanted to know why I walking down the street with a one-wheel bike. They laughed when I told them my front wheel was stolen at Dixie Square and drove off leaving me to walk the rest of the way home.

    Still, I have mostly wonderful memories of the place. Many Christmas seasons of the 60′s and early 70′s center around this mall. I was shocked when I saw it in the Blues Brothers movie. By then, I was in college and made quite a scene in the theater trying to convince my friends that I knew that mall and had grown up there.

    I didn’t know there was a documentary about the mall. I hope to see it someday.

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  27. I was born in Harvey. Some of my earliest memories are form the Dixie Square Mall in early 70′s.

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  28. I never knew this mall really existed. I thought it was part of Universal Studios Backlot. Part of “Blues Brothers” was filmed at Universal Hollywood. Or a matter of fact, I thought the mall scene itself was filmed in a Hollywood mall. But to see this is a real mall, it made the chase scene better.

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  29. Saw a Coyote and a full size Fox this Easter morning at Dixie Mall.

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  30. I grew up in Markham on the edge of Harvey by Dixie Square Mall. I have fond memories of Dixie Square. I remember going there to purchase my first 45. I also remember that it was having problems but lost out on a deal to be purchased and revitalized because Lincoln Mall in Matteson opened and the powers that be felt that people would fell more comfortable traveling to Matteson than to Harvey. Harvey has some problems but there are a lot of great people still living there.

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  31. Maybe the History Channel can use the place for its “Life After People” series.

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  32. Now that I’m rereading about Dixie Square Mall(after not reading it in ages), I think it’d be interesting if someone at Labelscar did an entry on Regency Mall in Augusta, GA, which has been closed since 2002. It’s a similar mall to both River Roads in Jennings, MO(Saint Louis), and Dixie Square in the sense that it’s an abandoned mall that has been shuttered for many years.

    Maybe at least a guest writer could do an entry on that mall in the future, at least. It does sadden me though(and getting back to Dixie Square), that the city of Harvey hasn’t found some successful way to redevelop that property.

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  33. I worked at Dixie Square for Wurlitzer. I played organ and was a salesman.The mall was really cool,as was Harvey at that time.I was born and raised in Harvey and was Supt. of the Harvey Park District at one thim.

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  34. Great memories from most posts on here, thank you. Some, are so out of left field, I had to respond. Harvey was no 98% black by 1980. Not even close. I have my grade school yearbooks to prove it. 60/40 maybe. I don’ think it is all the way to 90/10 to this day. Major business there were on the down side, but still going strong. Illinois Bell, Allis Chalmers, Allied Tube, Whiting, Wyman Gordon. etc. All now gone. White flight sure happened. I lived it. But it did not happen via South Holland. SH was as lily white as you could get, even after Harvey. What that poster should have said was the influx from Markham, Phoenix, Chicago Heights, and Robbins.
    You can’t under estimate the competition of Lincoln Mall not 15 minutes south. Bigger, better, newer. That’s what the burbs, and malls, were all about. Harvey just got swept up in that wave and got buried.
    Quick trivia for you Blues Brothers fans. Ever wonder how they filled the parking lot outside the mall? The used cars from a dealership across the street called Bauer Buick. To protect these cars, NOTE the cars on the ends of each row. They are junkers! Long live the good memories of Harvey Illinois!

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    Sharon Reply:

    @Dave-O,

    Lincoln Mall in Matteson is dead too. Seems like River Oaks and Orland Square are the only malls in the south suburbs. LOL

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    Chip Reply:

    @Sharon, Chicago Ridge Mall is still doing well. Probably the last healthy small mall in Chicagoland

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  35. http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/07/dixie-square-mall-harvey-illinois-blues-brothers.html

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    Jonah Norason (Pseudo3D) Reply:

    Only the old JCPenney burnt down…

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  36. Hearing about how bad the neighborhood is around this mall is enough to make anyone cringe. No amount of redevelopment will help this area with the crime rate at an all-time high.

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  37. Made a trip down to DSM to assess the damage from the fire and from the exterior it’s not too apparent. It seems several areas were on fire. The former JC Penney which spread toward the Jewel, (one can see roof tiles charred on the East side.
    On the inside near the atrium towards the former Wards, a wooden retaining wall had been burned as well (far from the other fire).
    Coincidentally there is one neon sign still left in the mall, General Nutrition Center.

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  38. So you guys got me going down a huge time sink reading about t his mall – thanks a LOT! Fascinating stuff, interesting pictures, and now we have brass knuckles to boot!

    Here is a dumb question, why do these malls stand as a public nuisance for 20+ years? Surely this violates some kind of building code and the city can demo the property then bill the owner. If the owner does not pay they can take out a lien against the property.

    I am guessing that the city does not have the up-front cash to demo it, or even loan a developer the cash to tear down the property and remove the debris, but you would think that you could appeal for grants or state funding or SOMETHING, especially with the property itself as collateral. They have had several years now to get this figured out.

    I realize that this is a complex situation but to me it just looks like insanity.

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  39. Laura,
    Harvey has been rife with political problems and issues surrounding this property. At one point it was given over to the city, they had plans to redevelop the site but sold it to avoid the costs themselves. From there it has been from one shady owner to another. As time goes on the costs to ready the site for new development actually get higher because of asbestos and toxic/environmental reasons I imagine. The city took the last owner to court. No idea if they have plans to do so with the current owner. Again it’s curious that some clear arson occurs with a building in this state. If the property becomes a loss to the owner through fire, it could be an easy way to get rid of the problem site and collect a nice insurance check.

    Ugh.. motto: never, ever buy a mall of any sort! ;)

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  40. Allan, go to Deadmalls DOT com. It’s there with many recent photo’s. Wow, it does look pretty bad. Click on Dead Mall Features then select GA and you will see it. Dixie Square on the other hand, a documentary should be done on this one. BAD. Really Bad. I wrote DeadMalls and they have an entery in there about it. I wrote them and explained they need to do a documentary on this one and I never heard back. I’m not even from Harvey or even close, and I find this mall extemely interesting.

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  41. Well im not too far away. About 20mins from this mall.

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  42. When I was 6 we moved to Harvey in 1969, I used to ride my bike up to Dixie Square (till the bike was stolen!) I rode that bike everywhere, Harvey used to have a VERY nice public pool towards downtown Harvey, I rode my bike there too (got chased on the way to and from the pool, to take that bike!). We used to go into Dixie Square to buy records, JCPenney had records, and there was a Musicland in the mall. I bought my TI-30 for high school from the JCPenney, They used to have these neat ‘waterfalls’ kinda like those cheesy lamps with the oil falling down the strings, down by the Wards. Dixie Square had a ‘self serve’ Post Office it was on one of the islands in the parking lot, you just drove up and bought stamps from the machines. I remember when they built TurnStyle my mom used to go there for school supplies. There was a Walgreens there too, it was next to the Jewel food store. During the holidays, Woolworth used to have a glass craftsman at the entrance making figurines… and there was a Hickory Farms store not just a stand, and a camera shop. When Wards closed, that part of the mall deteriorated quickly I think they put a security office at the info desk by Wards, at the intersection of the two arms of the mall was the Woolworth and there was a Currency Exchange. There was also a place called #1Fun, it was an arcade. I think it was next to the Radio Shack (don’t forget the ‘battery of the month club’) It was a cool place to hang around when I didn’t have a car, but as soon as I got a license I went to Orland Square. I do remember Armands, I think my oldest sister was a waitress there. And there was a store down on the Wards end called ‘Imports of Intrigue’ Oh, my wife just told me her parents car was stolen from there when she was a kid. The whole Blues Brothers thing was on the hush, we just thought it was funny that JCPenney and Jewel signs were put back up, and there were hundreds of cars in the parking lot. Got to see them film then end of the chase scene. Just some of my memories….

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  43. I live in Chicago but one of the big stories at the time of the Blues Brothers movie was that the mall was never reimbursed for the destruction created during the filming. Not sure how true it is but it was stated that the producers of the Blues Brothers agreed to pay for a certain restoration after the film. Thing actually went downhill afterwards. The mall never came back to it potential and that was in 1977

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  44. Does anyone have information on William Goodwyn? He was the 28 year old male who was murdured outside Montgomery Wards, did the case ever get solved?

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  45. My grandfather and some of his relatives owned the pallet company that was directly across Dixie Hwy from the mall.

    I was born in 82′ and visited him at that shop since I could remember.

    As a kid, everything is mystified and made wonderfully fascinating; so that big, old, eerie, curious structure sitting across the street from us was always an object of wonder for me. I would sit out in front of my granddad’s shop on a milk-crate or a pallet and just stare at that thing.

    I wondered what it was once, what it was then, why did it look like it did, and what happened to it. I was completely consumed by curiosity. All my grandfather ever said was it was an old mall that had ‘run down’. And yes, I always asked if he ever shopped there, did he remember it, and would he take me over to see it up close…and I’d ask over and over again each visit. lol

    I came across these postings because I was searching for Evergreen Plaza…which I had been told was torn down. After finding out it hadn’t been…I read about some of the old demolished parts of it, and I wanted to see pictures. Before I got to that, I googled Ford City to see if maybe my source had mixed the 2 malls up. I saw it was still standing and memories streamed through my mind.

    At Evergreen, I remember that statue of some guy on a horse…it was in front or by a beauty salon. Of course, the last time I saw that had to be back in maybe very early 90′s…I moved from Chicago in 95′, so…

    ANYWAY!!! I got stuck on Dixie Square’s name…I thought ‘could this be that strip mall across from the shop?!?!?’ YES!! And after finding out there was so much to the place than that little strip that I could see, I have spent approximately 4 1/2 hours reading and looking at pics. I am entranced. (is that how u spell that?)

    And now after seeing so many pics and the google satellite shot of it, I think what I could see from the old shop might be one of the police department buildings, no??? The shop I’m speaking of was named Blackhawk Pallets…and I don’t know if it is still there or not (I’ll call my grandfather this weekend, you best be sure!)

    Could someone clarify for me? If you know the shop’s proximity to the mall across Dixie Hwy, WHAT PART OF THE MALL WAS I LOOKING AT?! All those thoughts as a child while staring at that place…man. I do remember arches… Does that help?

    Finally, I’d like to admit my fascination with abandoned places…ESPECIALLY ones that I remember from my youth in some way or another. And the bigger and busier the place was at one time, the more intriguing.

    Awesome history, folks! Thank you so much for taking me down memory lane.

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  46. I spoke with my grandfather, and it’s the Montgomery Wards building that we could see directly in front of us. He said that he used to go to Ward’s all the time and even had an account (something that was a big deal).

    He also agreed that the desire to shop at the newer, bigger mall in a safer neighborhood is what killed Dixie Square.

    And according to him, the mall was really nice in its hey-day. Then according to my aunt, toward the later 70′s not much was there anymore and it was pretty barren.

    What I wouldn’t give to walk that mall back in its booming era, AND when it was well into its decline.

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  47. Thanks for sharing your insight, Mike. As a kid I also was interested in large, abandoned buildings, what their original purpose was and how they got to be that way.

    I’ve long been interested in dead malls, but oddly hadn’t heard of Dixie Square until a friend mentioned it to me in May. I ventured there a month later and was shocked by the true disheveled state of the complex!

    Since the visit, I’ve read extensively on this place. I have a few questions and am wondering if anyone has any insight on them:

    * Does anyone know how many store spaces were at Dixie Square after the 1970 addition of Turn Style? I came across this ad someone posted (link here: http://www.uer.ca/locations/viewgal.asp?picid=218528) that presumably was in the mall’s later years when it was simply renamed “Dixie.” The ad states Dixie had 33 stores at that point, which I’m sure was a major decline from the height of the mall’s popularity.

    * Were there any interior stores that remained open at Dixie Square throughout the mall’s entire run — 1966 to 1978? Walgreens and Jewel, the last two holdouts, I guess would two obvious retailers, although they technically aren’t “interior stores” since they could be accessed from outside. Were there any interior stores?

    * Numerous reports state the Dixie Mall had 20 stores at the beginning of 1978. I’m guessing that number continued to dwindle leading up to the mall’s closure in November of that year. Does anyone know what stores were in the mall during its last days?

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  48. Whatever happened to the Dixie Square documentary film that was being talked about a few years ago?

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    Sarah Reply:

    @Kevin, I read from one of the DSM photographers on Flickr that he just kinda up and disappeared. The documentary’s website no longer works.

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  49. I remember being at the JC Penny’s the weekend before the mall closed as a small child in 1979.

    They used to have such a wide selection of HO scale electric trains. I used to just go an look at them all. Some were inside glass cases set up on a small piece of track with a realistic diorama. You pressed a button on the side and the trays would rotate so you could see the different trains.. like a motorized jeweler’s case.

    Also they had a huge section of ViewMaster 3-D cartridge wheels. So many it blew my mind. However they were all very expensive so as a kid I wasn’t even able to sample one. After the place closed up, I never saw a store with such a huge selection of ViewMaster 3-D cartridge wheels again. Maybe this was a 1970s thing? However 3-D is now coming back… this was High Def 3-D and still is, requiring no electricity, just a light source.

    I barely remember hearing about how the movie was going to revitalize the mall and the area. It was a source of excitement back then, and I think people were proud that Hollywood came to Harvey. Maybe it is true that the producers reneged on some deal, leaving the revitalizing of the mall in the dust. I hope the documentary movie about Dixie Square Mall answers this question.

    I had always heard that for a time this was one of the greatest malls in all of the Chicagoland area.

    By the way, for anyone planning on visiting this dead mall, and wants a Blues Brothers connection included in your visit, then travel South on Dixie Highway from the rubble of the mall until you hit Lincoln Highway (Route 30). Take a right onto 30 and travel West until you find a McDonald’s on the south side of Route 30. (It’s a few miles East of Lincoln Mall.) This McDonald’s has erected a permanent, life-sized indoor display of the original Blues Brothers in mid-dance.

    Grab your half a pack of cigarettes, your sunglasses, in the dark… and hit it, after your dead mall jaunt.

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  50. A new plan and a new developer has surfaced to replace Dixie Square Mall:

    http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2010/02/new-developer-plans-to-tear-down-blues-brothers-mall.html

    A pretty aggressive timetable if you ask me. Isn’t the place tied up in litigation involving improper asbestos cleanup, not to mention the former developer’s assault against his demolition guy? It’ll be interesting to see if anything pans out. If a new fence pops up in the next few weeks I’d be inclined to say the mall is through.

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  51. I had read that a young girl was raped and murdered in the abondoned JC penny in the early 1980′s, does anyone know anything about that? who she was? was her killer ever caught?

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    Prange Way Reply:

    @Frost, The murder/rape happened in 1993, and indeed occurred in the former JCPenney anchor.

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  52. Who was the girl who got raped here in jc penney? I’ve done a lot of research, but I can’t find anything on it.

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    Pseudo3D Reply:

    @Vinny,

    Denise Shelby. It took him four years to strangle her to death. Shelby was an adult woman, the girl that was killed happened in the 1970s.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20071010054534/http://www.pawfilmworks.com/DSMHistory.html

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  53. my cousin…..neicy rest in peace.

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  54. I have become obsessed with this as of late. I have visited DSM about 4 times. My first aim was to get a sense of the place. I wanted to see the location of the best movie chase scene ever. Now having become intamately familiar with the place, and the history. I have a new sensability about the whole mall. I met the homless guy who has dedicated his life,,,,to destroying the building. He proudly claims responsibility for setting fires in Woolworths, Mongomery Wards,,,the front entrance. When I met him,,,,he was busily hammering bolts out of the upstairs floor in JC Penny’s. Half of of it has already collapsed due in no small part,,,to his efforts.
    I was amazed to find a smashed toy truck near the entrance to former walgreens/Toy R Us… And to realize this was part of the movie set 30 years ago.

    DSM is too far gone to be restored. In many places, the roof has already collapsed. On my last visit it had been raining. The place was 6 inches deep in water,,,,EVERYWHERE! Very sad

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  55. [...] the Dead Malls article on Dixie Square Mall which became a resource for many urban explorers revisited his thoughts on the subject years later. His observations on the decay of the mall in the broader context of suburb development [...]

  56. I made a trip up to DSM in August 2011 – Not much inside, but was neat considering its use in a film, got some pics: http://urban-explorer.elementfx.com/Dixie-Mall.php

    Pics: http://urban-explorer.elementfx.com/gallery/index.php?cat=34

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  57. The mall is currently being demolished, starting with the Turn-Style anchor (northeast corner of the mall). Other areas will follow as they are cleard of asbestos. The entire mall should be entirely gone and the site cleared of debris and utilities by late Spring or early summer. RIP DSM.

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  58. Photos from last year and this week:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rickthephotoguy/

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  59. Mall is mostly gone now (late April 2012). Only the steel framework of Penney’s remains; it’ll be gone soon.

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    Charles Reply:

    @Charles,

    Its all gone now.

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  60. Wow. I just happened on this website. My family used to own 3 stores in the Dixie Squar Mall. We had two record stores, The Record Box, one near JC Penneys and one near Montgomery Wards and a novelty shop. It was really too bad the owners of the mall who also owned River Oaks Mall decided to let Dixie Square Mall close. Frankly the mall should have never closed. There were plenty of people trying to get stores in the mall before it’s closing. I’m not sure exactly why they decided to let the mall close but i suspect the changing community had something to do with it.

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