So here we have possibly one of the smallest, worse-for-wear malls this side of the mighty Mississippi. We’re actually surprised it’s still open for business at all; in fact, a website trying to sell Lincoln Mall indicates it has been “recently de-malled” and “recently rehabbed”. In fact, the whole thing can be yours for the low, low price of $3.5 million. More on this in a bit…
Freeport, Illinois is a small city of just over 26,000 in northwestern Illinois. Because Freeport is only 30 minutes from Rockford, its retail offerings are eclipsed by the better variety and volume found in Rockford. The retail strip which does exist is mostly on IL 26 (West Ave) on the southwest side of town. Here a shopper will find strip malls and chain restaurants galore, including a JCPenney and a Sears. This area would have been a great site for an enclosed mall at some point, especially considering Freeport’s population has been steady at 25,000 since 1930.
But that never happened.
Instead, developers did build Freeport a small, enclosed mall of 186,000 square feet along West Galena Ave (US 20 Business), in 1965 and named it Lincoln Mall, which is appropriate enough as the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates took place downtown. And it has not changed since…well, the structure anyway. Certainly, the anchors and in-line stores have come and gone. Unfortunately, though, they’ve mostly ‘gone’ – away, that is; the last store open inside the mall is locally-owned Degrote TV and it’s right by the main entrance. Earlier in 2008, the mall’s east anchor Menard’s moved to bigger, brand new digs with all the rest of the strip fodder down on S. West Ave. The very large west anchor is currently vacant. It was most recently a Big Lots, but what was it before? Also, a small Dollar General is appended onto the mall structure on the west end, past the former west anchor.
The indoor portion of the mall is bleak at best, and the smell can only be described as a wet, musty basement. The small corridor featured a fair amount of store spaces, 18 to be exact, between Menards and Big Lots, all of which are dark. From labelscars and stickers I could tell that one of the largest spaces back here was Ben Franklin, and another store had cedar shingles. This place has clearly not been touched since 1965, and that’s amazing. I think Mr. Lincoln might be a little upset, though.
So, back to where we started. This website, which indicated the mall has been de-malled and recently rehabbed is apparently ill-informed. I certainly hope they’re not marketing the mall under false pretenses, and that there really is a TIF district established to “help this center grow”. I hate to be skeptical, but there are some really blatant lies there. Anyway, let us know more about this mall. What were the original anchors? What were some of the stores over the years? We visited Freeport’s Lincoln Mall in Summer 2008 and took the pictures featured here. We thought we’d immortalize it before it disappeared without a trace after 40 years.