Great Northern Mall; Clay, New York

Great Northern Mall sign at night in Clay, NY

The major driving force in the de-malling of metro Syracuse was the one-two punch of the 1988 opening of Wilmorite Properties’ Great Northern Mall in Clay, one of the city’s northern suburbs, followed by the 1990 opening of the Carousel Center in Syracuse proper.

Unlike the Carousel Center, however, the Great Northern Mall is a very typical mid-sized (891,000 square foot) suburban mall. One of our readers, XISMZERO, even remarked at how flat-out boring that Great Northern is, and to be fully honest, it’s hard to disagree. Great Northern is certainly a successful mall, anchoring a large retail strip along route 31. But likely due to its late-eighties vintage, it doesn’t have many unique design elements or features to make it stand out, beyond the weird yellow walls. Even the center court fountain–which might’ve been interesting–was under renovation for our visit. Judging by this PDF on the Great Northern Website, it sounds like the fountain is being removed (boo!) in favor of a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee bar with a seating area and wifi access (which isn’t a bad idea, but still…).

Great Northern Mall’s original anchor tenants included Addis & Dey’s, Hess’s, Sibley’s, and Sears. Locally-based Addis & Dey’s closed in 1993 and was replaced by Dick’s Sporting Goods; Hess’s was replaced by locally-based Chappell’s in 1994, who were in turn acquired by The Bon-Ton in 1995. The Bon-Ton closed this store and their store at the Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt in early 2006; this location is now vacant but will soon become a JCPenney. Sibley’s was merged into the May empire in 1990, becoming a Kaufmann’s, and that store was rebranded as Macy’s in summer 2006. Sears is the lone original anchor remaining, along with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Regal Cinemas, H&M, and Old Navy as major current tenants.

I also found a daytime photo of the pylon.

Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Former Bon-Ton store at Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY

Mall directory for Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Center court construction at Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY

Food court at Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall Sears in Clay, NY Great Northern Mall in Clay, NY

15 Responses to “Great Northern Mall; Clay, New York”

  1. I’ve got a whole bunch of pics of the legendary Great Northern pilon. As for the mall? I refrained for the most part when a buddy of mine told me he was ordered to deleted them all by a tyranical security guard.

    Not pictured here is the amazingly untouched original 1988 Toys R Us still draped in rainbow colors. Check out my album with plenty of photos.


    umbagent Reply:

    @XISMZERO, your pics aren’t available anymore !!! omg this is exactly what I was looking for. If you have old pics please email me



  2. That’s why I use a camera phone. The pictures obviously aren’t as good (especially if pocket lint gets on the lens and I forget to clean it off!) but I’m generally able to not worry about it. As a result I haven’t ever had any major issues with mall security, though Prangeway certainly has–read his post about the Washington Mall in Pennsylvania, where he talks about how he was chased onto the highway!


  3. Yeah, careful with pictures. If you don’t have a camera phone, turn off the flash on a digital camera. Sure, the pictures will turn out worse than if you used a flash, but there’s less chance of being nailed.

    If asked to stop, do so, and if to leave, also do so. It’s not worth having your expensive things confiscated, never to be seen again.

    A couple years back I was snapping interiors of Woodfield in IL (featured a few posts down). Of course, security approached, but I just explained that 1: I was a tourist, and 2: I was just doing concourse shots and shots of the sculptures. Thankfully he was cool with that, so long as I didn’t take pics of individual storefronts.

    Then again, Woodfield probably expects this of tourists, being such a huge mall and everything.

    This is why I focus more on the struggling malls, than the ones that still have some life in them. Then again, after PrangeWay’s experience in PA, I may have to take my words back.

    My most recent roadtrip I had no issues whatsoever. I was up in Manitowoc to document the dying Edgelake Plaza…I hope to get my writeup and images to this blog, if I knew who to contact and send the images to.


  4. The Toys R Us pics from the first comment look just like the Catonsville, MD store, which also hasn’t been touched since the 70s or so. The entire shopping center has been refaced in the past few years, and Pier 1 and Panera Bread were added to the lineup, but yet that store remains as a flashback to the past. I’ve wondered if that’s a harbinger of doom; there are two bigger, newer, better located, and busier stores within a 10-mile radius, and consequently, I’ve always been surprised when the store closing lists came out and Catonsville wasn’t on them. Anyway, great pics, and while that does look like the most boring mall in the world, I loooove that sign.


  5. Why not take pictures of individual storefronts? Let me guess, trade secrets? Cause when a trade secret is publically displayed, it isn’t a secret!!!
    Those malls are so full of themselves, no wonder they are dying. Smug.


  6. I went to this mall last march and got in trouble for taking pictures as well, It seems this mall is very strict about picture taking. the security guard told me they got complains from ruby tuesday. I have only had two picture taking incidents at malls in the last 10 years in this mall and holyoke. I was told to stop and they have this rule due to advertising issues, but continued across the street. they said for picture taking when I said I was a tourist “you need written prior approval”, but there is no guarentee of that. this mall is medium sized, and the bon ton lebel scar was there when I was there. I loved how the toys r us near was brown.


  7. I’m the one that XISMZERO refers to in his comment as the one who was forced to delete my pictures. Even more frustrating is that the Dick’s Sporting Goods at the time, had the old logo.. now it’s been remodeled. doh!

    Also, Hess’s was in where Dick’s is now, and Addis and Deys was were Bon Ton was(future JCPenney). If you notice, the Bon Ton store has the same architectural features as their Saratoga Springs store, which was also a former A&D store.


  8. Jack, go check the Dick’s Sporting Goods topic at Ames Fan Club. There’s an aerial of the Dick’s I discovered from before the remodel posted. Also, there’s a few older red locations (with the lower case logo) still out there; one in Horseheads, NY, and even one like it in West Springfield, MA. I’ll have to go get some shots and present them there soon once this dreadful snow goes away. Argh.


  9. Here’s a more complete set I failed to capture last August. I took a three day “vaca” just this May to upper Syracuse but more specifically for that Toys “R” Us I’ve been pining over shooting obsessively for almost a year. I suggest you edit this article in forgetting to mention the Sears here has the rare red-plated plexiglas. Feel free to request or add any photos you want to the entry should you decide to edit. I couldn’t make the place seem that interesting as most of the corridors look the same but at least it has that wideness Wilmorite charm. Here’s the full gallery of the Great Northern Mall…

    I came here last year (2006) and the mall was going through a transition (removal of fountain, Kaufmann’s to Macy’s, loss of Bon-Ton). Funny thing about Great Northern, a Macerich-owned center originally built by Wilmorite, it’s not going to receive a complete makeover (beyond the recent fountain removal for Dunkin’ Donuts coffee bar) like many other centers including one like-owned center just south of it (Shoppingtown Mall) which is getting the top blown right off!


  10. I remember the mall when it first opened- my mother and younger sister were actually among the first shoppers to enter the mall when it opened (I was stuck in school that day). Except for stores, it hasn’t really changed much since it opened in ’89. The center court fountain used to be amazing, and during holiday seasons the fountain was drained and turned into an elaborate setup for Santa or the Easter Bunny. I can’t believe they turned it into a Dunkin’ Donuts- there’s a Dunkin’s across the street from the mall!

    It’s great to see an article about Great Northern, even though it has gone downhill lately- I practically grew up there and in the long-dead Penn-Can mall.


  11. I had to chuckle at people talking about how boring the mall looked. I worked for Addis and Dey’s and opened that location with them. Even back then we nicknamed the mall “Great Boredom” ; this was back in…I forget… 87/88ish.


  12. I find it odd that a Macerich center is so strict about photography. I have – quite frequently – taken pictures and video at Queens Center, which is in NYC, and not once was I told to put away the camera.


  13. oh and I found a secret at GN mall the other day. At the Old Bon Ton entrance inside the mall if you go past the Hurricane machine, go to the entrance of Bon Ton, go to the left glass and at first it looks like you cannot see through the glass but there is an open slot at eye level and you can see inside the store!! There’s really nothing in there but its weird how just looking in there gave me flashbacks!!


  14. The Macys store is the same architecture as the store at the McKinley Mall in suburban Buffalo


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