I discovered this gem of a dead mall while on a road trip to California in July of 2004. Now, Amarillo was a strange place for me to begin with. Something about the flat, wide open spaces on the way into town, and the many signs along I-40 advertising the Big Texan Steak Ranch, where if you eat 4.5 pounds of steak in an hour it’s free. Something about the way I-40 seemed to be the main commercial corridor for Amarillo, and the rest of the city seemed to be locked in a mild slumber. Amarillo’s definitely unique.
When I first saw Western Plaza beneath I-40, I was immediately alarmed to the fact that this mall might no longer be open. Shockingly, it was open, so we went in. Inside were less than a handful (no, really) of stores open, including a Furr’s Cafeteria and a local dance club. The decor inside the mall was ancient. The mall had clearly not been renovated at any point in its history, and although I’m unsure as to the age of the mall I’d bet money that it’s at least from the early 1970s. However, as of my visit I’d say the mall was kept in good condition.
There are definitely some pieces missing to the mall’s story. From what I’ve gathered, the mall was interestingly the location of the first Hastings store in the chain, which opened in 1968. So, I’m guessing it’s about that old. Through the 1970s, the mall enjoyed a great deal of popularity, and had stores like Radio Shack, Orange Julius, Woolco, Montgomery Ward, and Dunlaps. In 1982, Amarillo’s successful, larger Westgate Mall opened just west of Western Plaza along I-40. This probably had a lot to do with the downfall of Western Plaza, as Westgate has all the typical mall stores that any major superregional center would have. In 1997, a tragedy occurred at the mall when a well-known local young man was murdered in the parking lot. An article from 1999 cited the mall as a clustering of hispanic stores serving that community. When I visited in 2004, even this was gone, and nothing was left to replace it. There were far more senior citizens walking the mall than stores for them to shop in. In 2005, it was reported that the mall was no longer heated in the winter and people could see their breath inside the mall. In June, 2006, the Western Plaza mall sign came down, and plans were in the works to eventually raze the entire center and build a new retail development. The Furr’s location has also closed. No word as to whether or not the center is in fact still open for walking.
Obviously there are some missing links in the history of Western Plaza. I’m interested in what exactly the mall’s anchors were, and did the mall fall down fast or was it a slow, gradual death? Maybe there are other factors that led to the mall’s failure. Have any more information? Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. All photos taken July 2004.