This post is a first for us here at Labelscar. The mall featured here is one which neither I nor my blogging partner Caldor have ever visited. Instead, this mall was alerted to us by a reader named Shane from Rock Hill. We have to give him more credit than that, though, because he ended up going to the mall and taking pictures for us. What’s more, the mall has been unsuccessful for 15 years so he had to walk inside through some shattered doors and rubble to get some photos for our site. We think that’s pretty cool.
First, a bit about the city of Rock Hill, then more about the mall itself. Rock Hill, South Carolina is located just south of Charlotte, North Carolina and is part of its metropolitan area. Rock Hill has a population of approximately 60,000, is mostly middle class, and home to a top ten regional public university in the south called Winthrop University which currently enrolls about 6,000 students.
During the 1960s, Cherry Road became the prime commercial retail corridor in Rock Hill. Rock Hill Mall became the centerpiece of this corridor, also opening during the 1960s with anchor stores Belk, Sears, and JCPenney. Rock Hill Mall enjoyed a long period of success into the 1990s, when a new mall came to Rock Hill and stole its thunder. Rock Hill Galleria opened in 1991 just east of I-77 along Dave Lyle Blvd/SC 122, and it took all three of Rock Hill Mall’s anchors with it. Whoops.
The opening of Rock Hill Galleria effectively killed Rock Hill Mall according to a November 1996 article in the Charlotte Business Journal. The mall was almost completely vacant by 1992, and by 1996 the only business operating was a flea market occupying the old Sears space. The article also mentioned a possible redevelopment of Rock Hill Mall by Charlotte-based Faison Associates, which also named Hannaford grocery store, Home Depot, Target, and other smaller stores as possible tenants for a big box conversion of the mall in 1995 or 1996.
That redevelopment never happened. In 1997, the mall was purchased by the Red Lake Catawba Native American tribe which began operating a high-stakes bingo inside the former Sears store. In 2002, South Carolina began a state lottery and business at the bingo dwindled. As of early 2006 it was only open once a week.
Despite the Rock Hill Mall’s abrupt end as a retail center and failed talks to redevelop it as such, other possibilities presented themselves for the mall’s use. In 2002, the Catawba Tribe leased a considerable amount of mall space to RMC Ministries, which operated a teen center in the former mall. However, in Spring 2006 the Catawba Tribe told RMC Ministries they had to vacate the mall, and there was speculation the mall had been sold.
Today, the Rock Hill Mall is an unsalvagable ruin, except for a Carmike Cinema 7 which still operates in the outlot. The roof is leaking, doors are smashed open, and there has been rampant vandalism and graffiti throughout the former center. It is also apparently about to be demolished. Take a look at the pictures taken by our contributor Shane. Also, mouseover each picture for comments explaining each picture in Shane’s own words, and feel free to make comments yourself.