Dixie Square Mall

Constructed in 1965-1966 at the cost of $25 million, Dixie Square opened in August 1966 on the site of a former golf course. It had sixty-four shops at its peak, including JCPenney, Woolworth's, and Montgomery Ward as its anchor stores, as well as a Walgreen's drug store. There was also a Jewel supermarket next to Walgreen's, but the supermarket did not open into the mall. Montgomery Ward was the first store to open, doing so in late summer 1965. The JCPenney and Wards stores were considered cutting edge at the time, complete with psychedelic wallpaper and fixtures.

The mall enjoyed four years of success, until around the time the Turn Style discount department store was added in 1970. At this point, crime began to plague the town of Harvey, a failing, poverty-stricken suburb 20 miles (32 km) south of Chicago. Many of the stores, including the anchors, renovated their stores several times in the 1970s in an attempt to keep up with the times. The ailing mall itself went through a renovation in 1976. From 1973 to 1976, Dixie lost many stores, hardest hit by the Montgomery Ward anchor moving out in late 1977. By 1978, it was down to its last twenty stores, with JCPenney finally leaving in late January. The mall closed in November 1978. Walgreen's and Jewel, which were both accessible from outside of the mall, stayed open for another year, departing in 1979.

On January 25, 1979, a full year after closing, JCPenney briefly reopened and held a sale they called "Dixie's Last Gasp," in which they liquidated outdated merchandise, mannequins, and display cases. Only months after Jewel (the last remaining store) closed, director John Landis rented the vacant mall for eight weeks to film The Blues Brothers. The mall interior was used for the famous car chase scene where main characters Elwood and Jake drive through store fronts, display cases and walls and destroy much of the mall while being chased by Illinois state troopers. Much of the mall interior was left in poor condition after filming wrapped.

Following the movie shoot the mall was boarded up once again. It remained like this until 1984, when vandals broke in, destroying and looting the mall, and leaving a number of entrances wide open in the process. By the next year, any piece of metal worth salvaging had been stolen. Over time, weather, lack of maintenance and harsh Chicago winters took their toll on the building.

The shuttered mall gained a reputation as a notorious crime magnet during the early 1990s, with at least one murder and rape taking place there, not to mention abundant gang and drug activity. By this time, there were full-grown trees in the parking lot and cave-ins of portions of the roof.

After a series of botched business deals, demolition started at Dixie Square on December 24, 2005, beginning with the mall's central energy plant adjacent to Montgomery Ward. Part of the Montgomery Ward building was accidentally demolished as well. The Montgomery Ward building was the only part of the mall that was to be saved and remodeled.

References

Wikipedia