The Wayne Hills Mall

The Wayne Hills Mall opened its doors in 1973 and shut them forever in 2015. During those forty-two years in which the shopping center operated, generations of people came to know it well. One often thinks of a shopping mall as a large, faceless shrine to excess. A temple to some deity of consumerism... and in many ways that would be a true assessment. This mall was a bit different though. Wayne Hills was never a large-scale shopping center, it was always a rather small facility even by the measures of the 1970s. What it lacked in size it made up for in other ways, and it’s those other ways which make the closing of the Wayne Hills Mall something to reflect upon.

Over time, the modest size of the Wayne Hills Mall made it into a kind of community center for the area, a place where people and families running errands would often bump into friends. A mall that doubled as a social gathering place for numerous locals, many of them bringing their children, as their parents had brought them. Wayne Hills possessed a distinct quality which is absent in most other shopping centers, and it was at its most tangible during the holiday season. Every year the Wayne Hills Mall welcomed children to see Santa, hear his songs, and take home a photo, all free of charge. Most anyone who knew the mall said it had a warmth to it, and because of that its closure carried a rare emotional weight, a sense of remorse not often granted commercial retail properties.

Whatever warmness was once here had long gone before we set foot within. Outside the weather toed the line between rain and snow, eventually deciding upon a downpour of half-frozen slush. Within the mall, it was the same. A deluge of water and ice poured unending through the jeopardized concrete roof, soaking us and our equipment as we documented what would be the mall’s final days. The demolition company was away on holiday leave, but had already been well at work picking apart the former mall from the inside out. We struggled for a time to find any respite that we could from the freezing cascades which flowed from the ceiling, ultimately discovering a relatively dry sanctuary in a nook at the rear of a dilapidated clothing shop.

It was days until Christmas, this was always the time of year Wayne Hills shined. Not this year. How dark and dire the mall had come to be. The cold air which surrounded us was piercing, and we trembled against it, but for all our discomfort the mall seemed far more miserable than we.

  We documented the Wayne Hills Mall over several months, and every time we returned less and less of the mall remained to greet us. This segment depicts our initial visit to the property, a time when much of the mall remained intact, but there were signs everywhere of preparation work being done for the imminent demolition.

 A small stage where the mall Santa once welcomed children.

 Walden Books, dead long before the mall.

The hub of the mall, now a half-frozen mire.

A lost shopping cart from a neighboring Kmart wanders the empty mall parking lot.

Several years prior to demolition we managed to capture some (admittedly poor) images of the mall with our cellphones, showing the shopping center in its last stage of existence prior to shuttering completely. This is the Wayne Hills Mall, as it were in March of 2014.

A handful of shops remained open outside the entrance to Burlington Coat Factory.

 This sad doodle sat upon the floor behind the storefront window of Walden Books, likely left by an employee as they locked up the shop on their final day.

Garbage cans strategically placed under leaking ceilings, early signs of far worse to come.

 A wall was eventually constructed to keep curious shoppers from wandering the vacant mall wings.

At this point demolition of the mall had commenced in earnest, and the walls of the structure were quickly being transformed into rubble and piles of scrap steel. We were joined this day by Phil Buehler of ModernRuins, who had procured legal access for us all to document the active demolition site.

The end of the Wayne Hills Mall. Not long after these images were captured the property was no more.

 The entrance to Burlington, sealed. All traces of Santa's stage removed.