Commercial Tag

Before and After: Lexington Mall
Before and After: Lexington Mall

Lexington, Kentucky’s second indoor mall, the aptly named Lexington Mall, opened in 1975 with McAlpin’s, Shoppers Choice Supermarket and a discount center as its anchors and 46 tenants. It’s completion was marred only by the bankruptcy of its original developers, which left much of the center concourse unfinished for several years. Throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s, the center boasted 100% occupancy rates, only to begin unraveling when the Fayette Mall began its expansion in 1993 and again with the completion of the first phase of Hamburg Pavilion in 1998. By the end of the 20th century, most of the tenants in Lexington Mall had left, leaving Dillard’s (successor to McAlpin’s) as the only tenant until it too vacated in September 2005. Read More

Into the Hills

Descending into the hills of Kentucky, which is my home territory, is something of a ritual.

Or a fix. It’s similar to a drug that you need frequent doses of to really admire. The forested hills, the rural, dated landscape, the small towns, the 24-hour diners serving up the greasiest of foods and loads of straight black coffee. Out here, the faux city life is not wanted; it’s all about basic attire, hardworking folks who toil to make electricity for us, rustic trucks, and a hometown warmth. Read More

Ashland Gasoline Station, Jackson, Kentucky

This Ashland Gasoline Station is located along KY 15 in Jackson, Kentucky and is in danger of being demolished. It is the only Ashland station that I have discovered with an Ashland “A” logo on the side, an unmodified exterior and an Ashland station logo. It was in operation until very recently, and it may have been open to allow Marathon to retain the Ashland trademark in the state. Read More

The Foundry to be Razed

The Foundry at South Strabane, a retail development near Washington, Pennsylvania, will be demolished. The first tenant to locate at The Foundry was JCPenny’s in February 2007, after it relocated from the languishing Washington Mall. Other tenants included Ross Dress for Less and Bed Bath & Beyond. But the development, built atop an old mine dump and steep hillside, began to settle and the buildings began exhibiting structural failures. Read More

Neel, Ohio
Neel, Ohio

Deep within the hills in Neel, Ohio lies an abandoned country market and the remains of a covered span that was washed away in 1997. Read More

The Paramount

The Paramount Theatre is located in Youngstown, Ohio and was originally known as the Liberty Theatre. Designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane, with Stanley & Scheibel serving as associate architects, the vaudeville house opened on February 11, 1918 with the production of “A Modern Musketeer.” The late Neo-classical, Ecole des Beaux Arts exterior featured terra cotta ornamentation, while the interior featured ornate plaster detailing and 1,700 seats. Read More

Stambaugh Building
Rehabilitating Youngstown’s Tallest

There is a lot of commonality between Youngstown, Ohio and the Ohio River valley that I grew up within near Ironton. Both are areas that have experienced major employment losses, either due to a declining steel mill or other heavy industries; both are areas that have experienced population declines in the cities; both are areas that are impoverished. But the severity of Youngstown’s losses are hard to compare to. Read More

East Wheeling Historic District
A Travel to the Mill

In some respect, I should have been out backpacking in the highlands of West Virginia or riding my bike through the horse farms of central Kentucky. Pretty and beautiful sights and features.

Instead, I chose to get dirty and photograph derelict abandonments in far-out locations for the sheer joy of seeing pretty and beautiful sights and features and to meet other like-minded individuals from other states and Canada. But who can not appreciate the stale air of an abandoned building as much as the scent of spring flowers in a park or food baking in an oven, or the visual connection to peeling paint and rusting machinery to stately old-growth Spruce trees and grazing animals?

It was going to be a long drive from the hills of Cincinnati, Ohio to the mountains of western Maryland, but one that came with some undetermined detours. For as I went further east along the ever-generic Interstate 71 and then the charming National Road, I had more of a reason to find something new. I ventured along the back roads of central Ohio, tracing the National Road and its former alignments until I swerved south to Barnesville, which is along the abandoned Central Ohio Railroad, later part of the Baltimore and Ohio Pittsburgh-Columbus mainline.

Parking next to the Barnesville Antique Mall, I walked through the vibrant city center and cut down the hill to walk parts of the former railroad bed, which is now graveled and the shows the beginnings of a much larger rail to trail that has been proposed westward to Cambridge. A tunnel exists under the downtown which is situated on the top of a rather large hill, and was completed in 1854, extending for 423 feet. At its peak, 37 trains passed under East Main Street per day until the line was abandoned in 1983.

On the eastern front of the tunnel is the Barnesville railroad depot. Constructed in 1916 in the Federal style with Spanish Mission accents, the station was in use until 1961 as a passenger depot and 1983 as a freight depot. Two years later, due to its significant architectural features and its railroad heritage, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The station was later used as offices for the local Chamber of Commerce and is in a maintained condition today.

Noticing the evening sun creeping up further behind my back, I headed back towards my vehicle and opted for the interstate to the outskirts of Wheeling. Traveling through this part of Ohio is unlike much of the state – rolling hills tightly integrated with patches of weaving farmland and stands of timber and the remembrance of Appalachia that I miss. I exited for the National Road at St. Clairsville and headed down Blaine Hill to the impressive Blaine Hill Viaduct that span Wheeling Creek.

Constructed in 1932, the open-spandrel arch bridge is one of the Ohio’s more visually interesting crossings that is still in use. A state that is bathed in generic girder bridges, coming across an span with multiple arches is a rare treat. The bridge was designed by D.H. Overman, who was most known for his arch bridge designs throughout the state. The crossing was rehabilitate in 1982 and again in 2011, with some minor work remaining.

Blaine Hill Viaduct (US 40)

Blaine Hill Viaduct (US 40)

Blaine Hill Viaduct (US 40)

Blaine Hill Viaduct (US 40)

What lay below was even more impressive: one of the oldest bridges in the state. The Blane Hill “S” Bridge, which once carried the National Road westward from Wheeling into the then frontier, is a three span stone arch and was constructed in 1826. The 345 foot span was the main gateway to the west, and was part of the first federally funded national highway in the United States. The bridge was nearly demolished in 1999 due to its poor condition, but was given a reprieve and ultimately restored. In 2001, the “S” bridge was designated Ohio’s official bicentennial bridge.

Blaine Hill "S" Bridge (Formerly US 40)

Blaine Hill “S” Bridge (Formerly US 40) undergoing additional restoration work.

From there, it was not a far drive to Wheeling. Passing through the communities of Lansing, Wolfhurst, Brookside and Bridgeport, I was reminded of just how dense the inner reaches of the metropolitan area once were. Houses lie in waste on the hillsides, entire industries along the creek demolished, and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that once paralleled Wheeling Creek through the valley was long gone. Churches for the most part remained, although a few were closed and in need of tough and loving care.

It was slow drive to the Ohio River, passing under the Ohio State Route 7 freeway that all but necessiated demolition of Bridgeport’s downtown, finally reaching the U.S. Route 40 Ohio River crossing. I entered Wheeling Island, West Virginia, and from there I managed to find my way to the Wheeling Suspension Bridge where directed my orientation towards the endangered East Wheeling Historic District. The city, containing some of the largest quantities of 19th century Victorian architecture in the United States, is considering demolishing a significant portion of the historic district due to most of it being abandoned or significantly underused.

It’s not as if Wheeling suddenly declined in the past few years. It’s been losing population for over 80 years, of which I previously attributed the beginnings of to Yost’s Law. That law essentially forced the closure of the city’s main breweries and taverns, and ultimately led to a major job loss. Wheeling was an immigrant-fueled city, after all – the Germans built much of the city’s architecture that is so endangered today.

I parked at 16th and Wood streets in the heart of the historic district and began to document each and every building from its exterior. All of the doors were freshly sealed, but you could see that many of them were very recently occupied. Blinds still hung from many of the units, along with other personal effects. And there was little if any decay in many of the buildings, although a few were clearly abandoned. A few people drove by but no one bothered to even trade a parting glance. During the 30 minutes I spent walking along 16th Street, only on pedestrian – a homeless individual, passed by me. There simply was no activity at all in that block.

Why is the mayor of Wheeling in such a haste to demolish the buildings? For “a ball field.” That’s right, for a grass field when the city has plenty of other vacant lots and fields that are unused and unmaintained.

Congratulations. While other cities are taking all of the steps necessary to stabilize and preserve their irreplaceable historic districts, this mayor is outright advocating for their demolition. What a damn shame.

After weeping over the East Wheeling Historic District, I proceeded to make a beesline east along Interstate 70 to Washington, Pennsylvania. It was all but an uneventful drive, except for the accidental discovery of the nearly abandoned Washington Mall after I had made a wrong turn. I entered the mall property from the highway and came across some active businesses that were located on the exterior of the mall: a Chinese restaurant, furniture store and a Toys-R’-Us were bustling and showed no outward signs of decay. Even the J.C. Penny had a “Now Open” sign on the three story, nearly windowless box.

But something seemed astray. The parking lot was all but vacant outside of these open businesses on the exterior. Some windows were boarded up near the concourse entrance, and the concourse entries were open but had no lights shining from the inside. I parked and walked inside the concourse and was shocked at the condition of the mall. There were no active storefronts in one entire wing of the mall, and only two on the opposing end. Ceiling tiles were missing from the ceiling. The air was stale as the air conditioning units had been disabled. The water fountains were bagged. Tar leaked from the roof onto the concourse floor. And the entire center of the mall was closed to traffic due to water damage. There was not a soul in sight.

Apparantly, Washington Mall has been in a state of limbo for years. To add to the dispair of the mall, J.C. Penny had moved out several years ago to The Foundry at South Strabane, a new shopping center a mile away, one that was built on a massive fill overlooking a valley. But when that shopping center began to fail due to foundation settling, J.C. Penny moved back into Washington Mall – hence the “Now Open” logo that has been hanging on the side of the building for a quite a while.

Don’t expect The Foundry at South Strabane to go anywhere any time soon. It’s mired in bankruptcy, and the CEO of the developer for the mall, Premier Properties of Indianapolis, has been charged with fraud and theft.

After poking through the soulless corridors of the mall and exploring the basement at Washington Mall, I hurried northward to Pittsburgh. Dinner awaited at the famous Primanti Brothers with , as well as a drive southeastward through the Pennsylvania countryside at night to Cumberland. A mill awaited me in the morning.

This article is part of a series covering the Lonaconing Silk Mill in Maryland, and a glass factory and hospital in Pennsylvania: