Labor Day sales can be frightening things indeed, so it's a perfect time to look at this scary abandoned mall in St. Louis. After 55 years in business, Crestwood Court started closing its stores in 2006, eventually shutting its doors for good last month. Digital artist Dan Wampler photographed the slowly dilapidating space, managing to make everything from Claire's to Champs look creepy.
But the scariest thing to me about this dead mall? It's one that I used to go to.
Back in my day it was called Crestwood Plaza and in my childhood it was probably the best mall in town. It had something for everyone. You could tolerate looking for whatever your mom needed to get at Stix, Baer & Fuller (now Dillards), persuade her to buy you an Outback Red cardigan at The Limited, grab fettuccine alfredo for dinner at the Pasta House Company, head to the arcade to fish some stuffed animals out of a machine with a claw, maybe even catch a movie at the AMC Theater that had TEN SCREENS. It was living.
I wasn't the only fan of the place, which is the oldest mall in St. Louis. John F. Kennedy gave a speech in the mall's parking lot during his 1960 campaign. It had an ahead-of-its-time food court and massive bi-level parking garage. And during its reign it had no less than four official names, each accompanied by its own redesign: Crestwood Mall, Crestwood Plaza, Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood, and now Crestwood Court.
It's not just the emptiness of these photos that are unnerving. Wampler's HDR technique, where several different photos are taken at different exposures, adds to the sinister vibe. The whole place feels like the undead are about to come lunging around the corner. (Or maybe that's just because zombie movies always take place in malls? Why is that?)
The demise of Crestwood Plaza (sorry, it will always be Plaza to me) isn't as much about Spencer Gifts adding e-commerce. Instead, it's a greater problem with enclosed, air-conditioned malls everywhere: People actually do like to go outside. Out here in L.A., Santa Monica Place actually peeled the roof off of their 1980 mall like a can opener and has seen business boom. Now here's the irony. Crestwood Plaza was originally an open-air mall that was enclosed in 1984. Maybe if they'd left it that way it would have succeeded: Crestwood Court's site will be redeveloped as The District at Crestwood, a mixed-use shopping and entertainment complex that will be organized not like a mall, but like a main street.
The mall isn't getting demolished quite yet: Apparently a lonely LensCrafters, with its own entrance, is still operating on one corner of the mall. But when it goes for good, I will be sad about one loss. Check out that pristine 80s decor, with those geometric shapes and hypersaturated colors. You gotta admit those graphics are pretty sweet. [Dan Wampler Photography]