20 April 2013

Eastland Mall, Evansville, IN

An extant asset

Flying over Eastland Mall on arrival into Evansville regional Airport.

Evansville, Indiana is where our family is based. My father was born there, and our yearly family reunion is held there as well. It is a quintessentially Midwestern city, small, compact and based around a fading industrial base mixed with some of the cultural peculiarities of the south. It's got plenty of charm and grit for a city its size.

1- Vintage photo looking toward the food court.  2- The original center court.  3 & 4- Looking down the main concourse in the 1980s.  (Source for all)

I first visited Evansville in 1993 on my eighteenth birthday to tour a college in the area. I arrived at the Evansville Regional Airport on an American Eagle nineteen seat Jetstream from Nashville (after a choppy ride through clouds the whole way, I haven't felt as close to death since) to see a darkened terminal and a ramp covered in snow. A representative from the college was supposed to meet me there, but the place was abandoned. They had been told that all flights into EVV had been cancelled, so they didn't send anybody to get me. Our flight, an arrival around 9 pm, was the first one to make it in that day. The college put me up in an area hotel nearby, where I slept rather restlessly. I awoke hungry and tired, and when a college representative arrived to pick me up, it seemed that a trip to a food court in the city's largest mall was in order.

Eastland Mall Mallmanac ca. 1993. View the full PDF version here.

Eastland was pretty unremarkable, drab and beige on the outside with little color to reflect off of the freshly fallen snow. The food court sat under a glass enclosure at an angle to the rest of the mall, which was pretty much a straight hallway with four anchors at various points. The most exciting part was that there was a Hess's anchor. I hadn't seen a Hess's since I left Virginia Beach three years earlier and their nameplate was always one of my favorites.

Eastland Mall Mallmanac ca. 2004. View the full PDF version here.

Eastland Mall had opened in 1982 on Green River Road, marking a shift in the city's retail corridor north from Washington Square, located just a short distance south on the same thoroughfare. General Growth opened the mall, but through the years, Simon and Macerich have had their hands on the place as well. It seems to have held its own over the years and remains the dominant shopping center in the Indiana-Kentucky-Illinois Tri-State Area, a term that always makes me think of Mama's Family. (Although it was the sitcom Roseanne whose establishing shots were taken in Evansville.)

1- The Green River side of Eastland Mall. 2- Famous-Barr on the backside of the center.

The mall had changed a bit the last time I visited Evansville in 2004. They had splashed a bit of color at the main entrance and a few new stores and restaurants had their own signatures on the exterior. However, the footprint was still the same. Hess's had become Famous-Barr (now a Dillard's) and deJong’s was empty. The interior was redone, but not memorably as I don't remember much of it. Today, however, Lazarus is Macy's and the old deJong's has been converted to mall space.

Eastland Mall lease plan ca. 2011.  View the full PDF version here.