Echoes of the Past: Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect, Illinois, at Its Heyday in 1989

The other day, on YouTube, we stumbled across videos about dying and dead malls. I have always had a bit of an interest in this — I’m not sure why — and at one time, I was a frequent visitor to the Web site (Interestingly enough, that Web site is working on rather old coding and technology now, but I digress.)

Last night, the search segued to Randhurst Mall in my hometown of Mount Prospect, Illinois. Previous searches — and I admit, they might have been a while ago — didn’t dig up very much information other than:

  • Randhurst Mall right before it was demolished (and pretty abandoned)
  • Randhurst Mall being dismantled, and
  • Randhurst Village, the conglomeration of outside buildings now standing where Randhurst Mall once stood. (The only remnant of Randhurst Mall being one of the anchor stores: originally Wiebolt’s, then Bergner’s, and finally, Carson’s before that shut permanently in 2018.)

Randhurst Mall’s last day was September 30, 2008.

I found a few gems last night which kinda link up to my own personal history with the mall.

Below is a video by a gentleman by the name of Chris Kaufmann who worked for a company named Analytics, Inc., which was on the professional level (upper level) of the mall before the 1989 renovation, where the offices were replaced with more stores. This was filmed in 1989 during an interesting time for Randhurst Mall.

Now, before I get too into this whole spiel, here is the general (and probably original) layout of Randhurst Mall. It was a mall with a triangle-shape, including three anchor stores at each point:

  • Wieboldt’s, which became Bergner’s, then Carson Pirie Scott;
  • Carson Pirie Scott, which became J.C. Penney once Carson’s moved, later demolished to make way for a Costco; and
  • The Fair, which became Montgomery Wards (Wards), which was later torn down.
Randhurst - Map

There were also three main levels and two sub-levels open to the public:

  • the lower level (basement);
  • the main level, which had all the anchors and majority of normal stores; and
  • the upper level (professional offices).

The two sub-levels were in the middle of the mall itself, which consisted of one level you went down a few steps into to visit more shops (a subfloor), and another level steps up that was a restaurant, then a store, then eventually part of the food court.

A few years earlier, Randhurst had removed some offices from the upper level and placed a food court on one of the three sides in the middle area of the mall. In the exact middle of the mall, above the subfloor of the ground floor, they converted the area into “The Picnic”, which contained a few (four, I believe) small eating establishments, with the rest of the area changed into space for diners to eat and lounge. One of the biggest improvements to this area was access: staircases were added inside the mall proper near the courts outside the anchors proper, escalators were added to the Sbarro end of the food court (original Carson’s court), and a glass elevator was added in the middle of the mall at the McDonald’s end of the food court (Montgomery Ward’s court). There were bridges connecting the glass elevator to the food court area and the food court area to “The Picnic” area.

In addition, the dome was replaced with a higher dome with larger windows between the ceiling of the mall and the dome itself. The basement, once a kinda claustrophobic area, was opened up at each corner in each large open area near each original anchor.

(On a side note, there were originally three anchor stores in Randhurst, and the triangle shape of the mall made it easy to walk from one area to the next.)

Staircases were added at two of the open areas near each anchor’s court to access the basement proper, while escalators were added either side of the new glass elevator to act as the main access to the basement near the Montgomery Ward’s court.

The access part was important. From memory, previously one would have to find an elevator or staircase which was tucked away in one of the smaller accessways to the mall, and then (again from memory), each of these mirrored smaller accessways didn’t have the elevator.

So being able to find a staircase or elevator without an issue, and use it to gain access to the upper floor or basement easily, was a great improvement.

Each anchor store had a main entryway to the mall proper beside it. These were also remodelled as well. At some point — and I can’t remember when — access into the anchor stores from these entryways were either restored or added (which made it much more convenient to access the store instead of having to walk down the entryway and into the anchor store through the mall proper).

Around 1987-1988, Randhurst added two more anchors to the mall: Main Street (which later would become Kohl’s) in late 1987 and Spiess (which sadly, didn’t last so long after that) in early 1988.

In 1989, as you can see in Mr Kaufmann’s video below, more improvements were made. What is very interesting about his video is that the viewer can see what was before — the offices, no upper floor access to anchor stores from the upper floor, and so on — and how this was improved.

Also, this is a great snapshot into the history of Randhurst Mall during one of its most healthiest times. Post remodelling in the early 1980s, and then after this second bout of remodelling, was one of the golden ages for Randhurst Mall.

The artwork you see in the video? That was from artists at local high schools. An artwork of mine was included in that exhibition. From memory, it was in the area right outside one of the anchor stores. (Don’t quote me on that!)

1989 was the year before I started working at Randhurst Mall.

At the 3:12 mark in the video, Mr. Kaufmann sweeps down to show Things Remembered (or, as my friends called it, Things Dismembered), where I worked over the holiday season in 1992-1993. At the time I worked there, we mostly did engraving and other trinkets you’d buy to mark a special occasion or to give to an office colleague. I didn’t remain there because other opportunities opened up, although the manager did try to convince me to stay on and start working there full time as an assistant manager, which was a tempting offer, but I felt my education (university) was more important. (My judgement was right.)

At the 3:53 mark in the video, he finds Bergner’s. Carson’s was still in its original position on the Kensington Road side of the mall at this time, but a merger between Carson’s and Bergner’s (I can’t remember which one took the other one over) saw Carson’s move into the Bergner’s store because a) it had just been remodelled after Wiebolt’s had closed down and Bergner’s moved in (opening before Christmas 1988) and b) the square footage of the Bergner’s store was bigger.

Around the 5:08 mark, we see the listing of offices in the Professional Level (upper level) of Randhurst at the time. A big shout-out to my old dentist, Dr. Waldman, who was a very wonderful man and sadly passed away many years ago. (His son, also who was my dentist, is still practicing in Mount Prospect. Shortly after he qualified, his son made me a retainer set which will last well beyond my years on this earth, according to several other dentists and orthodontists who have seen in. Great engineering.)

At the 9:32 mark, you see the original Carson’s (which I spoke about a few paragraphs back). It was remodelled in the early 1980s, from memory, but it had a rather cramped feeling about it that Bergner’s didn’t. (My Opa was no longer working for Carson’s when this video was made, as he had retired, but I believe my Aunt Joan was still working for mall management.)

All throughout the video, when Mr. Kaufmann shows the anchor stores, you might notice that the pillars and left-hand walls have rectangular access points. This is where the supports for the walkways on the upper level will go to connect the anchor stores to the mall’s upper level.

At the 10:48 mark, it switches to the construction underway. Some improvements made were:

  • Offices replaced by glass-fronted stores on the two other sides of the upper level, including full balcony rails and replacing the low stuccoed ceiling with a metal roof and skylights (concept drawing at the 10:59 mark)
  • The old bank across from Bergner’s (the Mount Prospect State Bank, which moved into a new multi-story building built on the corner of Elmhurst Road and Euclid) being converted into offices for the offices displaced by the renovation of the upper floor. (My dentist moved into that area. Video at the 11:09 mark.)
  • The bridges from the anchor stores to the upper level being added. (11:29 mark shows the ramp connecting the upper level and Bergner’s going in. This must have been planned some time before Bergner’s remodeled as they left the floor-to-ceiling window at what would become the entry-point and covered the rest of the windows on the upper floor over.)
  • Skylights added to the dome in the middle of Randhurst Mall, which made the mall even brighter than it was before. (11:43)

At the 12:57 mark, Mr Kaufmann shows us the directory for Randhurst Mall at the time. One interesting point to note is that Main Street (which opened in late 1987, as previously stated) is Kohl’s on this board in 1989.

Interestingly enough, at the 14:00 mark, we can see that work on the bridge between the upper level and Montgomery Ward hasn’t started yet.

At the 14:16 mark, we get a brief glimpse of one of the two anchors added in the year or so before this video was made: Spiess. This corridor, like the one in front of Main Street / Kohl’s, originally opened up to a parking lot. The doorway (floor to ceiling glass, from memory, with doors in it) was removed, and a new access way was created at an angle to the department store itself. In short, there was a new foyer area, which you can see, in front of each of the new anchor stores, but these were smaller than the foyer areas in front of the original anchors.

So this video is a treasure trove of historical information on Randhurst Mall itself, showing the before and some of the during of one of the later remodels in the 1980s.

In my next blog, I’ll showcase another video of Randhurst on its final day open in 2008, and compare and contrast the two videos, including pointing out some developments between the 1989 and 2008 videos, and discussing the ultimate demise of Randhurst Mall.