Echoes of the Past: Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect, Illinois on Its Last Day Open in 2008

In my previous blog enry, I covered a video of Randhurst Mall in Mount Prospect, Illinois, filmed in 1989 by Chris Kaufmann. In this blog, I’ll cover a video shot in 2008.

I moved away from Chicagoland in 1996, but came back to visit every year from 1999 onwards (for the most part). This meant I could see quite noticeable changes in Randhurst Mall from year to year.

By the late 1990s, Randhurst Mall was at an apex. It had 3 major anchors — Carson’s, Wards, and J.C. Penney — and 4 minor anchors: Kohl’s, Filene’s Basement (now taking up the entire lower level as one large store), Old Navy, and Circuit City, the latter two splitting the minor anchor store that originally housed Spiess.

The decline, though, came quickly over the next few years.

In 1999, Filene’s Basement left.

Montgomery Wards closed their Randhurst store for remodelling in 2000, but shortly after it was completed, Wards went bankrupt and the store closed the next year.

To make matters worse, J.C. Penney, which had taken over Carson’s original anchor spot when Carson’s moved to the Wieboldt’s / Bergner’s anchor spot, also closed in 2001.

The original Carson’s anchor store and the minor Kohl’s anchor store were both demolished around 2003 to make way for a Costco, which opened around 2004; however, the mall had no internal access to Costco, which, in my opinion, was a bad move (and one which could have been easily fixed with slight modification to the original structure).

Around this time too, The Powers That Be decided to demolish most of the original Wards anchor store and replace it with a “Grand Entranceway” as I call it throughout this blog entry. The only major tenant to move in was Applebee’s, which moved from another part of the mall — across the mall entrance from Wards to the new location.

Circuit City went out of business around 2005, but Bed, Bath and Beyond took its place. (Sadly, Bed, Bath and Beyond at Randhurst is in the process of closing its doors.)

Around the same time, Old Navy moved to Arlington Heights, leaving that space open. This store was in the area where the old smaller stores were in the Wards court, which combined those stores into one larger store. The old Applebee’s and Old Navy spaces (and perhaps other spaces — I’m not 100% familiar with this part) combined to create the Steve & Barry’s (which did not last that long either in that space).

By 2007, Randhurst Mall had lost many tenants, and plans were put into place to replace most of it with Randhurst Village, an outdoor “Main Street”-type of mall. The structure of the original mall had been modified, with original parts destroyed, and what had resulted was a mish-mash of a design that functionally didn’t work. The Powers That Be decided that tearing most of it down and starting from scratch was the best way to deal with that all.

During our 2008 visit, Noel, my Mom, and I went to Randhurst and filmed the state of the mall before it was shut and demolished. I recall the experience in my blog from 2008, “Mall Cops“. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the video associated with the account.

Luckily, YouTube has a gem of a video which shows you Randhurst Mall on its last day open.

JonRev of The Dead Malls of Discord (a group that was mentioned a lot in the videos we started watching on YouTube) filmed Randhurst. It looks so sad in its final state as a mall.

These are kinda my thoughts about the video, pointing out different highlights, and explaining any differences between the 1989 video by Chris Kaufmann that I covered in my previous post and this 2008 video.

The entrance way filmed at the 1:17 mark is the entrance to the mall outside of the old Spiess anchor store added in the last 1980s. The viewer can see, around the 1:48 mark, that access to the new anchor in Spiess place (a Bed, Bath and Beyond, I believe) is only available outside the mall itself.

At the 2:02 mark, the strip going across the floor is around where the original entrance to the mall was.

At the 2:10 mark, on the left, the viewer can see a “Carson Pirie Scott” sign; this was opened up sometime in the 1990s to allow shoppers access to the home and furniture section of Carson’s, which was in the basement area of the main store.

At the 2:31 mark and beyond, we see a Steve and Barry’s, and then an entryway into the mall with a blue wall to the left. The light blue wall to the left was originally the Montgomery Wards anchor (okay, it was originally The Fair, but I always knew it as Wards), which was torn down and replaced with a building acting as a grand entry way. All the stores on the opposite side were combined into the Steve and Barry’s. Around the 2:45 mark, the viewer can see that yes, the bridge between the upper level of the mall and Montgomery Wards was completed, although it leads to pretty much nowhere in 2008.

At 2:53, we get the first glimpse of the completed renovations to the upper level. There was an additional one-way escalator installed, but the upper level looks a lot more open and airy than in Mr Kaufmann’s pre-renovation 1989 video.

At the 2:55 mark, an additional airbridge between the upper level and the glass elevator has been added in the 1989 renovations.

Around the 3:00 mark, the downstairs area of the mall is shown now as a dance studio. Sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s, all the stores downstairs were amalgamated into one large store, a minor anchor. This was a Filene’s Basement during its early life. (Also, behind the glass elevator, you can find a staircase that was added at a later date.)

At 3:09, we can see “The Picnic” is gone. It was replaced by a carousel.

The Food Court appears at the 3:20 mark. You know it’s bad for a mall when the McDonald’s shuts down and takes its sign with them! (Although at the 3:25-ish mark, we see the tile mosaic of the Golden Arches still remains.)

At the 3:55 mark, we can see the original Carson’s anchor (which became a J.C. Penney’s, which then later closed down) and Kohl’s anchor are gone, the former replaced by a light blue wall at the other end of the mall. These were torn down to put up a rather successful Costco, with no mall access and still in place there now.

We get a really good view of the new dome and skylights that replaced the old dome in the renovations in the 1980s at the 5:23 mark.

The outside of the “new” grand entrance appears at the 5:44 mark. (For the record, I hated this “improvement”. I could see what they were trying to achieve but there were far better ways to have pulled it off.)

Don’t be fooled! At the 5:52 mark, we switch to another Randhurst entrance, and then a shot of the building it is attached to. This entrance goes into the old bank / new professional area shown for a short period of time in Mr. Kaufmann’s 1989 video. Upstairs is where my dentist used to be. The entire building, before the 1989 renovation at Randhurst, housed the Mount Prospect State Bank. (Interesting side note: as a kid, they had a bank of drive-up teller areas in the parking lot. You drove up a driveway to this, waited your turn, then entered into one of the drive-up areas at an angle. When finished, you re-entered another driveway that aimed towards the bank building and mall proper. It was a pretty cool design, my 3 year old mind tells me!)

At the 6:15 mark, where those benches are is around where Mr. Kaufmann filmed the staircase being built in the old bank / new professional building area in his 1989 video. (This area is on the right. On the left would be the external entrance to Carson’s I spoke about being added or reopened earlier. I believe it may have been sealed up again by the time this video was shot.)

At 7:02, Costco makes its appearance. This is a great store, but in my personal opinion, had they had an entrance into the mall — and this would have been easy by using what is the cart storage area as a secondary entry point, leading to the main entrance and exit — Randhurst may have had another revival.

The entrance that shows up at the 7:10 mark is interesting. This was where the mall offices ended up being around the time I worked at the mall. There was an area to the left of the entrance (which you can see with windows and doors in this shot) which led to a little lobby. From memory, I would go downstairs and there was an office where my aunt worked. (True to form, sometimes the people in the office were really weird, like I was coming down there to ask for money or something. No, dude, I just want to talk to my awesome aunt! And yes, dude, you should remember me from the 72 times I’ve been down here before, or the 1 million times you’ve seen me walking around this place at work or for fun!)

Also another interesting fact: You can make out the main loading bay entrance and exit. The entrance is on the left (evidence: the 12 foot 9 inches sign above it), exit on the right (evidence: the striped sign above it), back-to-front of how Americans drive. This area spanned the entire bottom of the mall, and I only managed to see part of it down there when I was working at the mall. From memory, it also could double as a fallout shelter for thousands of people.

At the 7:18 mark, we see the downstairs anchor entrance, although it is covered by doors instead of roller gates like it used to be originally when it was made into one big store.

At the 7:25 mark — that’s new to me. Not really sure what that area is, but you can see the reflection of the escalators next to the glass elevator next to it.

The boarded up remnants of some of the smaller stores in the lower level show up around the 7:35 mark. My heart breaks a little at the boarded-up show at the 7:40 mark as that was a cool little shop around 1989-1990 which had cool posters and stuff. On Christmas Eve in 1990, my cousins Steve, Karin, Alex, my brothers Brian and Jeremy, and I went to look in there while my aunt and uncle pushed through the chaos on the main level, and I think my cousins thought it was cool.

The glass elevator makes its appearance several times in both videos. It was the bane of my life. The elevator was not only slow, but also seemed to go to every other floor except the one you wanted it to go to. Want to go to the basement level? Sure. We’ll bob between the ground floor and upper level several times first. It would’ve been easier to take the escalator (or the stairs when those were put in). To be brutally honest, I used to take the stairs most of the time. (I have a weird fear of escalators.)

The bridge / seating area between the Food Court and the old “The Picnic” area shows up at the 9:01 mark. I have lots of fond memories of this little area because it was a place my Grandma and Grandpa used to like to sit to eat their McDonalds or whatever they were having for lunch that day. (They used to visit the mall a lot.) When Brian and / or I were working, and we would have a lunch break, we’d go to this area and find our grandparents there. It was lovely because we could have lunch with them. And, sometimes, they would buy us lunch, which is good for starving high school (Brian) and college (me) kids.

9:49 — “At the other end of the mall,” showing the light blue wall, “was the Ward’s.” Yup. Just like I said. Although the filmer pointing at the wall saying, “The Costco is in this general area here” is actually wrong. It is further along as it buts up against where Kohl’s and Carson’s used to be.

In the new “grand entrance”, there were photos of Randhurst throughout the years. See the 10:05 mark. It’s a shame that it went from being an architectural wonder to what it was at this point in time.

The original configuration can be seen at the 10:16 mark. To orient yourself, the road at the bottom of the photo is Elmhurst Road / Route 83, which is west of the mall itself. We are looking east. So the department store on the lower right hand corner was Montgomery Wards (originally The Fair for about 10 minutes or so); the department store on the left was Wiebolt’s (later Bergner’s, then Carson’s, and the only original part of the mall still standing); and the department store at the upper right hand corner was the original Carson Pirie Scott. Note that the dome in the middle is smaller and has no skylights; this was the original dome on the mall when I was a young child. (I knew this all before I heard the videographer narrate this.)

Again, the narrator is wrong. The Fair / Wards never became Costco. Costco was built where the original Carson’s was.

To bring this photo up-to-speed with the early 1989 video: The jutting out roof area on the wall to the right of Wiebolt’s is where Spiess was built; and the boxy-shape to the left of the overhang on the farthest-right-most part of the mall is where Kohl’s was built. (Kohl’s and the original Carson’s were pulled down to put Costco there.)

The 13:10 timeframe is where we see where the original Carson Pirie Scott was, and at the 13:29 mark is where we can see where the Kohl’s anchor once was (the light blue wall at the end of the corridor). On an interesting note: the restaurant we see right between the two is an old Cinnabon. There were quite a few sombre breakfasts between my Mom, Noel, and me at this Cinnabon as it was kinda a breakfast we did in the days before we would leave Chicago to come back to New Zealand.

The large free-standing kiosk at the 13:37 mark was added before 1996 but after 1989. From memory, this used to have a staircase leading to the basement shops, but when the small shops in the basement were amalgamated to become the anchor store Filene’s Basement, the other staircases accessing the basement were removed, and this was one of them.

At the 13:58 mark, on the righthand side of the sub-level, there is a door with a room under the bridge. I’m pretty sure this is where the other staircase leading to the basement level was. In this case, they merely built a room around it with access by the door (an emergency exit, perhaps?). It’s a little clearer around the 14:00 mark.

Around the 14:30 mark, the videographer looks down a corridor perpendicular to the new Carson’s court. This is the corridor that leads to the offices where my aunt used to work. Underneath that entrance at the end of the corridor is where the delivery trucks entered and exited the basement of the mall for deliveries.

At the 15:07 mark, we get a clearer view of the side entrance into Carson’s from the mall entrance with the professional offices (former bank) across the way.

We see the shops inside the old bank area at the 15:25 mark. At the end of the corridor used to be a tuxedo shop where I rented a tuxedo for my senior prom. (That area of the mall never did very well, for some reason.)

At the 16:35 mark, we get a walking view of the upper level stores added in 1989. To my eye, the corridor is a bit wider than what the artist’s interpretation showed.

From what I can tell, the rest of the video recovers some areas of the mall that the videographer has been through before, which is fine. Some footage in this video appears to have been filmed during the day and others at night, so I am assuming this was a long visit to the mall.

It is a good historical entry of Randhurst Mall, sadly in her last day open.

In 2009, I was able to see the remnants of Randhurst Mall as it was not fully demolished by that point. Maybe I will share my photos and thoughts in a future blog.