A few weeks ago, I touched on a small bit of Eastland Mall history in relation to its ice skating rink in Fact Friday 229. But the history of Eastland is much more vast than just the single tidbit I shared. And I was totally going to follow it up the next week with a more robust piece, but highlighting the life and legacy of Charles Jones had to take priority. So alas, back to Eastland!
Aerial view, circa 1980.
Our friends over at the Charlotte Agenda did an amazing piece the other day highlighting the mall's evolution. If you haven't checked it out, definitely give it a read.
Originally growing up in South Charlotte (Arrowood Road/Nations Ford Road area), my mom, aunts, and grandmothers more so frequented Southpark Mall... but I absolutely remember going to Eastland Mall as a small child, as well. And when we moved to North Charlotte (North Tryon/Graham Street area) years later, I used to catch the city bus to Eastland Mall all the time on my own... probably as early as 13 or 14 years old... certainly in junior high school. So that's '93/'94 for those of you doing the math lol. For years, that's where I would go first to do the bulk of my back-to-school shopping (followed by Midtown Square Mall...formerly Charlottetown Mall on the site of the current Metropolitan Charlotte). Always on the Number 9 route: Central Avenue. The route number to Eastland hasn't changed in all these years. Store favorites for me were: Foot Locker (iconic), The Finish Line, FootAction USA, Lids, Spencer Gifts, Lim's, and the classic Harold Peter Man of Fashion. I remember countless events and promos that Power 98 would sponsor there and I especially remember that they were the only place I knew of (and could get to) that had an arcade (before one opened much later next to the movie theater in Tryon Mall Shopping Center). And the arcade was affordable. You paid a flat fee to get in and all the games inside were free! And you could stay as long as you wanted. Needless to say, I made many, many trips and spent many, many hours there. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that as a teenager, my favorite part of Eastland was the girls! At that time, all the pretty girls from my middle and high school circles were at Eastland. So naturally, that's where the boys went. The layout was built for people watching and its cool to see how so many of the concepts that Eastland was known for are commonplace in the modern malls of today.
Directory of Eastland Mall from 1975.
Eastland Mall, from its once well-known nostalgia to its fall from grace, has been widely written about by official news outlets and bloggers, alike... many of whom have much more time to spend on the topic than I do.
But what I will say is that the story of the mall's decline is a story of a lack of progressive community investment. I'll leave it to each of you to come up with your own conclusions as to why there was such a territorial void in this regard over the time of the mall's decline and ultimately its closure. I certainly have my opinions. Pro tip: it wasn't the "crime" that everyone loves to point to. History, civil and social studies teach us that crime does not spur out of a vacuum. It is symptomatic of much deeper communal deficiencies. So the lesson that we must all take away from the situation if we are to become a stronger, more resilient body is that if economic investment and opportunity are not equally promoted in all areas of our community, with some zip codes consistently receiving preferential treatment based on property values and estimated earnings, its inevitable that other areas that aren't receiving those same mixed-use, culinary, healthcare, educational, co-working, or "you-name-it" opportunities will not be able to keep up. The reality is our communities are most vibrant when people can learn, work, and play in the communities where they rest. And to not allow all parts of our broader community the opportunity to take part in that experience, puts us all at a significant disadvantage.
Gourmet Gardens Food Court. Interior view, circa 1987.
Interior view, circa 1980.
Interior view of Center Court and the Ice Capades Chalet ice rink facing Ivey's, circa 1980.
Interior view of Center Court and the Ice Capades Chalet ice rink facing Sears, circa 1980.
For more vintage photos and additional commentary, check out these two blog posts:
Until next week!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!
Information taken from:
All sources previously hyperlinked.
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass