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An unexpected Staunton Mall update…

August 13, 2022, 10:00 AM

On Thursday, August 11, 2022, I made what you might call an unexpected trip down to Augusta County.  Since the previous Sunday, Elyse had been down in Roanoke attending to some business related to a nonprofit that she is involved with, and was supposed to come back on Wednesday evening via Amtrak.  However, due to some heavy thunderstorms across Virginia that day, her Amtrak train was significantly delayed due to flooding and fallen trees, which meant that she only got as far as Charlottesville before delays on top of more delays meant that she would not arrive in Washington for many hours.  She ended up getting off the train in Charlottesville, and stayed overnight at my parents’ house.  That was a strange thing, with Elyse sending me photos from my old bedroom and all, while I was at home in Maryland.  Then since I was off on Thursday, I ended up coming down there to scoop her up and bring her home.  I figured that this was a good excuse for a road trip, so I gathered up my DSLR and my drone and hit the road.  We did a lot of stuff on this one-day trip, including spending quality time with the parents, but photographically, my main push was to get another update for Staunton Mall, after I had previously given an update in June.

Since my last visit, the mall has continued to be hollowed out.  When I visited in June, the interior walls were mostly demolished, with only the exterior walls remaining, from JCPenney to just past the Peebles.  From the end of Peebles to Montgomery Ward was where most of the demolition was occurring, as the roof was off of the mall corridor, while the stores were mostly still there.  The Wards building and the Belk wing were still mostly intact.  Now, the Wards building has been hollowed out to the exterior walls, as has the Belk wing up to the mall entrance next to Family Barber & Beauty.  I imagine that there is a reason behind the way that they’re doing this, demolishing the interior while leaving the exterior mostly intact until the end, but I don’t know what the reason is.

I followed the same process that I did before when it came to documenting the demolition of Staunton Mall.  I first drove around the property in order to figure out what was worth checking out, and then took the drone up for some flights near the areas that I wanted to photograph.  After all, why send my soft, vulnerable little body in there where things are unstable and could fall on me, when I can send a robot in my place and live vicariously through its eyes, while remaining in a place of safety at all times.  In this case, I parked in front of Boston Beanery to check out the south end of the mall, and then repositioned in front of Family Barber & Beauty to do the north end of the mall.

That said, this is what the mall now looks like from above:

View from the northwest.  Note that Belk (which is still operating) and the final stretch of the Belk wing are the only things still intact.
View from the northwest.  Note that Belk (which is still operating) and the final stretch of the Belk wing are the only things still intact.

View from the northeast.
View from the northeast.

View from the east.  You can tell from the lighting here that I made this visit in the early evening, as the sun was starting to get low in the sky.
View from the east.  You can tell from the lighting here that I made this visit in the early evening, as the sun was starting to get low in the sky.

View from the southeast.  Note that except for the aforementioned two sections, as well as the movie theater, everything else has been hollowed out to a shell.
View from the southeast.  Note that except for the aforementioned two sections, as well as the movie theater, everything else has been hollowed out to a shell.

View from the southwest.
View from the southwest.

View from the west.  Note that the front of the mall still stands, nearly in its entirety.  Thus while the interior has been almost totally gutted, it still looks the same from Route 11.
View from the west.  Note that the front of the mall still stands, nearly in its entirety.  Thus while the interior has been more or less gutted, it still looks the same from Route 11.

Meanwhile, the Peebles (previously Woolworth’s and Stone & Thomas) building is almost completely gone.  While the interior walls were demolished prior to my June visit, now the back wall has been leveled.  Only a small section around the loading dock still remains:

Peebles, now largely razed.

The south end of the mall looks largely the same as it did in June, with most of the back wall gone, as well as the exterior wall around Hibbett Sporting Goods (formerly the original food court):

The JCPenney building and the JCPenney wing of the mall, hollowed out, and with the back wall missing.

The area around the center entrance is still recognizable, though there is a lot less of it than there was when I visited in June:

LensCrafters and that gift shop are now completely gone.  The last remaining bit of the former CVS store is visible in the distance.
LensCrafters and that gift shop are now completely gone.  The last remaining bit of the former CVS store is visible in the distance.

The center entrance.  While it's still recognizable, it's definitely had more removed from it since my June visit, as the "Thank you for shopping with us" sign is now completely gone.
The center entrance.  While it’s still recognizable, it’s definitely had more removed from it since my June visit, as the “Thank you for shopping with us” sign is now completely gone.

The former Country Cookin' space, which later briefly housed the second iteration of Hot Wok, is now completely demolished except for the exterior wall.
The former Country Cookin’ space, which later briefly housed the second iteration of Hot Wok, is now completely demolished except for the exterior wall.

And for the record, I’m still a little salty about the way that the mall management did the Hot Wok folks.  Hopefully, they’re doing well at their new location over by Martin’s.  Considering how popular they were when they were at the mall, though, I have no reason to think that they wouldn’t be doing well.  Elyse and I still need to go and eat there some time.

Continuing, the movie theater building is still mostly intact, though the mall entrance next to the movie theater, as well as the arcade that was across from it, are totally gone:


The movie theater entrance, as well as what remained of the Video Zone arcade, is now just a memory.

The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.

The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.
The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.

I only ever saw three movies in Staunton Mall: AladdinThe Lion King, and The Santa Clause.  I couldn’t tell you which theaters I saw those movies in, and I imagine that it doesn’t matter anymore.

Then the Montgomery Ward building, which was nearly completely intact in June, is now just a few exterior walls:

What remains of Montgomery Ward.

What remains of Montgomery Ward.
What remains of Montgomery Ward.

Then there’s the Belk wing.  That was still fully intact in June, but it is now about two-thirds demolished (not including Belk, which is not part of the demolition).  The only part of the mall that is still intact is from the south edge of Books A Million to Belk.

The mall entrance in the Belk wing.  The side wall of Books A Million is visible to the right, while Family Barber & Beauty was to the left of the mall entrance.  The former Family Barber space has been completely demolished, save for an exterior wall.
The mall entrance in the Belk wing.  The side wall of Books A Million is visible to the right, while Family Barber & Beauty was to the left of the mall entrance.  The former Family Barber space has been completely demolished, save for an exterior wall.  Compare to how it looked in December 2020.

The south wall of Books A Million, still recognizable as such.
The south wall of Books A Million, still recognizable as such.

The end of the demolition, for now.

The end of the demolition, for now.
The end of the demolition, for now.

The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.

The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.
The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.  Compare to how it looked in December 2020.

In those photos of the interior of the Belk wing, I found it somewhat curious that all of the lighting on Belk’s mall entrance still worked, and that the sign still lit up, just as it did when the mall was still open.  It can easily be explained by the fact that Belk is still operational, and that it will remain fully operational throughout the entire redevelopment, and also that anchor store buildings tend to have separate ownership and separate utilities from the rest of the mall.  Nonetheless, I’m surprised that no one removed that signage, disconnected the electricity to the sign, or flipped the circuit breaker that sends power to those lights and the sign, because there’s no one there that will see that signage now that the mall is history.  The exterior facade on that side will likely not be retained, seeing as it’s been cut into in a place to the right of the sign.  I wonder what the treatment of that space will be when everything is completed.  I wonder if the exterior of Belk will be renovated as part of the redevelopment.  I suppose that we’ll all find out together.  I just hope that it’s not like the Harrisonburg store, where, following an expansion in the 2000s, two facades were designed in one style, and the third entrance, added during the expansion, was a completely different architectural style.

And then after landing, I got a photo of the HR-V in front of Family Barber & Beauty:

My Honda HR-V, seen just after I landed the drone. Note the drone's shadow in the foreground.
Note the drone’s shadow in the foreground.

So that’s the latest on the demolition progress at Staunton Mall.  I am forever grateful to my past self for documenting the entire mall in the Staunton Mall photo set in December 2020 while the mall was still open, since it’s helped so much in making before-and-after comparisons.  I’ll be in the area again in the second or so week of September, and so I’ll probably be able to give another update then.  Stay tuned!