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Dead malls: You could shop... until they dropped

Once booming, now barren. Let’s take a peek at a mall of Seattle’s past — plus hope for the future.

A large building made of concrete, stone, and glass shown in black and white. The majority of the building's center is made of windows, and inside large floor-to-ceiling curtains are visible. The outside of the building has signage that reads "The Bon Marche."

The Bon Marché was Northgate Mall’s original anchor tenant.

Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr

Shopping malls across America have been left in a state that not even Paul Blart could save, and Seattle is no exception.

Known as “dead malls,” these abandoned, dilapidated, or mostly vacant shopping centers have become a subject of fascination — especially thanks to the online popularity of liminal space aesthetics.

Let’s go to the mall

Northgate Mall was once in its heyday.

America’s first-ever shopping center to be deemed a “mall,” Northgate opened in 1950 with The Bon Marché — which later went on to become Macy’s — as an anchor store. Before being remodeled + adding a food court, the mall housed an A&P grocery store that later became a QFC. Locals may remember stores like Toys “R” Us and Lamonts, or The Northgate Theater that was demolished in 2005.

Though the mall remained popular for many years, plans were in place for redevelopment by the mid-to-late 2000s and many tenants had departed.

Back to the future

Today the mall is still around, but not as it once was. Construction continues on the building now known as Northgate Station, but Seattleites can still shop while updates continue.

Though Northgate Mall has transformed, Seattle also has a number of other thriving shopping centers or districts where you can make like NSYNC and buy, buy, buy:

Do you have memories of a local mall from back in the day? Share them with us and we may feature your story in a future newsletter: First date at the food court, trying on prom dresses at the department store, hitting up Orange Julius before picking up the perfect graphic tee at Hot Topic — we wanna hear it all.

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