Friday, July 17, 2020


Out where the Appalachian Mountains and the Allegheny Plateau diverge, creating a major fault line, sits the town of Williamsport, PA. This area known for the Little League World series lies just west of Pennsdale, PA, and it's legendary Lycoming Mall.

As one approaches the mall, you are greeted by the looming presence of one of the most interesting and unique landmarks I've ever seen adjacent to a mall. I refer to the legendary Hadany Arch. This art piece was designed by prolific Israeli artist, Israel Hadany. The piece was commissioned by former Hess's department store exec Philip Bergman, who was also a noted Allentown area art collector.

The arch is an optical illusion of sorts, bending and shifting depending on what angle the viewer is looking at it from. Originally conceived to span over a highway, the Pennsylvania Highway Department would not approve such a structure, so the entrance road to Lycoming Mall would ultimately be the chosen site for this massive structure. Pilings going 25 or 30 feet into the ground support its weight. It was built by the steel fabricators, McDermott Brothers, based out of Allentown. The firm specializes in such abstract art sculptures.

The steel, originally a dark red color, was designed to withstand the elements, having weathered to a rusty brown color over the years, but the structure remains strong and sound. It stands 100 feet tall. The price tag for this amazing feat was a quarter milllion dollars, in 1978 money.

It can be noted here that Bergman, the Allentown art aficionado that was responsible for the Hadany Arch placement at Lycoming was also responsible for the I-Beam sculpture which appears just outside the Richland Mall, now Richland Plaza, in Quakertown, purchasing another Israeli architect's sculpture, Yehiel Shemi's I-Beam Colossi for that property, which also featured one of his Bon-Ton stores.

Bergman's vision and strong affinity for the arts can be credited for the presence of this amazing feature that welcomes visitors to the mall in a breathtaking fashion. I have yet to see anything quite like it in all my trips to malls up & down the East Coast. You simply have to see it, drive under it, and appreciate it!

Lycoming was worthy of such a unique and interesting piece, because the mall itself is a treasure, situated in the convergence of the Appalachian & Allegheny mountains.

A beautiful Crown American Mall, opened in 1978. very evident by its beautifully and mostly unchanged interior, was conceived in 1975. Its earliest anchor roster consisted of Crown American mainstay Hess's, alongside Gee Bee & Sears.

The mall originally had multiple fountains, now reduced to two smaller ones, and the still-present dark brick and orange-accented planters, as well as dark brick and tile flooring throughout, a dead giveaway as to this particular mall's vintage. Add to that the unique and interesting ceiling architecture and otherworldly skylights, and you have a mall that has had aficionados of the dead mall hobby raving about it for years. Unfortunately, you did read that correctly, despite its amazing appearance and one-of-a-kind features, this mall has been in the troubled category for many years on, as of this writing.

By way of history, the mall opened on July 15, 1978, and our most recent visit there fell during that very week here in 2020.  The aforementioned anchors launched the mall at its opening, although Hess's opening was in March of that year, somewhat of a "soft" opening for the mall.

In 1985, several years after it opened, Lycoming was set for an expansion, which would bring The Bon-Ton and over 115,000 extra square footage to the property. In the late 80s, JCPenney decided to close its downtown Williamsport location, in favor of relocating to the blossoming Lycoming Mall.

Interestingly, around this era, another unidentified group sought to potentially open another mall that would have been competition for Lycoming in downtown Williamsport, but, alas, nothing ever came of those plans. Probably a good thing, considering the current state of affairs at the mall. The last thing this area would have needed was to be overmalled like so many other smaller towns throughout Pennsylvania.

Value City, one of the anchors during the mall's mid-period, would eventually shutter in 2008, but that vacancy would not last long, as Burlington Coat Factory would soon fill the void. A Books-A-Million location would join the mall's roster of tenants in 2011, becoming the replacement for Borders, which folded as a company around that time.

The mall was beginning to show some serious issues by this time. Inline tenants were starting to close, some relocating to a nearby shopping center. It wouldn't be long before the mall would be sold off. At some point, Crown American got out of the mall scene, and PREIT (The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) took over ownership, only to sell it off in January of 2015.

This would be a tremendous blow to the mall, as the dreaded Kohan Retail Investment Group would pay just over $26M to assume ownership of the mall. As people who follow mall inner workings know, Kohan are basically slumlords, doing minimal repairs and failing to pay bills on time, and doing literally nothing to attract tenants to fill vacancies.

Very soon, the 1-2-3 death punch was delivered to the property, with Macy's closing its doors in March of 2017, JCPenney closing a short 4 months later, and Sears exiting after January of 2018. This isn't your classic example of anchoritis, this is an anchor apocalypse, of the highest order. Bon-Ton would also cease operations at the mall, as a result of its bankruptcy as well, that same year. Each of those anchor spaces remain vacant to this day, as of July of 2020. 

Macy's empty anchor pad was meant to be turned over into storage, but as of this writing, nothing has transpired there. The problems only got worse as of the latter half of 2018, as Kohan, in its usual fashion, failed to pay the electric bill at the mall, resulting in power being cut to the property for one day. In addition, the mall owed an outstanding balance to the Lycoming County Water & Sewer authority over unpaid water utility bills. Lycoming County sought to force a Sheriff's sale of the mall in February of 2019, due to these unpaid utilities, but Kohan sent a partial payment, forestalling the sale.

As of this blog post, the mall has reopened after the COVID-19 health crisis, with mitigation measures in place such as a requirement for masks and truncated hours of operation. There were several stores that were "Covid-closed", our term for stores that haven't closed for good, but remain shuttered out of caution or perceived inability to properly protect customers and associates under current conditions. 

Only time will tell how this already extremely compromised mall will fare, but there were few customers in the mall, and sadly, no need to enforce social distancing, as there is more than enough room to spread out with the lack of foot traffic and storefronts to choose from.

Still, a visit to this beautiful and unique vintage treasure is HIGHLY recommended if at all possible, knowing that the state of things will probably go from bad to worse here. The place is brimming with vintage charm and an aesthetic that is decidedly not of these times, but of a bygone era in which malls used to strive to be unique settings for shopping and socializing. Locals relate that this place used to be THE place to be in the area, and seeing how the place still retains a lot of its old features, one can surely understand why.

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Monday, June 29, 2020


In southern Rhode Island is an absolute treasure of a mall, named after the city in which it's situated, the Warwick Mall. We visited this mall in March of 2019 and were enchanted by the mall as it is today. Long, well lit concourses, a fantastically aesthetic and architecturally pleasing barrel ceiling, beautiful planters and a whimsical carousel in its food court, indicated by a pretty sweet neon sign.

Little did we know the FULL story of this place. Many times we research a mall BEFORE going to it, especially in cases where a mall may be in some sort of trouble or transition or just out of sheer curiosity about a place. Other times, we simply Google the place, see a few pictures, and check if it's still an open property (there have been times we missed out on a mall, just because that's the way of things with dead malls).

Upon doing a quite cursory search of the Warwick Mall, we decided it was a MUST SEE on this particular trip we were making in the greater New England region. We had seen what the place looked like and were keenly interested to film it. Little did we know this mall had quite the story.

But first, let's back up all the way to when this mall began. Billing itself a "family owned business" and stating that continues to this day, Warwick Mall had a strong beginning. Opening in 1970, with noteworthy New England anchors Filene's, Jordan Marsh, and Rhode Island's own Peerless, and additionally The Outlet, and nationally known Woolworth, this mall would have been preceded in opening three years earlier by the Rhode Island Mall, Warwick's competition. 

It's worth noting that eventually the Rhode Island Mall (alternatively Midland Mall) would be turned outward into a power center, bearing its current name, Midland Commons. So, we see who ultimately "won" the Warwick mall market. 

The early 80s would add a JCPenney to the anchor roster, and with The Outlet closing its doors, another New England based discount chain, the well-known Caldor would fill the void. The anchor arrangement was objectively precarious, but the mall would continue on through the 1980s. During this time, the competing Midland Mall was, in fact, the dominant mall in the city, with Midland now boasting a food court and being a larger mall overall. Later on, at the dawn of the next decade, Peerless would vacate, leaving an empty anchor spot.

During the 1990s, the mall would get a major overhaul, aesthetically speaking. Out with the more vintage aspects of the mall... IN with the arched ceilings that captured our attention in the photos that drew us to Warwick in the first place.  Infrastructure improvements such as a brand new fire alarm system, and the flipping of the empty Peerless space into a well-needed food court being among them. Apparently, the clock in the middle of the place is original to the old look of the mall.

These changes would put Warwick at the top of the mall game for a change. May Co. dealings would help Warwick in a backhanded sort of way by May opting to shutter their G. Fox & Co. store at nearby Rhode Island Mall, leaving Filene's, another of their acquisitions to be top priority, even including an expansion! Not good news for Rhode Island Mall after already losing their crown. Federated Department Stores would shake up action at Warwick, by rebranding the Jordan Marsh store there as yet another Macy's.

1997 would be the end of an era at Warwick, with Woolworth's, an anchor since the beginning, exiting the mall. Limited Brands would purchase the vacant spot, which would be sectioned off into Express, Bath & Body Works, & Structure. Caldor's bankruptcy in 1999 would mean that anchor would soon be empty. Old Navy would snap up the first floor, meaning that only the second floor would remain without a tenant.

1999 would see the opening of yet another Rhode Island mall, Providence Place. Fortunately, Warwick I guess is far enough removed so that it didn't really notice any effect. 

With the 2000s in full swing, Warwick welcomed a movie theater, the Showcase Cinemas. Federated & May would merge, as Federated bought out the May Co. Hence, the Filene's would become the new Macy's, leaving a void in the former Macy's space. Target would welcome the opportunity to open a location on the first floor of the former Macy's, and a Sports Authority would occupy a portion of the second.

It's at this point in the history that I will digress for a bit about our trip to the Warwick Mall in early 2019. As stated before, we arrived at the mall basically cold, in terms of having any background on the place. Often, we just like to enjoy a mall, as it is, without any prior knowledge of the place to potentially cloud our experience or judgment. 

A little about the Raw & Real formula here... we work as a team to cover these malls. My husband does the filming and the editing and I take the photos and do various promotion for the channel in social media circles. It's a formula that just... works. We get to more places with a streamlined process, so we can bring you as many malls as we can.

So, the day of our visit to Warwick, Pat set off with his camera one direction in the mall, while I took off with my camera another direction. I'm walking with a big stupid smile on my face at the sight of the food court neon sign, around the mall, through the main concourse, taking side jaunts to the anchor wings/courts. All the while happily, but discreetly taking photos. Somewhere else in the mall, Pat's filming scenes for our walkthrough. Everything is going smoothly... or so we think.

Well, I don't know exactly what happened here, but as I had finished up taking photos in the carousel court and outside, where the Independent Man statue is, and made my way back to the main mall concourse, I saw my husband talking to an older gentleman, quite near the entrance where we came into the mall. I walked up, a little meekly, not knowing who he was speaking to, and asked what was going on. 

We generally are discreet and are not trying to film people, just the space, and some malls seem to turn a blind eye, while others are strict about a no-filming/no-photography policy. Some will say, in their Code of Conduct that permission may be obtained by mall management to do so. (Having knowledge of several content creators who have tried, to no response at all, to gain permission, our approach has always been to attempt filming anyway, unless asked to stop. Then we stop.)

The gentleman my husband was speaking with was none other than the Director of Security for Warwick. Discovering my husband taking photos after wrapping up filming, he politely asked what he was doing. And mentioned that he was going to have to ask him to stop.

At that point, Pat began to talk to the man about how much we had been enjoying the mall, we were out of towners who had ventured a long way to see it, and a few other pleasantries, the gentleman dropped a serious nugget of information on him. This mall was an inspiring comeback story!

The Director of Security told my husband that the mall had suffered a serious catastrophe in 2010. The mall had since then, rebuilt to more or less pre-flood conditions, and had bounced back, stronger than ever!

Here is a link to some of the news footage of that horrible time in Warwick's history:

As flooding from the Pawtuxet River sent the waters over its banks and into the town of Warwick, it would leave the mall submerged under several feet of water. A boat rescue was necessary to save a stranded security guard. The story of the flooding was so profound it made national news.
The area, already saturated from rains earlier in the week, was hit by up to 10 inches of rain in a short 24 hour period. This catastrophic flood would occur on March 30, 2010.

March 30, 2010. Our visit to the mall was March 30, 2019... nine years to the day from that horrible event. An eerie synchronicity I did not realize until the writing of this blog post. 

Many malls would have been daunted by such a terrible fate. Many would have never rebuilt, and their mall become a casualty of history. NOT WARWICK. VERY quickly, as soon as the flood waters receded in early April, after declaring all inventory a total loss, plans would be underway to come back from this devastation.

It would be necessary to gut the mall, going up four feet into its structure from the ground, just to repair the extensive water damage. The main concourse would receive a makeover, and flooring would be replaced, using beautiful imported porcelain tile from Italy. Topiary touches would grace the mall, and other landscaping type assets would be added. 

Thankfully the classic carousel in the food court was able to be restored to fully working condition. It would have been a shame if they had opted not to return it to service, but alas, it remains to this day. 

By the short time of one month later, some of the outparcels of the mall were beginning to reopen. Necessary repairs of mall features delayed some of the store openings after the flood repairs were complete. Staggered openings of anchor stores and inlines would be the story the remainder of 2010. Macy's would take the longest to reopen, doing so on March 16, 2011. The mall would finally reopen just shy of the one year anniversary of the catastrophic flood. I call that an amazing turnaround... and an incredibly inspiring comeback story.

Some trawling around of the internet suggests that the mall was such a boon to the community, that owners and officials made a serious push to get the mall back open for business as soon as possible. Major props for not only quickly reopening, but for the beautiful job that was done on the mall. Those images we saw were enough to make us go a little out of our way to visit this delightful property!

An aside here, to talk about a feature OUTSIDE the mall, something you see as you approach the mall entrance at the food court/carousel entrance. A statue known as "Independent Man" stands tall, greeting you and welcoming you into the mall property! Originally named "Hope", this statue is a replica of one seen on top of the Rhode Island State House in Providence. One Louise Lind, wrote a blog about her connection to this statue on

Her father would point to the statue of Independent Man when she was a young girl and proclaim it was him. Being just a kid, she simply believed him without question. As she grew older, she began to become skeptical of her father's story and asked of someone with knowledge of her father's life if it was indeed him.

This source would emphatically answer yes to that question, going so far as to relate to her the humble beginnings of her family, and their exodus from Sweden to the United States. To earn money in the new world, her father and uncle would pose for artists at the Rhode Island School of Design. One such work that resulted from this modeling would be the work, "Independent Man".

Despite any resemblance to Lind's father, she has been assured that it was him who was the original model. Originally intended to be a statue of Rhode Island statesman and historic figure, Roger Williams, it's agreed that the statue couldn't possibly be him, as Williams would have never presented in a mere loincloth, nor was he as muscular and "built" as the statue atop the State House or at Warwick Mall!

It may not matter about WHO the Independent Man really is or was, because he appears to be an archetypal symbol of the Rhode Island spirit. He stands tall at the State House, and his replica at Warwick Mall, to greet you as you approach the carousel entrance at the food court. Artistic license? Who knows?

Shortly after the mall reopened in 2011, Jordan's Furniture based out of nearby Taunton, MA would announce its intentions to open a new store in the former Old Navy/Caldor space. This new location would make good use of both floors of empty space, yet another improvement, and for Jordan's, would be their first store ever at a mall location. Jordan's would have its grand opening on December 16, 2011. A mere two weeks later, Nordstrom Rack announced it would open a location at Warwick as well, in the new wing developed after the flood. It would take just under a year to open, in late 2012.

2016 would bring unfortunate news to the mall, as Sports Authority, as a result of its bankruptcy filing, would shutter locations nationwide. The most recent new opening at Warwick would be in March of 2020, as Golf Galaxy would fill the void left behind by the Sports Authority. As of the filming of our video in early 2019, the mall seemed to be doing quite well for itself, having few vacancies and a healthy amount of foot traffic. There has been criticism by officials who reviewed the mall's comeback and reopening, that implies that the mall has done nothing in terms of infrastructure or engineering to ensure that the same thing doesn't happen again. I will leave that for the experts to iron out, as history will be the judge. From my own observations as a bystander I am pleased to say that Warwick successfully weathered the storm it endured in 2010, and for those the mall serves, that seems to be good enough for now.

2020 brings an entirely different catastrophe to Warwick, and retail in general, in the COVID-19 health crisis. With many malls only just reopening as we approach the month of July, we can only wait and see what's going to be in store for Warwick Mall, and others. I can say that if the residents of Warwick have any say in the matter, they won't go down without a fight. Independent Man with his strong presence may be an unintentional symbol of the mall's strength and resilience, in the face of adversity, and a sign of "Hope" as was his original name.

You can check out our video of Warwick Mall HERE:



Warwick Mall Official Site

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