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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 San Antonio’s past — plus hope for the future.

A large store with the words "Montgomery Ward" written across it on a bright, sunny day. Outside of the store are several bushes and a palm tree. Multiple clear windows show the inside of the store.

Montgomery Ward department store was one of Wonderland’s anchor tenants upon opening.

Photo circa 1963, courtesy of Click Americana via Wikimedia Commons

Shopping malls across America have been left in a state that not even Paul Blart could save, and San Antonio 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

Wonderland Shopping City was once in its heydey.

When it opened in 1961, Wonderland was the largest mall in the city. Locals may remember shopping at the mall when it featured stores like Rhodes and Toy Box, the “Alice in Wonderland” kiosk, and anchor tenants Montgomery Ward + Handy Andy.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, Wonderland Shopping City was renovated to become Crossroads, adding an outdoor fountain and amphitheater to the mall. In 2010, under new ownership, the mall returned to its Wonderland name.

Back to the future

SATXtoday: La Villita Historic District

The La Villita Historic District was originally a settlement for Spanish soldiers stationed at Presidio San Antonio de Bexar in the 18th century and is now home to 25 shops + galleries showcasing local handmade goods.

Photo by NPS

Today the mall is still around, but it isn’t the same bustling center it once was. Now more of a mixed-use development known as Wonderland of the Americas, the space still caters to shoppers + has a medical center on its lower level.

Plus, San Antonio still has a number of other thriving shopping centers or districts where you can make like NSYNC and buy, buy, buy:

  • Pica Pica Plaza | Located in the heart of the south side, visitors can eat, play, and shop through 60+ small businesses.
  • The Alley on Bitters | Minutes from SAT, this shopping center features a wide range of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.
  • La Villita Historic Arts Village | Stroll through one of San Antonio’s first neighborhoods and shop from 25+ local artisans.

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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