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

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

A yellowing photograph that shows the interior of a mall. In the center is a square-shaped water feature with water coming out the top. Two people stand by the fountain talking. To the left, three people are walking or standing near a store labeled "Graves Cox."

Menswear store Graves Cox was one that shoppers could peruse at Turfland Mall.

Photo via “Wonderful Lexington Kentucky,” courtesy Lexington Public Library

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

Turfland Mall was once in its heydey.

In its early days, the mall was known as the largest regional shopping center built in Kentucky. A 1969 tourism brochure touted that “the entire mall is carpeted” to “further enhance the luxurious feeling” of the shopping center, and locals may remember shopping at stores like Montgomery Ward or McAlpin’s.

A ~15-minute drive east is where the 428,000-sqft Lexington Mall once stood. After opening in 1975, the mall housed shops like County Market, Louisville furniture store Heleringer’s, and popcorn retailer the Karmelkorn Shoppe. In 2005, however, the mall’s last store — Dillard’s — closed.

Back to the future

Today, the site of Turfland Mall’s former Dillard’s serves as a UK Healthcare outpatient center. Most of the mall’s remaining space was demolished in the mid-2010s.

Lexington Mall is now a distant memory; in 2010, Southland Christian Church purchased the mall property and redeveloped the space, including demolition.

Though these malls have changed, Lexington still has a number of other shopping centers or districts where you can make like NSYNC and buy, buy, buy:

  • Fayette Mall | This mall is the go-to spot for most out-of-towners and Lexingtonians alike thanks to its 170+ stores. Pro tip: Grab a cup of coffee from Old School Coffee to help fuel your trip.
  • The Summit at Fritz Farm | A more upscale option, The Summit is where you can pick up everything from Apple products, lululemon apparel, and stop by lunch at Ouita Michel’s Honeywood.
  • Hamburg Pavilion | Located outside of the circle, this outdoor shopping center is home to treat-yourself goodies like World Market + Ranoush, as well as essentials at Target.

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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