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  • Northland Demolition Continued

    Posted on July 8th, 2005 Toby Weiss 3 comments
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    WHERE IT STOOD ON 6.19.05

    Here’s where we left off, and now let’s continue…


    On the upper level looking north (above, left) & south (above, right) onto what was and what’s left of Famous-Barr.

    (Above, left) I’m standing “inside” the FB now, about the level of the roof of the sub-basement and looking up at the “Blow Out Sale” store front. Standing in the same spot, I look up to my left and the escalator still strains to take me to the second floor (above, right). I look down to my left and study the massive pile of building debris tumbling into the bottomless dark basements waaay below ground. I swear I see pieces of what I covet dearly: the stainless steel that made up the “Northland” sign. As I start to climb down the pile to investigate further, I realize I’m breaking the very first rule of Demolition Spelunking:

    Do Not Do It Alone!
    There must be someone else around to at least know you disappeared in the building and alert the authorities.

    I’m by myself, crap! But my chances of getting one of those mangled letters is right before me – 70/30% chance of success.
    A few more steps down the shifting pile, and I get a vision of the suffocating horror of the 30%, and stop.
    Crap! But a letter is right there, I swear it!
    I’m supposed to be at my Pop’s Father’s Day BBQ in Brighton, IL in 40 minutes, and I’m not supposed to be getting these clothes dirty (too late), and I probably should also arrive in one piece… I had to let it go.
    It still hurts.
    So does watching this.

    Even as the place whittles away, it’s still an architectural love affair. I can’t get over something so modern, sleek and strong (above left) being torn down. And I see the old, whimsical wiring get up (above right), and marvel that the place hasn’t half burnt to the ground.


    (Above) Against what’s left of the upper level wall, staring down to the lower level.

    WHERE IT STOOD ON 6.27.05

    Letters and stars are history (above right), as the rest of the building now looks like a picked-over Thanksgiving turkey. Upper level at the former Kresge’s/McCrory’s (above right), demolition workers pulled all remaining interior trash out to the curb, which then sprouted an absurdist lawn mower blooming atop the greenery.

    Most all of the lights still burn at night, which gives the place a submarine feel, an underwater eeriness. On the north side of the lower level, I get to see interiors that I could only half make out during daylight (above left, former Worth’s/Studio 150). And the promenade towards what was Famous-Barr (above right) features perfectly lit destruction.

    (Above left) Lower level south side, looking at the rounded bank and a (long-blocked) stairwell up to the top level. It was an aresting sight, especially the light on inside the utility area to the left of the stairs, which felt oddly warm and inviting.

    (Above right) Man, I so want this in my backyard!

    WHERE IT STOOD 7.04.05

    (Above right) The Northland Bowl sign reappears!
    The (now-vacated) Ambassador took down one of their signs, and unearthed both the original name and function of the building that was attached to Northland’s lower level north side in 1967.

    (Above left) Upper level north next to what was the FB, the former Baker’s Shoes/Kingsbury’s Shoes literally stands at the edge of the abyss.
    (Above right), standing in the FB pit and looking up at the same store.

    Even though I’m painfully sad over this loss, it’s been fascinating and absorbing to see the physical bones of the place, construction details, how damn solid it is…was. I wonder if any of the men who helped build the place 49-50 years ago have come out to watch it be taken apart?

    (Above left) Lower level of the former Kresge’s, and I never run into anyone inside these buildings while I’m there during the day. They must only come out at night. But no one cares about this site, so they could very well spray paint freely while the crews are at lunch…
    And it’s getting hard to travel Northland by car because they have closed off most all of the entrances and roads (above right) around this massive place. Also note the big, beautiful 50-year old tree. Sorry, goodbye.

    Here’s some thoughts from other people about Northland. I’ve also received some wonderful notes from folks who grew up in the area, and are now watching it leave via my photos and/or their special Goodbye Treks to the place. Thanks for sharing how much you loved the place, too.
    More to come.

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    3 Responses to “Northland Demolition Continued”

    1. Oh my gosh. I thought I was the only one…I too made weekly visits to my beloved Northland during this time. And went to Walgreens EVERY TIME to buy a disposable camera (you’d think I’d have learned.) I had almost EXACTLY the same sentiments as you. Northland was a huge part of my life…and while I didn’t get and stars or letters either (I asked the crew), I DID get one of the granite benchtops from the top level by Famous. YOU can imagine what it means to me!

    2. Again, I can’t stay away from this sight. I post, and I post again just to discover if it was all real.
      I went see a movie called the Bobo, starring Peter Sellers…over and over again at Northland’s cinema. Another film, “Hombre”, starring Paul Newman gained my interest. I think I saw it about a half a dozen times. Then, the Sound of Music played, and Northland’s cinema was tied up for a year with that film. I never did go see it. It made me angry that they never changed it. I don’t know if I went there much after that. T.Key

    3. Second time I have posted on this site today…worked at Famous in the 70’s as a teenage stockman…had the time of my life there for two years….these photos I see here made me…a grown man cry today…long live Northland…

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