Rolling Acres Mall. A once beautiful, nationally recognized mall for its design. After opening in 1975, this mall would later come to a sharp decline near 2007 and close indefinitely in 2008.
What once stood as a magnificent piece of architecture, including the center of the structure known as The Court of the Twelve Trees has now been thrown to ruins throughout the past 4 years. This mall housed stores such as O’neil’s, Pretzel Time, and JCPenny (Which still oddly stands to this day).
Within its walls, it featured unique light structures beyond its also unique decorations and fountain surrounded by large trees and beautiful foliage, and a bubble elevator to get shoppers up and down as well as escalators and stairs. The greenhouse-like skylight covering the entire center brings the outside in, surrounded by 4 corridors, which used to house the many shops.
Broken windows, a few trashed shopping carts, piles upon piles of glass, decay, rotted foliage, security office porno magazines, and a destroyed skeleton of what was once a fountain were all that remained of this structure. Then came the day that the sky fell.
It was a normal day, not unlike so many others during Ohio’s chilled winter months. The wind blew forcefully, sweeping snow dust across a barren parking lot, resembling somewhat of an urban arctic tundra. The sun was blinding as it reflected brightly from Akron’s snow-coated city streets. Though being the average day as it seemed, there was one thing tucked away from the ordinary, not making a sound. Following the passing of a large white out just hours before, a friend and I decided to check out one of our favorite, somewhat local abandonments – the Rolling Acres Mall.
As I mentioned, it was no different than most winter days for Ohio, but when you’re paying attention to that which is normally neglected you can find some incredibly surreal scenery. A once lively hub for the community, previously filled with music, laughter, fun and excitement, now sits deteriorating to nothing – what happened to this part of the American dream? They would have never imagined 40 years ago that this could be a possible sight. This space is now regularly occupied only by the crumbling and cracking walls of numerous storefronts, but on this day it became something entirely different, as fantasy became reality.
Upon entering the abandoned Rolling Acres Mall, I was taken away by the enchanting scene that welcomed me. You could call it a winter wonderland, though I feel that would not be doing it proper justice; it was much more than that. Constantly shifting weight from so much snow after years of neglect had weakened the glass of skylights above, causing ceilings to bust open overhead. It was as if clouds had fallen from the sky, filling this normally dark and desolate destruction with a brand new, much brighter life. The sky had fallen, crushing structures and causing destruction, but left us here to observe its unbelievable beauty as it lay in silence before us. I could breathe the atmosphere and feel as though the whole world around me was empty.
As a community, we will someday have to explain to future generations that this was once part of a big dream, but that was as far as it ever got; a dream. For some reason we changed our minds, eventually abandoning them for a lifestyle where we find ourselves stuck inside, sucked into our computer screens, leaving it all behind – with no redirection. And now, reflected in the shattered glass of shop windows are fading memories of a fragile human connection being slowly forgotten, further lost as dirt fogs their reflection.
As winter fades away, nature welcomes a dark, post-apocalyptic forest to take place of the melted snow. The mall quickly becomes overgrown, falling further into disarray, throwing the scene even deeper into a surreal display of our otherwise normal world. Imagine trying to outrun the zombie apocalypse through a forested mall (okay yes, it looks like a zombie war zone). Foliage reflects in pooled water beneath the escalator. Also reflected, are the clouds lingering above broken ceiling, where glass has fallen away to the mall’s floor.
I have watched it for years now, deteriorating in such an incredible, beautifully destructive way. From the initial abandonment when all was still fairly pristine – shop windows intact – to looking like a bomb dropped – windows smashed and glass tossed all around as trees begin to grow wildly throughout. This is definitely one of the most bizarre “forests” you will ever take a hike through.
You can imagine the past – the people rushing through during the hectic shopping months of Christmas, as gifts fly every which way from shelves. A man runs to the jewelry store. Nearly out of breath and ready to fall over, he holds his head propped up at the counter, looking into the glass case in hopes he can find the perfect ring for his future wife. Years drag by as lives are lived and jobs are worked. All has since fallen, and I now wander the enchanting, echoing halls of a place where lives were lived, and jobs were worked.
When winter came last year, heavy snow collapsed the glass roof, creating an entirely brand new scene, like one straight from a fantasy. Now, as the snow had melted, being completely open to the elements, yet another scene has emerged, beginning to turn the mall into a forest. I love watching the reclamation of nature, a different view of the “Circle of life.” It’s always so peaceful standing inside the structure, and I love it in there. You can actually feel and imagine the memories.