Louisville’s Forgotten Mall

Mid-City Mall -- Louisville, KY
Photo credit:  University of Louisville Photo Archives

Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky When I was little I liked to study maps. I can remember getting the big giant road atlas out and just studying, looking, making notes. Of course living in small town Kentucky, Louisville, the largest city in my home state was often a source of obsession. When thinking back to those maps, Jefferson, Mall St Matthews, and Oxmoor Center, they were all there. Mid City Mall was never mentioned, and being on Bardstown Road, I honestly dont know that I was ever in that part of town until I was a grown man. Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky Before I dive more into the pictures let me give a little history.

Mid City Mall was built on the site of the German Protestant Orphan’s Home, which was founded in 1851 and moved to the 10-acre Highlands site in 1902. It remained there until 1962, but the structure and grounds were sold for $500,000 in 1959 to mall developers. The aging structure was demolished and the orphanage moved to Bardstown Road and Goldsmith Lane. Developers then built what became Kentucky’s second enclosed mall. The initial plan, unveiled in 1958, called for a $7.5 million, five-story mall with a pool in front on the Bardstown Road side and penthouse apartments on the top floor. The plan was gradually whittled down to a one-story plan with a lower level. The main developer of the project was Guy E. McGaughey, Jr., an attorney from Lawrenceville, Ill. The concept of an enclosed mall was very new. There were only a handful of enclosed malls in the US at the time. In drawing up the business model for the Mall, Mr. McGaughey had no basis for the rents. There was not a history for how much to charge the tenants for space, maintenance, housekeeping, repairs, trash pick-up, etc. Consequently, revenues were never enough to keep the Mall up-to-date and clean. Construction began in March 1962 and the mall was completed in October of that year at a cost of $3 million. The shopping center formally opened on October 10, 1962, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Louisville Mayor William O. Cowger and Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook. The mall contained 180,000 square feet of leasable space and 22 stores. On June 21, 1964 an early morning fire that started in the Cherokee Book and Card Stop caused $200,000 in damage to the mall.

Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky

There was also a Kresge store in this mall that held its grand opening in October of 1962. Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky
The mall originally opened with Winn-Dixe supermarket.  When Winn-Dixie pulled out of the Louisville market in 2004, Buehler’s, a chain based in Jasper, Indiana, (not to be confused with the chain of the same name based in Ohio). Amid financial difficulties Buehler’s filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and closed both Louisville stores. The space was quickly taken over by Valu Market, a local Louisville area chain. Valu Market remains there today.

The mall is basically an elongated square on two floors.  The bottom floor was once home to a skating rink.  Today the mall is home to many non traditional mall tennants including a comedy club, doctors offices,  and a branch of the Louisville Public Library.
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky
In 2015 it was announced that the mall would recieve renovations and new tennants. Today the mall is full and renovations have been completed.
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, KY

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2 thoughts on “Louisville’s Forgotten Mall”

  1. I live within walking distance of this place, although I hardly ever go to the mall except for quick grocery trips when I don’t feel like driving all the way to Kroger (or if I’m looking for specialty beer, they have one of the most impressive beer selections anywhere). Back until the 80s, the mall had a Zayre… and Ames for about 6 months. That was where the movie theater is now. Also, I didn’t see it mentioned here, so I was just curious, did you check out the thrift store in the basement? I haven’t been down there in probably 10 years, but last time I was there, the skating rink was fully intact and being used as part of the sales floor. I would assume that is still the case.

    Of course Bardstown Road also had another mall about 4 miles away from the 70s until the early 00s, Bashford Manor Mall, which was a much more traditional mall with a Target, Dillard’s (originally Bacon’s), and a third department store that kept changing banners all the time (it ended as Hess’s before becoming a second store for Dillard’s). All it took was for Target to pull out of the mall to build a new store behind it for everything to collapse in there, the entire mall went from a slowly dying mall to total death in a matter of months, now it’s just a boring Walmart and Lowes. And in fact, there was even a THIRD (now mostly forgotten) mall on Bardstown Road that was yet another 3 miles or so down, Raceland Mall. I don’t remember that one at all, though I do know that it had a Grant’s that later became a Pace, and Pace was the last thing to leave the mall (actually lasting beyond the closure of the mall itself, though it was relatively short-lived overall). That mall is now a Ford and Nissan dealership, the outer structure mostly still stands.

    1. wow, I had no idea about those other malls! Thats pretty awesome. Im definitely not proficient in Louisville retail history, im much more familiar with Lexington. So Louisville is still a learning experience for me Thank you for all the information!

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