WESTERN PLAZA MALL
The area at what is now I-40 and Western Street was a muddy playa lake until late 1966. Construction began on Western Plaza in the fall of that year. The mall opened February 29, 1968. But Montgomery Ward and Woolco had completed their buildings months earlier and held grand openings August 9, 1967. (I was the 6th person through the doors at Woolco) For the benefit of shoppers during construction of the mall at Christmas time '67 a tunnel made of scaffolding and plywood connected Wards and Woolco. The other major anchor was a White and Kirk department store. White and Kirk, a local company, operated a very fine store in downtown Amarillo for decades. In the 70's W&K was purchased by Sakowitz which eventually sold the store to Dunlaps. Dunlaps moved away in the early 2000s. My first job ever was at Radio Shack in the east end of the mall. It was the first Radio Shack store in the region. The store closed July 27, 2002 (I helped the manager shut the sliding doors). A Furr's Cafeteria was in the mall from the beginning and for many years Wards had a small cafeteria of its own. Woolco had its own version, the Red Grill. Furr's closed April 23, 2006 (I was the last customer out the door). General Cinema Corp. of Dallas opened a 1,000 seat theater March 29, 1968 featuring THE GRADUATE. The huge auditorium was divided into two theaters in 1974. The cinema ceased operation in 1991 but a local comedy club took over providing entertainment in one auditorium while showing independent movies in the other until 1993. A 10-screen cinema was rumored for WP but never materialized. The first Hastings store opened with the mall. It was a very tiny store, probably only a tenth the size of current Hastings operations. (Hastings is headquartered in Amarillo and operates from a former Sears building near Sunset Center Mall) Western Plaza had two sets of fountains, a large one near Wards and smaller one near the Woolco side. The center of the mall was a large, bright, open area with a few kiosks such as Orange Julius. The mall had 43 stores at its height. Woolco closed January 15, 1983 (I was there when they turned out the lights for the last time). The Woolco building became a Wilsons store a few months later. Wilsons sold to Service Merchandise a few years later. The Service Merchandise Company went out of business in the late '90s and the building was empty until the Graham Central Station nightclub opened there in 2004. Montgomery Ward went out of business in 2001. That building was never occupied again. A new regional shopping complex, Westgate Mall, opened October 6, 1982 four miles west of WP on I-40. Western Plaza was renovated somewhat in 1983 and held on for a few more years but was ultimately doomed. New owners terminated the leases of the few stores still operating there by mid 2006. The old mall structure was razed and a new 10 building complex known as Western Crossing has been completed. The new development has several stores, restaurants, and three or four hotels with more to come.
The design for WESTERN PLAZA MALL (October 1965)
The construction of Western Plaza Mall 1967:
photos from AmaChron's "The Summer of '67" LOG
GRAND OPENING February 29, 1968
The Demolition of Western Plaza <> June 2007
Cinema Entrance inside the mall (June 20, 2007)
East entrance of the mall
Inside the mall (this was RADIO SHACK)
White & Kirk / Sakowitz / Dunlaps
Western Plaza is gone <> September 2007
Western Crossing which replaced Western Plaza Mall includes Burlington Coat Factory, Petco, Michaels, Mardel, Hoagies Deli, Olive Garden, Cheddars, Rudy's BBQ, Kolache Cafe & Baking Company, Starbucks, Holiday Inn Express, and more to come.
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