Photos: Seph Lawless
In this eerie set of images taken by Seph Lawless — a pseudonymous photographer, political activist and urban explorer based in Cleveland — we're offered a fascinating glimpse into the snowy suburban ruins of Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio.
Built in 1975, Rolling Acres was a thriving shopping destination for several decades — complete with a movie theater, food court and, at its peak, more than 140 retailers spread across two floors. However, as the heyday of American mall culture began to wind down, it wasn't long before the grandness of this particular establishment began to wane.
After mall owners shed the vast majority of the tenants and closed off access to the walkable mall portion in 2008, only two major anchor stores (JCPenney and Sears) remained. These retailers chugged on for a few more years until they were finally shuttered in December 2013. Since then, the property's decaying interior has laid almost completely dormant, save for the footsteps of urban explorers like Lawless.
Lawless initially photographed this place (sans snow) for his eerie book "Black Friday: The Collapse of the American Shopping Mall," (cover at right), but he decided to revisit the location following a winter storm, which dropped a thick blanket of snow across the region.
As he strolled through the tomb-like mall with his camera, snow fluttering down through the broken skylights and atriums that had become exposed to the elements over years of decay. Lawless likens the experience to being in a surreal "make-believe snow globe."
While the mounds of snow resting on benches, escalators and long-dead indoor trees certainly makes for a grim scene, it's also an oddly serene and poignant representation of how our society and economy has changed in just a few years.
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