Saturday, December 7, 2013

Century III Mall...

 We haven't had any good old exploration posts lately. Mostly because Evan has been working away and Danielle has been bouncing between work and school. But don't fret! We have some cool stuff coming up very soon. In the mean time, we decided to do a little to speak. Our Washington Mall post was way more popular than we expected, so after hearing some stories about the alleged decline of the Century 3 Mall near Pittsburgh,we made a trip down to check it out.

 This post has been laying around in our 'to do' bin for awhile but with news of a new developer eyeing the massive mall, we thought now would be as good a time as any. This visit was done at the end of last summer and really wasn't planned out.We weren't even sure if we were allowed to take photos or video in the mall, so we kind of snuck around...which always makes it more fun.

 Like the Washington Mall, we heard through various sources that Century III mall was not doing too well. I had even heard a rumor  the whole mall was slated to be demolished. We are happy to report , it is nowhere near that bad. Like most malls,it is suffering from the recent economic issues. Many stores are closed and it even appears that one section of the mall has been sealed off. The day we stopped ,it seemed fairly busy with plenty of folks shopping.We shot a quick video and grabbed a few photos before hitting the cool comic book store. So,here is our Century III Mall trip and a few quick facts.

The Century III Mall planning began in 1976 and opened in 1979. It is located in West Mifflin,Pa along busy Rt. 51.The entire mall is constructed on a former slag pile known as Browns Dump. This is where the molten leftovers of steel production were dumped. To stabilize the site, concrete was pumped into the ground to fill abandoned coal mines near the dump site. Rumor is that the ground contains more concrete than the mall itself! One of the slag cars remains on display on the road that leads up to the Wal Mart behind the mall. Evan's Dad recalls watching the night sky light up from the train cars dumping the molten slag. (See,we did tie this post into our coal/steel heritage!)

When the mall opened,it was a big deal. People came from as far as Ohio and West Virginia to see it. By far the largest mall in the Pittsburgh area, it was certainly  the place to shop. The three level mall was 1,290,000 square feet and featured over 200 stores.All the major chains had a store in the mall. Gimbles, Kaufmans,Montgomery Wards as well as others have rotated through the mall's history (many in the same spot!).  The mall also housed Pittsburgh favorite National Record Mart as well as Camelot Music,Waldens Books and so many other great stores (back when we had things like record and book stores - damn internet!). C3 was the first mall I remember with an actual food court. We always parked near that entrance and it smelled so good when you walked in! Made you wanna spend money! In the 80s, C3 was Heaven on Earth for a teenager.Not bad for a former slag dump!

 I remember taking my first trip to the mall with my Mom,sisters and neighbor. Way before the new toll road,we took 21 to Uniontown and hit Rt. 51 to the mall. It seemed like it took forever to get there from Rices Landing! Getting to go to Century III was a big deal for us. Having grown up with Uniontown, Laurel, Washington and Franklin malls (now Crown Center) ,Century III was massive! We would have to pick locations and times to meet up so no one would get lost. I got my Dungeons and Dragons game there at a really cool hobby store on the first floor on the food court end. My other favorite,as mentioned in the video, was Cutlery World. A store where wanna-be ninjas,like myself,could by throwing stars and Rambo knives! Just what every kid needs! 

Years later, Century III was the cool place to go when we were old enough to drive. It was always fun when someone scored Mom's car for a  Saturday trip to C3. By then, we were more into Merry-Go-Round for parachute pants and the Art Explosion to check out the coolest Patrick Nagel prints. You could kill hours there, shopping,eating and never had to leave the mall. I remember a stage where musicians and dance schools would preform. The place was especially awesome at Christmas when it was fully decorated.There was a large sculpture that stood in the center of the mall that is now gone.I was told it was made from leftover signage,but am not sure if that is true. 

 for more classic shots of the mall.

So,although it is just an old shopping mall to some, Century III holds an important place in the hearts of us SWPA'ers! A place of great memories and a salute to the rich steel producing history of Pittsburgh. Stop by this holiday season and show the old girl some love. Lets keep our fingers crossed that she'll make a comeback! Please,share your Century III stories with us! 


  1. aww like half of the stores you can see in this video are closed now! but the mall remains open.....