Patrick-Henry Mall is hyphened, because the name actually refers to the two counties that border each other: Patrick and Henry. The mall itself, however, is actually in Henry County. The name of not only the mall, but also the counties is also obviously a nod to the early American revolutionary of the same name. For quite some time, this mall has captivated my attention because of its striking mid-century design that has endured well past its useful life. Indeed, if the mall had ever actually been enclosed and expanded it would have likely died much sooner, most likely either knocked down or re-purposed by the late 1990's. This is especially true as the mall itself sits in an older part of the city near downtown on the east side. The road it is on is also no longer a major route since the highways were relocated around the city.
Day and night shots of JCPenney, now a classy "Mix Bag". You can also find some "famous brands" if you look really, really hard. Photos by digitalsky. First shot shows the open-air mall corridor with detail of overhead canopy.
Mix Bag, formerly Penney's, does not keep its mall entrance open. However, the ghost of Penney's remains on the building proving that the logo was never updated. Photo by digitalsky
Penney's former mall entrance complete with moldy hole in the overhead tiles. Note the tiles below as well. This is retro goodness at its finest. Photo by digitalsky
More detail of the Penney's labelscar and mall entrance. Photos by digitalsky
The livelihood of Martinsville was similar to cities across the state line in the piedmont region of North Carolina in that furniture manufacturing was its bread and butter. Clearly, furniture manufacturing peaked when the mall opened in 1965 bringing to the city one of the earliest malls in the region. The crown jewel, of course, was the JCPenney store, which at that time was a mass merchant of both soft and hard-lines competing with Sears and Montgomery Ward. The mall also had a Rose's, People's Drugs and Colonial Stores as its original anchor tenants. Leggett and Sears, however, remained downtown.
Inside Mix Bag. The store still has the same brown carpet it did as JCPenney.
Old sign for the mall somewhere in the middle of the mall. Photo by digitalsky
Side view of the former Rose's, which later operated as Watson's Backroom before closing over 20 years ago. I am waiting for Qbert to start hopping up those stepped tiles, but I think the game is already over. Photo by digitalsky
Several shots of the small open-air mall itself between Penney's and the east wing. It is still lush with trees and vegetation making clear shots difficult, but shopping here would be enjoyable if there were any stores. Too bad Liberty Fair Mall killed it. Photos by digitalsky
Note the gazebo-style kiosk in the background in this photo. Looks like the kind of place you would go to get a travel package to West Germany. Photo by digitalsky.
Former restaurant, which was most likely Bonanza. Photo by digitalsky
Entrance to former Rose's/Watson's Backroom. Photo by digitalsky
In 1989, Liberty Fair Mall opened, ending Patrick-Henry's hope for any further dominance in the market. Not only did the new mall eventually steal the prospective Sears from the mall, but also they took original anchor JCPenney immediately. When all was said and done, the mall became effectively a ghost town hosting a few mom and pop tenants and offices, but no major retail since. A call center last occupied the former Rose's, and Family Dollar continues to operate in the original Peoples Drugs location. A few mom-and-pop operations also operate in the mall, but no other chain stores are located there today. JCPenney itself is now operating as a low-key local operation known as "Mix Bag". With exception to one store, the mall has never been remodeled and is essentially derelict although it is maintained and open to the public.
Photos of the center from the front parking lot. Family Dollar is where People's Drugs was prior. Photos by digitalsky
Here is the replacement People's Drugs that never opened. It's hard to figure out what to put in dead store space in a town this economically depressed. Photo by digitalsky
People's Drugs in center, Big Star to the left and the outer side of the mall on the right. Is 1 hour parking really necessary? Photo by digitalsky
Does the future hold promise for the forgotten center? The answer is not likely since the mall is in town with little development around it in a city that is too depressed economically to support it either way. It will also be difficult to attract new stores since the footprint of the mall is very small and landlocked. In all, the only real hope aside from bringing real industry back to the city for reviving the center for retail is if Liberty Fair Mall dies and what is left chooses to repopulate the mall. Liberty Fair Mall actually is dying, too, but it will likely be de-malled before the anchors will be demolished. However, the very recent purchase of Liberty Fair by Hull Storey Gibson suggests a cheap remodel and largely empty mall will be the situation for now Still, I fantasize about Belk taking over the old JCPenney, a healthy little remodeled mall springing back to life and land purchased to expand the mall more. JCPenney sadly is struggling in the city with their store downgraded to an outlet: the reason why JCPenney likely would not work in their old store. Patrick-Henry would be able to offer far cheaper rent than Liberty Fair and a cozy boutique setting that the current mall cannot offer, but the mall is clearly far from the wealthy suburban setting that could better support it. Does a mall like this in a place like this have anything to offer anymore?
Annotated map of the mall.