Trashing the Mall with Jake and Elwood

Remember the mall scene in 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers movie? You know, the one that Jake and Elwood utterly destroyed when being chased by a flock of Chicago police officers? Have you ever wondered where that mall is and what happened to it after the filming? Here’s the story.

The Dixie Square Mall

The entire mall chase scene was filmed at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. The mall was at one time brand new and the pride of Harvey. Built for a cost of $25 million dollars, the mall opened in November 1966 with 50 committed retail stores. By 1968, the mall had expanded to 64 stores, including a J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Woolworth, Walgreens, and a Jewel supermarket.

But, in the early 1970s, crime was becoming an increasing problem for Harvey, a suburb just 20 miles south of Chicago. In 1972, a woman was fatally shot near the mall. Then in 1973, another person was shot within the mall. Soon, due to an increase in crime and general economic decline, the Dixie Square Mall began to lose stores. By 1979, the mall was empty.

The Blues Brothers

Meanwhile, Hollywood director John Landis was looking for a large mall that he could film a wild car chase scene in for his new movie “The Blues Brothers.” Discovered by a professional film location company, the abandoned Dixie Square Mall was perfect.  In August 1979, Landis’s production company rented the entire mall and went about dressing it up so it appeared fully-functional and open. By the end of the year, production began. The result according to the movie buffs at Steve Jones Chrysler, Owensboro, KY?  One of Hollywood’s most famous mall-trashing car chase sequence!

The Cars Involved

The infamous Bluesmobile was a 1974 Dodge Monaco ex-police car and featured “cop tires, cop suspension, and 440-cubic-inch cop motor” as stated by Elwood in the film.  A total of twelve Bluesmobiles were used in the movie, including one that was built just so it could fall apart.

The Chicago police cars were used police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol and painted to look like Chicago patrol cars. A total of 91 were used in the filming of the movie. It is said that only a few of the 91 police cars were usable after filming was finished.

Post-Blues Brothers

A large portion of the mall was destroyed during filming of the mall chase sequence, and when the film crew departed, they left much of the mall in ruins. Since the property was technically just rented by the film’s producers, the city district attempted to sue Universal Pictures for damage. Fortunately, for the producers of the movie, financial issues forced the district to eventually abandon the property and terminate legal proceedings.

During the 1980s, the mall deteriorated quickly. Vandals broke every remaining pane of glass and stole all the copper or other valuable building materials. In 1985, the canvas over the food court area was stolen which further exposing the mall to the elements.

The 1990s saw the mall turn into a haven for gangs, murders, and drug activity. The homeless, vandals, and others set up camps in the mall turning it into a vision of post-apocalyptical squalor complete with fires, tents and makeshift housing.

End of the Road

By 2010 the governor of Illinois finally announced a government grant of $4 million dollars to demolish the mall. In January of 2012, the permits for demolition were finally issued and the final demolition of the mall was completed on May 17, 2012. Today the land is a level lot awaiting future development.

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