Cross County Center

Most of us who live here know about this open-air mall as being the first of its kind in all of Westchester County and that when it opened in 1954, it became a magnet for people who lived in NYC and other areas of New York.  Originally flanked to the west by Gimbels and to the east by John Wanamaker as pictured above, the mall served as a destination for families to come to stroll along with their kids on a Sunday, take in some shopping and enjoy the suburban life that at the time, Yonkers still offered.

Cross County Center is actually the old name of the complex as they felt the need in the 21st century to add shopping between County and Center, as if now the purpose of the property is that much more clear to those who pass by.

I must say that this place is one of the many places that I hold deep in my heart and it would take a thousand years for me to forget about. Yes it’s true I grew up right across the street, yes this was the place where my Mom first let me go off with my friends WITHOUT her.  Yes this was a destination on days when going to school sounded trite and cutting school much more appealing, even though invariably I would be spotted by a neighbor or the pit bull that was my mother and would spend that evening clutching my bed, not being able to recall how many times my mother’s hand was smashed into my forehead.

It is safe to say however that in the 90’s, Cross County experienced a down turn, as crime rose in the area, businesses began to vacate their areas of the mall and people’s perception of Cross County was somewhat of a joke versus a place with real practical purpose.  I mean, why would you go there when you can go to a big boy mall like The Westchester or some other place where you can’t afford to buy anything?

Then about seven years ago, plans began to take shape for the re-vitalization of the mall, after all malls have proven to be like people, meaning, they can die.  Have you ever been to a dead mall?  A place where life once stirred and there was vitality but now, it is simply an abandoned shell of a building, yes that could have been the fate of Cross County.

Instead, it HAS been revitalized, and I really enjoy seeing the new faces of Cross County, new families and new generations of kids cutting school within a 1 mile radius of their apartment building.

I find myself having to work hard to be open to change…Ok so maybe the new Cross County Shopping Center signs are not as cool and do not have as much character as the old ones.

In life I am learning that Bob Dylan was right…

“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin’.”

Ok so there are now Cell Towers on top of the New Cross County Sign.

A monstrosity of a Parking garage that says to vehicles passing by along the New York State Thruway, “Come on in, there’s room enough for each and EVERY one of you!”

A living room style seating area now dons the middle of the Mall which in my opinion is great for the lowly boyfriends who at least can now sit in an environment that is familiar and vicariously do what they wanted to do all along which was to stay home.

Your not at the Mall guys…your not at the Mall!!!

Be sure to check out what may be the most historic part of the Mall…the ancient and mystical Trading Rock!

Of course, one could make the argument that it is not that historic being they have moved it three times since the Mall opened.  Nevertheless it is there, proof that, “primitive peoples gathered on this site to barter their wares.”

So what if the great stone Rams and Dragons are gone that flanked each corner of the walk between the main area of the Mall and Wanamake….I mean Sears.  I spoke with a guy the day I took this picture who passionately felt that they were basically stolen from the public and that Cross County still has them hidden somewhere.  Lets hope that is true and that they did not meet the same fate of so many other beautifully crafted stone ornaments of properties and dumped in the New Jersey Meadowlands.  You realize pieces of the old Grand Central Station, Penn Station and Waldorf Astoria are down there!

Still though, life moves on and in a fast way for Cross County as more restaurants, stores and of course, parking is slated to be opened up by 2013.

If you have never done it, take a ride or walk to the second floor parking lot outside of sears and peer out toward the St.Joseph’s Seminary and the western sky.  It is here that I have found great peace and insight over the years.  Something about looking west, watching the endless flow of traffic and being above the mall just has always been a very cathartic experience for me.

—-Joshman

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38 thoughts on “Cross County Center

  1. Pingback: Cross County Center-Part 2-Missing: The Lions and Rams of Cross County «

  2. Actually, my Mom who worked up in the office for 30 years that ran the the center, said the whole mall was built on a ancient swamp!

  3. I was born at Cross County Hospital in 1959. We moved to CT when I was two years old but returned often to visit relatives. I have faint memories of the shopping center and of the small”amusement park” on one side-the pink ferris wheel, and a large green whale surrounded by water that I wanted to go in but did. Would love to see some old photos!

    • Jane, if you google Cross County Center, you will find a few decent websites that have archive photos to look at. Sorry for not having specific websites for you.

    • The Trading Rock is as the plaque states, a rock that has been preserved or what have you and some how they have determined that some of the native tribes that used to call Yonkers home, particularly the cross county region, used to “barter their wares” on or near the rock. I am a bit skeptical and I have not had any conformation from the historical society on it’s real significance.

  4. OMG – my mother use to work at John Wanamaker and I can remember as a child sitting on those lions waiting for her to come out. Cathy – thanks for the memories.

    Mary Ann – SJB graduate

  5. My Dad (C V Wood) was the one who developed Cross County Center. I remember going there to his office (Eastern Shopping Centers, Inc.) on Saturday mornings and sitting there designing “my” shopping centers on a yellow legal pad while he worked 🙂

    • Wow Dori that’s amazing! Was it always his goal to develop an open air shopping mecca or were there designs in the works for an indoor Cross County Shopping Center that’s we’ll never know about?

      • The “dream” was to have a place for our mom to shop without going to NYC. He called the owner of her favorite store (Wanamakers) and offered to sell him 50 acres of vacant swamp land and the rest is history. I am one of the 4 children that they shopped for and we lived in Scarsdale in the Edgemont area. Dad was always full of ideas and plans. Our daughter-in-law wrote a paper for U of Michigan graduate school on CCC being the first of it’s kind. There is also a Saturday Evening Post article on the opening of CCC published Jan. 1. 1955..

      • Will definitely check out the article. Thanks for the date and this great info! I’m still searching for some old shots of the area before it was developed. The Westchester COunty Archives had some but hoping someone out there has some more.

    • Rod, I had a similar difficulty looking that up. If you go to the Saturday Evening Post’s website, they have a pretty good archive system.

  6. I remember getting “lost” at Cross County – my Mom found me at the rides in front of Woolworth’s. The Horn and Hardhart’s cafeteria was there…a big treat! Gave a friend parking lessons in the massive parking lots there.

  7. My girl and I used to park and neck on the roads between the amusement park and Central Ave … what memories this brings back..

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