American Pompeii: After the Food Court Closes

Photos: Stillness and silence at the abandoned White Flint food court.

When it first opened in 1977, White Flint Mall was pure glamor. Donna Karan attended one of two celebratory black-tie events. Elizabeth Taylor – Cleopatra herself, then on her sixth or seventh husband, Senator John Warner of Virginia – attended the other.

Through the expansive glass roof, sunlight shone down on a central atrium featuring tropical vegetation, lush carpeting, and not one but two glass elevators that would have made Charlie Bucket blush. Mirror-lined escalators carried eager shoppers from floor to terrazzo floor. Smooth jazz played smoothly. Privileged denizens of Montgomery County promenaded leisurely from shop to shop to shop, down Italian lanes and cobblestoned streets, without a care in the world.

Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the Roman forum of this leisure palace was the food court. Its emperor, Orange Julius. Its cuisine, that of Naples-born Gennaro Sbarro.

And then Vesuvius happened. Vesuvius, in this case, being a general and growing American discontent with the enclosed shopping malls that captivated the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in favor of the roofless “lifestyle center” of the 2000s and beyond. In 2011, the owners of White Flint Mall announced the structure would be closed down and demolished to make way for another lifestyle center.

So behold White Flint Mall’s dining establishments, after the volcano.

(UPDATE: See more photos here.)


Mrs. Fields is put out to pasture. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.


The eerie weirdness of the abandoned food court’s neon wonderland.


Lots of seating, but no one to sit there.


Funeral shroud for a food court.


Sbarro, the Italian eatery no more.


Food warmers gone cold, Sbarro.


More neon lights than Vegas.


After the volcano, the ash cloud moves on.


Plenty of high-chairs, but no children in sight.


Roman gardens, devoid of revelers.


Abandoned food court, almost lifelike.


Christina’s World, shopping mall edition.


The castle, almost Kafkaesque.


Empty tables in an empty food court.


Moonrise over the food court.


Montgomery County’s Pompeii, perfectly preserved.

(All photos by the author.)



  1. […] 1. After the food court closes. […]

  2. varados · · Reply

    Irredeemably hideous. It deserves to be demolished.

  3. i’m so sad, alot of quality family time was spent there.viewing various cultural sights etc. I love you ,mom

  4. Y.D.T.K. · · Reply

    amazing photographs. i want more!

  5. Evie · · Reply

    I worked at the Bloomingdale’s when it opened. It was a wonderful place and the mall was terrific. Once Border’s closed, the sad end was in sight.

    1. Elizabeth · · Reply

      Evie, did you work in cosmetics? If so, we worked together. Liz Miller 🙂

  6. […] […]

  7. […] このイメージを見てください › 神奈川専門求人サイト […]

  8. The food court seemed kitschy.

  9. […] このイメージを見てください › オーナーズ【最高のお家のパートナー】 […]

  10. […] […]

  11. it’s so Xanadu.

  12. […] […]

  13. […] […]

  14. […] The blog Duck Pie posted several pictures of the mall’s desolate food court. They look like how an empty stomach feels. Here’s a sampling: […]

  15. […] Patrick McDermott Rowen Altenburger Steve Martin What is contact improvisation? Third Space Davis Why do images of abandoned Japanese island Hashima haunt us? Stickerslaps Museum of Parallel Art – Trailer The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics American Pompeii: After the Food Court Closes […]

  16. …from floor to terrazzo floor


  17. […] mall food court, will we eventually see our own souls? Probably not, but these photos—shot at the desolate, soon-to-close White Flint Mall in Bethesda, Maryland—are impossible for me to tear myself away from. —Helen […]

  18. Oh wow! I remember in High School (Walt Whitman), we used to have our weekly internship meetings there at the kids theater room. I used to love those stairwells in the the mall – I still remember sitting on the stairs, with my then black LL Bean bag, waiting for our instructor (I can only recall that she had long blond hair tossed into a Gibson Girl esque bun) nearish that room. It’s scary to think that part of my – and all the others that did their internships as school credit- childhood is gone.

  19. […] American Pompeii:  White Flint Mall, Abandoned  [Duck Pie]  Malls are the first type of building that just cannot in any way be repurposed.  They’re the architectural equivalent to a VHS tape rewinder. […]

  20. tsj1s · · Reply

    Those murals in the food court are an attempt at some Maxfield Parrish art. Not quite there though.

  21. Curious · · Reply

    Why are the lights still on?

  22. Great post, I found this very interesting. 🙂

  23. the wall painting with the moon, I want to walk into it and take a swim and wander on over the ridge for an amble n’ look see

  24. […] glory. Thank goodness. Today we shine the spotlight on a few of our favorite pics from the blog Duck Pie. The space of choice: an abandoned food court from North Bethesda, Maryland’s White Flint […]

  25. Ethan Finley · · Reply

    I just want to express my sincere gratitude to you for documenting this so lovingly and vividly in these photos. You see, White Flint Mall will always be a very special place for me, and you captured it’s final days so well. My family and I lived in the neighborhood of the mall for 3 years, and moved away about a week after you posted this. I used to go there often with my young daughter, and we saw it transform from a fully occupied space to a dead mall in those few short years. I especially adored sitting in the food court (called the “Eatery”) soaking up it’s amazing 1980s design, which you captured in all its glory! I’m actually in the process of writing a story set in an abandoned mall, and of course my time at White Flint was my inspiration, so I can’t thank you enough for this nostalgic document of a very special place. At least it was to me. 🙂

  26. […] 6. These bad boys look scenic, but are actually a tiny recreation of food court wall art. […]

  27. […] court of the now-demolished White Flint Mall in North Bethesda, MD. It’s from the article “American Pompeii: After the Food Court Closes” by J.S. Graboyes, which I highly recommend reading. It’s one of the articles that really got […]

  28. […] photo courtesy of Duck Pie. All other photos courtesy of my sentimental iPhone. Follow Kelsey on Twitter […]

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