A look back on the history of Greenville, SC’s McAlister Square

News clipping of McAlister Mall

The largest mall in SC at the time | Photo from the Greenville News via newspapers.com

As you drive down South Pleasantburg Drive, it’s hard to miss the large, cream-colored building near Laurens Road (to your left or to your right, whichever way you’re coming from).

Now home to the University Center of Greenville, McAlister Square was once known as South Carolina’s only and largest enclosed, temperature-controlled shopping mall.

It’s steeped in Greenville history, being a major part of the impetus and decline of traditional department stores in the Upstate.

Here’s a look at some notable historic moments behind McAlister Square.

1870s: McAllister Square’s namesake, Charles Stuart McAlister (a native of Ireland), moves to Greenville from Charleston to marry Virginia Earle. In this time, Charles also opens a shop with Greenville native J.E. Beattie downtown called McAlister & Beattie, which sells goods like apparel and home furnishings.

Charles Stuart McAlister

Charles Stuart McAlister + McAlister with family | Photo from Michael C McGee via geni.com

1900: According to a family account from 1973, Charles purchases 180 acres of land, where McAlister Square currently stands.


Family account | Typed account from Greenville County Library System

1914: Charles and J.E. Beattie close their dry goods shop, noted as having one of the biggest and best dry stocks in upper South Carolina. However, Charles continues to exist as one of the most prominent businessmen in the city.


Retiring the Dry Goods store | Clipping from the Greenville News via newspapers.com

1932: Charles McAlister dies from illness.

1965: Caine Company announces plans for the two-phase construction of the 600,000-sqft McAlister Square at U.S. 291 (S. Pleasantburg Drive) + Laurens Road. A family account notes that the development would be named McAlister Square for Charles’ ownership of the land and prominence as a business owner in the city.

Clipping of McAlister Square announcement

“An architect’s dream” | Clipping from the Greenville News via newspapers.com

More historic moments

1968: Ivey’s and Meyers-Arnold department stores are locked in as anchor stores, and South Carolina’s largest shopping mall opens on February 15.

News clipping of Ivey's Department Store

Height of glamour | Clipping from the Greenville News via newspapers.com

1974: Belk Simpson (known today as Belk) joins as the third anchor store, completing McAllister Square at 500,000 sqft.

1981: What was said to be an electrical fire ignites in the World Bazaar store on Sat., Dec. 12 (40 years ago this coming weekend), causing smoke + water damage to smaller shops within the mall and the collapse of a portion of the roof in the northern corridor of the building.

News clipping of McAlister Sq. Fire

Deemed one of the worst in Greenville history | Clipping from the Greenville News via newspapers.com

McAlister Square did not have a sprinkler system (believed to be the reason why the fire spread so quickly), and the damages were an estimated $30 million.

At the time, the fire was considered one of the worst in Greenville history.

1982: McAlister Square reopens in February and commences a $5 million renovation to remove any evidence of the fire.

1987: Anchor store Meyers-Arnold is purchased by Upton’s Department Stores.

1989: McAlister Square is purchased by Boston’s Krupp Realty Corporation for $20.8 million from McAlister Limited Partnership.

1990: Ivey’s becomes Dillards after being purchased by the department store chain.

1991: McAlister Square renovations are completed.

1995: Dillards becomes the first anchor store to close in McAlister Square and moves to Haywood Mall.

1998: McAlister Square is sold again to Stolz Management Group + Belk Simpson becomes the second anchor store to close, shortly followed by Upton’s in 1999.

Stains left behind the former Bel Simspson sign

Another anchor gone | Photo by MikeKalasnik via Creative Commons

1999: After being sold once more to DLC Management Company, Greenville Tech Foundation puts down $1 million to purchase McAlister Square, completing the $18 million purchase in August.

Today, McAlister Square is now known as the University Center of Greenville, offering Upstate students learning resources and access to degrees from nine state colleges and universities, including Greenville Tech, Clemson University, and the University of South Carolina.


McAlister Square Mall | Photo by MikeKalasnik via Creative Commons

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