Maine Shootings

A sign reading “Lewiston Strong!” is displayed Dec. 27, 2023, outside Just-In-Time Recreation at 24 Mollison Way, one of the sites of the Lewiston shooting Oct. 25, 2023. AP file photo

Most of the buildings where America’s worst mass shootings occurred have been abandoned or demolished.

This week’s planned reopening of the bowling alley at Lewiston’s Just-In-Time Recreation, where seven people were killed Oct. 25, 2023, diverges from the pattern.

Of the buildings involved in the dozen most deadly shootings in the United States, only three of the places ever reopened: a Walmart in Texas, an academic building at Virginia Tech and the bowling alley.

The rest were knocked down with two exceptions: a nightclub in Florida slated to fall soon to a wrecking ball and Schemengees Bar & Grille on Lincoln Street in Lewiston, which is empty and unlikely to reopen in anything like its former use.

Kenneth E. Foote, a geography professor, once studied what happens to sites in America where awful things occurred.

In his book “Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy” he explained that sites where mass murders occurred typically “result in obliteration.”


“Other outcomes,” he wrote in the 2003 volume, “are possible but unusual.”

Given the lingering unease surrounding such places, and the impulse to hide away something terrible, “there is no easy way for stigmatized sites to be returned to use,” Foote wrote.

Three school buildings where students were slain have been demolished: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas; and the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where students were cut down in 2018.

A McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California, where 21 people were shot to death in 1984, was razed long ago. A small memorial exists on the site.

The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, site of a 2017 shooting that left 26 dead, was initially reopened as a memorial site but has since been knocked down.

Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, where 23 were killed in 1991, bit the dust soon after.


One other site, where the second deadliest shooting occurred in 2016, is slated for demolition soon.

Since a gunman mowed down 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the building has been empty.

For a long while, its owner hoped to create a museum there, but the funding never fell in place, so the city of Orlando bought it last fall. Municipal authorities plan to demolish the structure and erect a memorial to the victims on the site, though details are still being worked out.

In Lewiston, where the 10th deadliest mass shooting occurred, both of the buildings where killer Robert Card opened fire remain standing.

But nobody expects Schemengees Bar & Grille to reopen in the same space. Whether the building itself may be used for something else remains uncertain.

The bowling alley at 24 Mollison Way, however, has been renovated and plans to be fully open this week.


Perhaps the most similar example of a mass shooting site that reopened was the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in 2012.

In that case, the company opted to reopen the theater, with a new name, almost six months after the crime. It combined the screening room with an adjacent one to create a redesigned space, news reports said.

A memorial service at its reopening, before a showing of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” was boycotted by some, but generally met with the community’s approval.

“This isn’t only the place we lost Alex,” Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the mass shooting, told The Denver Post. “This is the place we also live. We love to come to the movies.”

After 23 died in a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, nobody expected the company would close its giant store. Walmart did erect a memorial in the parking lot, however.

At Virginia Tech, the two buildings involved in a 2007 mass shooting where 32 died were each renovated and reopened. One of them now houses, among other departments, the college’s Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.

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