Neshaminy Mall dioramas removed, preserved thanks to local historians

Sally Sondesky and the Bensalem Historical Society have been working tirelessly to preserve the iconic dioramas at the Neshaminy Mall.

Video Transcript

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: I don't think anybody can replicate these again. Get them out.

- Drop it down, dude.

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: Don't let them throw them in the trash. I just want them saved.

ROBERT HOMOLKA: The struggle of survival and the struggle for freedom.

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: That's it. You got it, Rob. This was originally called the Wall of Freedom, or The Freedom Wall. These dioramas opened in 1968. When my kids were little, we would bring them here. And they would sit and watch them.

They had animation. They would move. You used to press a button and they would come alive. That's how detailed these are.

You have to look at every little bit. Macy's closed. And we have been trying to get these dioramas since 2017.

I'm just so glad to be here and getting these out. You can't imagine.

- Nice and slow.

- Just go slow. That's all.

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: We're a small Historical Society. Oh, I didn't join it. I started it.

We're hoping, along with the mayor, that organizations that will preserve them will want them for their museum, wherever they can put them, maybe get Washington Crossing to take that one, maybe Cliveden out in Germantown would want the Germantown one. We just want them somewhere where people can enjoy them and they're preserved.

ROBERT HOMOLKA: I've lived in Bensalem my whole life. I was seven or eight years old. I was very impressed with them.

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: It's papier mache.

ROBERT HOMOLKA: It's got me involved with the local community and Historical Society. I don't know that I necessarily would be doing that if it wasn't for these dioramas and some other events that occurred in the township over the course of my lifetime.

- A little dust up there.

SALLY VAN SANT SONDESKY: In my lifetime, I've seen so many changes. Look how much has changed since these dioramas were made. It's a whole different world.

Where you're standing was a farm. And when Franklin would come out to visit, legend has it that he flew with one of his kites here where the mall is today. After the farm, it was sold. And the mall was built.

Oh, to have a mall, we thought we were in heaven. And the kids loved it. They would come and sit here and watch the dioramas.

Unfortunately, most people are ordering online. They're not shopping like they used to. And of course, the pandemic has added to that.

That's why we want these out because we're afraid of what might happen. And I think it's important that the people nowadays know where we came from, what they did, how they survive. And we learn from it.