Sunday, January 15, 2006

River Roads Mall

Sunday my faithful sidekick Matt and I decided to explore the abandoned River Roads Mall in Jennings, as we have heard that it will perhaps either be torn down or renovated in the near future. Since we're never ones to miss a great oppertunity, we knew we had to visit it soon. This location holds a special place in Matt's heart, as both of his parents used to work there many years ago (his parents are really old). His dad even used to steal money from the fountain!

River Roads is in the very latest stages of ruin and decay, with water pouring through the ceiling like a faucet in many places. On a clear day like today, I have no idea where that water was coming from! The mold that grows on the outside windows paints the entire complex in an eerie yellow light. The building is never silent, because wind blowing through the open holes in the ceiling and broken windows create all manner of strange and spooky sounds, not that Matt and I ever got scared and stopped dead in our tracks and looked at each other with that look that says "did you hear that?!," because we're tough guys.

River Roads was built in the 50's, and was one of the first enclosed malls in the United States. It was a prosperous shopping center until the mid 80's, when the crime and poverty of North St. Louis spilled into the suburb of Jennings. The mall closed it's main corridor in 1995, and today the only operating business on the property is a Food For Less, which has no access to the rest of the mall. One of the most striking features is the iconic clock tower that sits in the center of the main avenue. Considering the disrepair of the rest of the mall, it is in amazingly good condition. If only it would have fit in my pocket.... The larger anchor stores are completely empty, save the great chandeliers that we found in one of them. Matt and I began to venture up an escalator into the upper level, but soon turned around when we realized that it was PITCH BLACK and the flashlight that I had brought was fairly crappy, and that we were huge wusses who are afraid of the dark.

That didn't stop us from exploring the bowling alley that used to operate in the basement of the mall. This place was also completely dark, but the idea of an abandoned bowling alley was enough to make us at least attempt to act like men for a few minutes, just until we could take a few photos. Many of the lowest parts of this basement level were flooded, making exploration of the rumoured loading dock tunnels impossible. Perhaps next time when I bring a suitable light source.

River Roads Mall was an interesting exploration, one that I'm glad I got to see before it is either restored or razed (the latter more likely, I'm afraid). It is sad that River Roads is in that unfortunate category of forgotten places that are too old to do anything with, too new for anyone to really care. It really is a shame, but I can understand why the setting of modern day Jennings doesn't cause investors to salivate at the mouth or anything. Just driving through the area was depressing. But then again, I'm kind of a mopey whiner.

One thing, if nothing else, is certain from my day of wandering the abandoned halls of this mall: the vision of this, this demonic creature, whatever the hell it is, will haunt my dreams for all of my years. God help us all.


Blogger Fast Ed75 said...

That is really cool you went to River Roads mall..Did you get any artifacts from there. I was looking at another site that had pictures of the Mall and
I would do anything for one of those River Roads plastic trashcans

7:06 AM  
Blogger Danny Plattner said...

Great job on River Roads! My family owned and operated Plattner's Modern Man for over 20 years. The store was located next to the main clock tower in the center of the mall. Our offices were located in the lower level of the mall. I spent many years working at River Roads and have fond memories.

6:08 PM  
Blogger moonz said...

I spent countless hours at RiverRoads mall when I was, bowling, playing pool, eating at the resturants, and attending public open-air concerts. I even got my hair cut there regularly, at the barber shop on the lower level.

It was THE number one place you'd find my friends and I hanging out on a Saturday, back in the early 60's.

My mother worked at the main department store there most all of her working life...maybe 25 years or more.

It makes me sad to see what has become of a place I loved so dearly as a kid, but this is what getting old has in store for us all.

The neighborhood around the mall was once a great place to and friendly. My family lived there almost 30 years.

Now it is downright dangerous...a good place to get mugged, on even murdered.

If you stay in the same general area your entire life, and you live to be my age, you may very well observe the same changes that I have.

I hope you don't have is something we could all do without.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

wow, great job guys. I still live in the area and just drove past the demolition site about a week ago. My fondest memories of that place was when I was a kid and my grandmother taking me up to styx for lunch at their restaurant. Getting my picture taken at Christmas and after the 1976 olympics going up there and getting the Spinks brothers autographs. Its too bad it has to come down but it was time. Scott

2:01 PM  

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