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Crumby Run-Down Malls of St. Louis #3: River Roads Shopping Center

Update: See the site in 2010; it is now completely cleared of buildings.

I have to admit that I had never even heard of River Roads Mall when I was growing up, which is saying something because I was obsessed as a pre-teen in seeing every shopping mall in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Perhaps it is not surprising that the mall was torn down due to lack of business in the last year. I captured the pictures below in early 2007 and I can only imagine that much more of the mall has been demolished.

I asked someone who grew up in North County if they ever shopped at River Roads when they were young. They laughed, stating that even 15 years ago they wouldn’t be caught dead there. So needless to say, due to the lack of regional visibility and the perception that River Roads was a dumpy, dangerous mall, the shopping center was doomed.

I have often stated that the truth doesn’t matter, but rather what people see as the truth is what really matters.

Despite the mall being a great example of Modernist mall design, the owners and surrounding public officials saw no need to keep River Roads.

I finally learned about River Roads from DeadMalls.com, and by then it was already dead and not even on life support.

Built St. Louis also has some great pictures of the old department store.

Also, here are some excellent photos of the interior from Irrational Ecstasy.

I have fond memories of malls from my youth in the early ’80’s when malls that looked like River Roads were still going strong, and it’s sad to see them swept away. In a few years, there might be more notable, landmark buildings in St. Louis from the 1850’s than from the 1950’s.

8 Comments

  1. I grew up about half a mile from River Roads. I have many fond memories of that place. We use to walk there several times a week and just hang out. I remember being a little kid and walking there with my sister. Of course this was back in the ’70’s when it was a much safer place! I was sad to see it go! My first job was at Walgreens restaurant

  2. another mall bites the dust but I’m not really surprised about this one. We used to live at the end of Lucas & Hunt Rd that intersected with New Halls Ferry Rd. I remember getting off one bus at River Roads and rather than wait for the next bus, I would walk home (weather permitting) because I didn’t want to be bothered by the troublemakers. That was mid to late 90’s. I have both good and bad memories! Still sad to see it go though as I used to go there with my parents and siblings from when I was a little girl.

  3. Many great memories of this mall while growing up as late as the mid 1980’s. My Mom used to love this mall because the Stix Baer & Fuller department store (the one with the tile storefront) was the largest one near us. I used to beg to go the downstairs in Woolworth’s to look at toys and parakeets and upstairs in Woolworth’s to get a big pretzel. I remember when J.C. Penney’s closed right before I went back to school one year, then it reopened a year later as the Penney’s Outlet. By today’s standards it was a tiny mall, but it had popular stores in it, many you still see today: Lane Bryant, Radio Shack, Walgreens, The Gap. I remember my Mom shopping at Stix and Foxmoor the most though.

    • These first malls always leave the biggest impressions on you even though they weren’t the mega malls that came later. I just don’t understand why North County malls fail. Ir has to be ” White racism!” They quit shopping there and spend their money somewhere else. That NEEDS to stop. We NEED a mall. Maybe the government will build one for us.

      • That’s the problem, waiting on the government. You don’t need a Mega Mall. you can have a establish a shopping district and the neighborhood and then patronize those shops. Malls are out of style and failing around the country.

  4. Being 72 years old, I remember seeing both Northland and River Roads being built. River Roads was the “upscale” mall. I used to take my mom to the restaurant at Stix after I started working.. I spent more time at Northland. I was big on model cars and they had a hobby shop that always had model car contests. Loved to ride our bikes around either’s parking lot. Northland had a big 4th of July display each year. I remember that in 1965, Ford had a display on the River Roads parking lot and that’s when I saw my first Shelby Mustang.

  5. Spent a lot of time at River Roads as a kid with my Mom and Dad. It was a tiny mall by most standards. I remember some of the stores there: Walgreens, The Gap, Woolworth’s, Stix Baer & Fuller (which became Dillard’s then closed a few years later). The River Roads Bowl in the basement, the snack bar at Woolworths, the monorail / kiddie train in Stix, the lower level garden in front of Stix. My Dad liked buying clothes from a store called Wolff’s which was a very upscale store at the time, and my Mom liked to get some of her things at a mini-department store for ladies called Garland’s. Garland’s closed in the early ’80’s and the space was divided up into 5-7-9, The Wild Pair, JW (aka Jeans West), and Baker’s/Chandler’s Shoes. The department stores were very classy and had nice restaurants… Stix had “The Pavillion” which overlooked the sunken garden, JCPenney had a nice coffee shop, Woolworths had its Steamboat Room and Harvest House Restaurant (and its snack bar). There was no food courts way back in the late 70’s / early 80’s. There was a Waldenbooks where I would get books to read with my allowance. My Mom liked to browse at Arthur’s, another ladies store while my aunt always went to a trendy shop for young women called Foxmoor and she always bought her records (later cassettes) at Music Vision. The very large JCPenney and the tiny Kmart across the street on the corner of Halls Ferry and Jennings Station both closed in the summer of 1983 which did hurt the mall and area around it. River Roads management and the City of Jennings feared Dillard’s would leave next so they both helped fund an improvement project that reduced Dillard’s from 4 stories to 2 stories while also modernizing the store’s look. By the end of year the Kroger attached to the mall closed. The following year JC Penney decided to return to their space at River Roads but as an Outlet. That drew traffic back, but crime at the mall had become common with muggings in the parking lot, stolen cars, a couple car jackings, and a domestic dispute between a husband and his wife (who worked at the Woolworths) that lead to him killing her in the parking lot. In 1986 Dillard’s closed their store at the mall and The Gap closed around Christmas that same year. It was around this same time my family quit going there and went to Jamestown Mall or Northwest Plaza instead since both had Dillard’s and Northwest also had a large JCPenneys that wasn’t an outlet.

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