Posted on October 27th, 2007 57 comments
Chambers Road & Hwy 367
Moline Acres, MO
The Lewis & Clark Tower still stands as a slightly-raggedy reminder of the brief moment when North County was progressively modern and willing to create the image of glamorous new suburban frontiers. That’s the impression it still gives off to those of us who were stuck with a babysitter so our parents could party here, but childhood impressions are not always reality.
While reading the newspaper at the end of August, the picture of the man shown above caught my eye. He had a real Rat Pack “ring-a-ding-ding” air about him, so I read the obituary. Impression and reality heartily clinked martini glasses when revealed that this man, Bud Dallavis, was the developer of the Lewis & Clark Towers and its iconic, spinning Top of the Tower Restaurant.
Development is listed as beginning in 1963, county records put 1964 as the birth date of the complex, and in 1965 architect George J. Gaza is listed as the only full-time commercial resident. That he stayed until 1967 while the complex was completed begs the question: was he the Tower architect?
In 1966, the place was 100% jumping with at least 7 floors of wedge-shaped residential apartments (now condominiums,) each with two sliding doors out to the continuous balcony, with its own swimming pool and gym in the basement. Businesses on the first two floors of the Tower included Alpha Interior Designer, Donton & Sons Tile Co., Figure Trim Reducing, King’s Tower Pharmacy and a Missouri State License office.
Shooting off the Tower is a strip of retail facing Hwy 367, long-anchored by Stelmacki Supermarket, a rare, independent grocer still unaffected by the continuous grocery wars. The site slopes down to the West, creating a lower 2nd level building which held the Towers Bowling Lanes and the Lewis & Clark Theater (shown below). Occupancy for the complex was robust for 10 years, with an influx of dentists and doctors filling tower spots when others moved out. The Courtesy Sandwich Shop even had a storefront for a bit. The Tower didn’t show any longterm vacancies until the late 1970s.
The remaining claim to fame of the Tower is the long-closed restaurant at its top, Rizzo’s Top of the Tower Restaurant, “the revolving restaurant… a landmark for many years where diners could view the downtown St. Louis and Clayton skylines, as well as the Alton river bluffs.” Considering how popular it once was, and how its myth still lingers, there’s surprisingly little information to be found about it. Internet searches only turned up a fuzzy photo of someone’s matchbook collection which includes a Rizzo’s cover, and entertainer Tony Viviano, who seems a natural to have performed in the joint.
While visiting with my father, Rich and his wife, Ann, I asked if they ever ate at the Top of the Tower Restaurant, which became a rapid fire series of memories of the place, starting with Rich saying, “You know there were supposed to be 2 towers, right? Which is why it’s plural Towers.”
No, I didn’t know that, but that does explain why the building ends the way it does (shown above) and why the land closest to Chambers Road has remained vacant all these decades. So what happened to the other tower? Rich says that the company who originally owned it ran into some problems of partners stealing from each other, which left no money.
I tell him about the obituary for the developer whose name I couldn’t remember, and Rich asks, “Was it Bud Dallavis? He was the public face of the Towers, head of Quick Realty,” which the obit later confirmed as correct. I countered that the man pictured was really good looking, to which Rich says, “Yeah, that has to be him,” and to which Ann responds, “We were ALL really good looking at the time. We were a handsome group of people.”
She was not bragging, just stating fact. This was suburbia in the mid-1960s, post-JFK assassination, mid-Beatles revolution. Rich and Ann were a part of the World War 2 and Korean War vets who left North St. Louis city in the late 1950s for the greener (and whiter) lands of burgeoning North County. Watch Mad Men to know exactly how they dressed during the work day, how they gussied up for frequent evenings out.
And Rizzo’s Top of the Towers was a popular, happening spot for them. The restaurant was turned out in the finest china and table linens, the food good. Was it expensive? Indicative of the times, Ann responds, “I have no idea what the bill came to at the end of the night. Women never saw the bill because we never paid.”
To which Rich tells tales of the endless rounds of free cocktails courtesy of Dick Grace, the Towers bartender commonly called “Buttsey.” Buttsey had perfected a way to look like he was taking money and putting it in the cash register, but it usually went into his pockets, and lingering guilt led to lots of rounds of “on the house.” Mr. Grace was found dead in his bed in the Towers apartments in the mid-1980s, a fatal heart attack at the age of 49, all those cuisines, cocktails and cigarettes catching up to him. By that time, the Towers and surrounding area were pretty much ate up by neglect, with all the original pioneers heading ever-further away.
The rest of their memories just further cemented the vibe the building gives off to this day. Even though well-past its glory, it’s still in service. Most of the store fronts (shown above right) are occupied, and the Tower balconies are dotted with an endless series of satellite dishes, BBQ grills and plants. Heading out in any direction from the Tower reveals dozens of commercial buildings that followed its modern lead, now-shabby ghosts standing in the shadow of the Lewis & Clark Towers. May they all remain until the time they are brought back to life as proof that just once, for a short space in time, we had fabulous optimism for the future.
North County Modernarchitecture, mid-century modern, modern architecture, north county modern, north st. louis county bud dallavis, chambers road, lewis and clark tower, mo., moline acres, rizzo's top of the towers, stelmacki's, top of the towers
57 Responses to “Top of the Towers”
Anonymous October 29th, 2007 at 7:11 AM
Thanks for the interesting post, Toby! I remember “Dallavis Drive” in one of the subdivisions in my old HS stomping grounds, and often wondered where that odd name originated. Now I know. “Rizzo’s Top of the Tower” was known as a good pre-prom place for dinner.
I find it a bit telling that Mr. Dallavis and all of his surviving children in the area reside/resided in St. Charles County. A typical story for North County in general.
Toby: Thanks for this. My contribution is a memory from dinner at Top of the Tower for my 8th birthday. I had been there with my parents before for a fancy dinner. The folks had lived off Chambers on Dennis Drive after moving from the city in the 50s and ToT was the place in North County to go for special dinners. When they asked where I wanted to go, I didn’t hesitate. The place revolved, what more could you want?! This was a time when ladies and little girls wore white gloves for an evening out and part of my training as a lady included trying to eat without getting them dirty. I never could manage it!
This was my first experience with a Caesar salad made tableside in a wooden bowl on a cart. After getting over the anchovies being actual little fish, I loved it and the whole experience there.
Thanks for stirring up the fond memories of that time!
Robert Powers October 31st, 2007 at 11:57 PM
Holy crap, it’s…
Capitol Records from out in LA!
This place was really a sort of “unfulfilled dreams” kind of place, mostly because of the non-completion of the second tower; it always seemed sad that the curved wall was highly visible from Chambers Road as you drove by the structure. It really was a landmark place for those of us who grew up in that specific section of North County. After a nasty injury that required a number of stitches, my mother drove me over to a doctor’s office for “emergency” surgery. Thanks for documenting this place, Toby!
Toby, thanks for the article on ToT. I grew up in Bellefontaine Neighbors and in the 60’s ToT was the place to go. My first time there was with my mother when I was home on leave from the Army in 1966. For years after I went there, first with dates, and then my wife. My wife and I spent many enjoyable evenings eating or sometimes just for a drink. I have been trying to find the Rizzo’s recipe for their “Spinning Salad” without success.
Again thanks. Oh, the ToT did not revolve. I think folks are confusing it with the restaurant downtown that does.
Darren Snow November 5th, 2007 at 10:48 AM
That obit does seem to confuse fact with fantasy, doesn’t it? Note that in addition to the “revolving restaurant” bit, it also implies that both towers were actually completed.
The saddest part is that after masterminding such a swanky development, the dude lived out his later years running a car wash. Not even an L.A.-style Googie car wash…just a car wash.
I love this! What great writing. I could almost hear the jazz standards and clinking martini glasses….
Remiss63 November 6th, 2007 at 12:18 PM
Another wonderful example of your determination and perseverance in the face of neglect. It’s great how you bring the social, cultural and architectural aspects into a misty, romantic whole.
Keep up the great work.
Christian Dallavis November 11th, 2007 at 8:19 PM
Bud Dallavis was my grandpa. And there was nothing sad about the fact that he ran a carwash, as the guy above suggested. He bought a farm out in Defiance and retired out there in the late 1970s, and then built and ran a car wash when he got restless during retirement. He suffered from Parkinsons Disease for the last 15 years or so and passed away in August. Those of us in his family really miss him.
thoughts from south grand November 20th, 2007 at 3:35 AM
i am pretty sure i went to a hip hop club in the bottom of that building in the late 80s, with a fake id of course
thoughts from south grand November 20th, 2007 at 3:37 AM
and got my hair cut at glen’s barber shop in that shitty looking strip mall in the foreground
kyledude December 4th, 2007 at 11:47 AM
I remember going bowling with friends one night at the bowling alley near the towers. This had to have been 1988-1989. The tower seemed worn even then, but there was almost no one else in the bowling alley that particular Friday night. We had a blast.
Forgive me for straying off topic, but my favorite restaurant in that area was Ponticello’s in Spanish Lake. Went there a lot in the 70s and 80s. Best pizza in town. Last Christmas, my wife, parents, and I went there and were quite disappointed. Food was subpar and service even worse. Seems that place has succumbed to its surroundings.
But I still have my memories. Thanks, Toby, for posting this.
Kyledude, if you read this (and any one else interested), I have to add a comment re: Ponticello’s. There was also a Ponticello’s on Chambers Road in a li’l strip mall just south of West Florissant (this is back in the early-mid 60’s), and the Italian food there was really great. They had these odd foil-lined cardboard boxes for takeout for stuff like spaghetti/meatballs! Sad that most everything from that part of North County is a sad shadow of its former self.
BTW, this was just south of a Velvet Freeze!
Anonymous December 9th, 2007 at 1:10 PM
“We were ALL really good looking at the time. We were a handsome group of people.”
yeah I look at photos of my folks from then and they did dress “swell” I learned to mix cocktails at age 7 for their friends at the wet bar in our basement (no I didn’t get to taste). I just remember a sense of optimism in North County that I think disappeared around the late 70’s.
I’d forgotten about Rizzo’s.
Powers: yes Cap Records – work of Welton Becket, as was the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Mark Taper Forum among other iconic LA places there appearing in lots of great/bad sci-fi films.
kyledude December 17th, 2007 at 1:36 PM
Thanks for the added info! I’m afraid the Ponticello’s on West Florissant was before my time (I was born in 1965…there! I dated myself! Happy now? :)), but that’s great to know.
I agree with the sentiment that North County is a shadow of its former self. This really hit home when I was back in STL in Dec 2005, took a drive up 270, and got off at Halls Ferry Road. OK, during my school and college years (grew up in St. Charles, went to UMSL), this was a totally happening intersection. You had Ackerman Buick on one side (remember their radio ads? “The BIG one!”), and a gigantic Target store on the other side that was surrounded by the Halls Ferry Cine (started as 6, went to 8, then to 14), a Chuck E. Cheese, several other restaurants, and I believe there was a roller rink there as well…or something. Well, when I drove around there in Dec 2005, Ackerman Buick was the only think left open. Everything else I just mentioned was closed and boarded up. Mind you, this was on a chilly, overcast Saturday afternoon, but it made me sad to remember how active that location had been…and how totally silent and abandonded it was now…
Perhaps, someday, it can make a comeback…we’ll see.
Kyledude, sorry you had a bad experience at Ponticello’s. Try it again please. They may have had a bad night (which all do). I go there twice a month and have seldom been disappointed.
Regarding Ponticello’s locations, they had another on Natural Bridge in the same shopping center that Uncle Leonard and his Muntz TV’s were sold. The original was on Goodfellow near McLaran. I think for awhile they had two on Bellefontaine Road; one in the existing location and the other near 270. Love the pizza.
Anonymous December 28th, 2007 at 9:29 PM
We would generally go to TofT restaurant once a year. My mom’s birthday is a week before Christmas and we liked to go there and enjoy the Christmas lights on the houses from above. Was also a frequent visitor to Tower Bowl in the late 70’s and saw an occasional movie at the theater. Any luck on finding the salad recipe? I have fond memories of how good it tasted – especially with the anchovy on top!
Anonymous February 14th, 2008 at 8:01 PM
In 1969 was a busboy for “The Top of the Towers”. Joe Rizzo was a great boss and a man by the name of Rene Dela Toro (interestingly, his last name means “of the tower”) was a Matredee. The Toni Conners Trio played nightly (did a great cover version of “The Shadow of Your Smile”) The Restuarant DOES NOT revolve. But I believe the building was one of the first structures to employ a fixed crain in the center of the structure that rose with the construction.
Hey Keith, I too remember the Spinning Salad from TofT. Wife and I loved eating at Rizzo’s, and miss it so. The Salad isn’t that hard to duplicate. If I remember correctly, iceberg lettuce was the greens of choice, and while it spun, chopped boiled eggs were added, then thousand island dressing, then blue cheese dressing… mixed thoroughly, then served. Of course, an anchovy slice was offered, then ground pepper. Try it.
Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane. I went to Top of the Towers twice in '82. Once was for my step-brother's 13th bday party. I never forgot the experienced. It had a such a "grand" feeling to a 9 year old.
I also visited Ponticello's in Spanish Lake a few times with my family and always loved it. My mother went there when she was a teen as well since my great grandmother's farm (yes, farm) was nearby in Spanish Lake.
I grew up in Hazelwood and Florrisant and now live in St Charles Co. My dad still lives in Florissant and runs a produce stand at the end of New Halls Ferry & Shackleford. He used to own the now Self Serve BP on the corner of New Florissant and Dunn Road…it was Barrett's Standard when we owned it. That was back when the old house on hill (that became an art gallery or whatever) was actually occupied. I remembered the old guy's Model T in the drive way and trees grown up all around the house. It was a spooky place!
Going back always makes me sad. Hazelwood- putt putt golf and "Olde Town" For me it's eerie feeling not to see that stuff there even though it's been years and years.
I had three birthdays at the old ChuckECheese aka ShowBiz pizza.
And what about Northwest plaza when it was actually a plaza??? I never did like it once they made it into a mall.
New Halls Ferry is depressing to me. So much has closed down over there.
Anyway, thanks again for walk back. People who I work with always want to act like there was never a North County before the current one. I will always be proud that I grew there.
Anonymous August 19th, 2008 at 8:07 PM
I went into the restaurant about 6 months ago to access one of the cell sites on the roof. The place is extremely run down, but you can tell it’s the shell of a place that used to be pretty nice. I was going to take some pictures, but the management is pretty quick to shuffle people out.
Doug Kelleher August 11th, 2009 at 6:25 PM
I have many, many memories of The Top of the Tower Restaurant. Joe Rizzo and his brother Gus, would welcome my father and me many an evening from the time I was about 7 years old until I reached adulthood. They were amazing hosts and always made us feel very special. My dad would even go there for lunch when the restaurant was closed and Joe would fix him a big burger and a cold beer and join him for lunch. The famous spinning salad is something I have missed for many a year. I would love to try to duplicate it. I don’t remember the restaurant spinning. There were some wonderful views however. By the way, the steaks were very good and my dad’s favorite was the English Dover Sole Joe prepared.
Great place never to be duplicated. If anyone knows what happened to Joe and Gus, I would love to know.
Thank you so much for providing this great information. That was just what I was looking for, keep up the great work.
Jim Panus February 14th, 2010 at 8:36 PM
I was a busboy,salad boy, meat cutter and variety of other duties for Joe, Gus and Mr Renee. As I was preparing lobster for my wife of thirty years on this Valentines I remembered the many recipes that I was priveliged to learn as an employee for the Rizzo family. Joe and Gus where very good bosses and Renee DeLatour sent me to Boys State in 1969, I can never thank him enough for that experience. I have so many fond memories that i can still light a lighter with a single flip of the Zippo. Sevice was the most important quality that the Rizzo’s demanded but still today my meat cutting skills are used quite often to prepare a filet mignon from a beef tenderloin. It would be great to have a renunion with my fellow workers, Dae Lederle, Mike Cuella, Rick May,Neal and I have nerver got over losing my twin Tom Gocheski during the Vietnam War. The waitress where Marilyn, Yvonne, Shirley,Joyce. And Phil was at the Bar. I thank the Rizzo,s for making such an impact on my life and teaching me to enjoy the finest food experience. Great Memories to all that remember the Top of the Tower.
Teresa Murphy February 18th, 2010 at 2:52 PM
was the club in the basement of the Lewis and Clark Theatre called “Animal House”? In the early 80’s I went dancing there. Upstairs usually had a live rock band, down stairs was break dancing and rap. What an amazing mix of people! And I dont recall ever seeing a fight.
Teresa Murphy February 18th, 2010 at 2:58 PM
Also, does anyone know if you go up to TotT now? what is up there.
I was privileged to be taken to the restaurant when I was about 9 I think (1971)…I am originally frm Louisville but lived in and around St. Louis with her for 5 years. I lived in Bellfontaine Neighbors also (as did the gentleman several posts up). I remember looking out at the lights at night as we revolved around. I remember the manners that were required there by my mother! Has anyone ever heard of a man named Jon Chleiboune (sp)? He and my mother dated for years..he was VP at some bank in St. Louis as was his father. Wish I could figure out how to spell his name so I can look him up
Thanks for the memories! Now I need to look up an old restaurant called Zimmermans..they had the best kiddie cocktails (I was a kid) and deep fried ravioli…mercy
The very top of the tower has been closed for quite some time. Simply vacant. When that part of town finally does come back to life, seems that space would be a choice place to re-open as a restaurant, yes?
I was a salad girl at Top of the Towers, probably 1972 or so, for a couple of years. Prepared the salad trays for the “spinning salads”-a woman Margaret taught me everything I knew-she was a kitchen staff. Wow thanks for the memories.
Tracey April 11th, 2010 at 8:55 PM
My grandpa, George Gaza, was the architect for Top of the Towers and he did live there as well. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago, but the stories he told me of this place will remain forever! I still have a menu from there with Toni Conners autograph. The stories I have heard over the years are just amazing and I have always been able to picture it. It’s been great hearing some more here. He would be proud!
Don’t know about the bartender Dick Grace, but know for a fact our step father Phillip DeStefano was the bartender for many years. Maybe they worked together. Thanks for the wonderful pictures & stories.
Grandpa Phil May 11th, 2010 at 11:00 PM
My grandpa Phil was the bartender for at least awhile. Wondered if anyone would mention him and Jim Panus did, cool! Sounds like it was a cool very classy place.
There are Rizzo’s Restaurants in St. Charles…any relation?
Debbie, you wrote on Feb.22 that you were a salad girl at Top of the Tower. As you can see from reading numerous previous emails, many peopole would like the spinning salad recipe. Will you please give it to us. I’ve been trying to find it for years. Thank you in advance.
My Mother Patsy J Cavin and Father Charles W Cavin both worked for Joe and Gus. Sadly if people havent found out, Joe passed away some time ago. I only state this because of the fact that somebody asked what ever happened to Joe and Gus. Well, now you sadly know. I attended the funeral with my mother. Would love to know if Gus ever opened another place. My father was an on and off Maitre De (please excuse spelling) and my mother was a waitres until pregnant with me in 83, where she took the cashiere position in the bar. Thats all i can say that and well as a kid, i remember spending a fair amount of time running around the kitchen and eating the steaks. I still think they were the best cuts ive ever had twenty years later.
Wow, this thread brought back some memories. I lived in North County from the early sixties until ’68, then continued to have ties to the area; many times dined at Rizzo’s. Great place; great food; great service. Spent New Year’s eve there, ’68 or ’69, don’t remember which; the place was hoppin’! North County seemed so new, so modern, so with-it back then. Btw, the restaurant did not revolve; that would be (originally) Stouffer’s Riverfront, a sensation when it opened in the late 60s, you had to make a reservation a couple months in advance!
does anyone have the recipe for spinning salad or know the ingredients at least? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What a pleasant surprise when I stumbled across this forum while searching for Rizzo’s ‘Spinning Salad’ recipe!
I could write volumes about my experiences at Rizzo’s Top of The Tower. A lifelong resident of NoCo (until 1983), I spent many a special occassion dining at what was our favorite restaurant. A graduate of McCluer Senior High School (Class of ’64), the restaurant was a favorite right up to the sad closing.
Most of my visits were with my wife Kathy Kunz (nee Barnett) who grew up right across the street in Bissell Hills. We met in 1974 and married two years later. Even though we moved to west county in 1983, we went to TOT for every special occassion, birthdays, anniversaries, taking out of town visitors to dinner, etc.
One of our favorite memories was of our favorite server, June. She always wore a friendly smile, had a great sense of humor, was always willing to go above and beyond to make the dining experience a memorable one… even to the extent of wispering an off color joke on occasion. One thing I’ll never forget is when the Rizzo brothers, in an effort to cut back during a recession, discontinued the real bacon bits which I always put on top of the Spinning Salad. Whenever we made advance reservations, we always asked for one of June’s tables. When she saw our name on the list, she would run downstairs to Stelmacki’s and pick up a bottle of bacon bits so I would have some for my salad. As time went on, I helped her out by supplying my own, sneaking them in in my sport coat pocket and prominently placing the bottle on the table when the salad arrived.
Their filet mignons were second to none and noticeably less expensive than some of the big names in St. Louis restaurants.
We will always miss the food, the atmosphere and the people of TOT.
For those of you wanting to experience the Spinning Salad, I’ve come close to replicating it. Start with shreded lettuce, add a sprinkle of shreded carrots. Stir in your choice of a good blue cheese dressing and a bit of ranch to go with it. Top with chopped hard boiled eggs, ‘cracked’ (not coarse gound) pepper. (You’ll probably have to go to Dierbergs to get cracked pepper. I’ve never seen it at Schnuck’s or Shop ‘n’ Save.) You can use a pepper mill, but I’ve found I actually prefer the cracked pepper. Easier, just as flavorful and more consistent in texture.
And last but not least, sprinkle liberally with real bacon bits or pieces.
Gee this is fun remembering my younger days. 62 now and I went to high school with Vicki Ponticello, knew her Mom and Dad.
Fun times we had eating at Top of Tower and the spinning salad… We all love the place just nice people. I remember them greeting you as you came off elevator…
By the way Glens Barber shop is still there with Glen cutting hair. He cut my husbands hair when he was very little and still cuts his hair today…
Ok now thinking about Crown Candy where I grew up too. Holy Trinity Church my grade school… Memories!!!!!!!!!!
Dennis Kavanaugh May 7th, 2011 at 9:51 PM
This brought back many memories. I worked as a busboy there from ’70 to ’73. Got hired by Herb who was one of the maitre’d’s. The food was great and the tips nice. I still have an ashtray from there that I accidentally took home on my last shift. We had to learn how to smoothly switch the trays. New Year’s Eve was a wild time.
Lots of nice people worked there. We did have a slightly deranged chef (Jose) who was a magician with food but had x rated pictures all over his store room!
I recently went up inside the old Restaurant at the top of the tower, and I took a ton of pics. I also explored other areas of the tower, I however dont recommend doing so, as the place is swarming with thugs and bums. Walking into the old theater I thought i was going to be robbed even the police officer inside gave me a look, like either your very brave or very stupid for comming in here.
Any one interested in seeing the pics I would be happy to share them. When Im not feeling lazy Ill probably upload them to my facebook page.
No I never when to the restaurant when it was open nor do I recall seeing it when it was open.
I believe but not positive that I had been to the theater when I was very young. I did go there probably back around 1995 when I believe it was called club 367 to watch a friends band play, it was at that time that I felt like i had been there before.
Still I find this spot very interesting and I wish i could have seen it when it was open.
linda(schoenberger)ehrhard August 24th, 2011 at 2:46 PM
You can find the original recipe for the “famous spinning salad at stltoday/dining.I also worked as a salad girl from 1977-1978. It was my first job.Joe Rizzo was my boss.He was a man of few words and very stern! I remember margaret (head salad lady) worked with her on Wed. night and with another salad girl(diane) on Fri and Sat night. My mom also worked there in the early to middle 70’s before me. Her name was Kay. She worked with Tony,June,Sandy…my brother Mark was a dishwasher at the same time and later in the 80’s, my brother Tom was a busboy. Jack Short was the chef and what a good one. Irene was the short order cook and made the best fettacinne alfredo I ever ate.It was so cool to see all the customers dressed up for a night out. Great food,live music,and dancing.Nothing like that around anymore! Sometimes a baseball player would come up there and eat. I rememder Joe Torre coming in there. The employee picnics were alot of fun too. I finally ate up there one time after I was married and got the “Famous Spinning Salad” treatment. I still remember my mom practicing the little spiel about the salad when she started working up there. HA HA
Tom Johnson October 29th, 2011 at 1:47 PM
I was looking through some old junk I’ve kept and found a souvenir toothpick holder from Top of the Tower restaurant, Googled it, and found this site. Reading the comments brings back a lot of memories. I moved to North County (Sherwood Manor apartments at New Halls Ferry and Chambers) to work at MCAIR in late 1964. I met a girl from Ferguson and we were married in 1966. Sometime while we were dating or after we were married, we had dinner at the restaurant at least twice and probably more. When we were there, the restaurant did rotate as we both remember. Maybe later on, they had problems and stopped using the rotation mechanism.
We also remember laughing about the waitress who served us the “famous spinning salad from Cali-for-n-ia” in a stainless bowl set in a bed of ice in a larger wooden bowl.
Late in 1966, I took a leave of absence from MCAIR to attend St. Louis U graduate school, and could no longer afford to eat out much, then we moved to Florissant, kids came along and we never went back to the tower.
Tom Johnson November 1st, 2011 at 6:45 PM
I forgot to include a link to the pictures of the toothpick holder. They are in my Picasa web album at:
This building is a beautiful mid-century modern architectural gem! I had no idea this place existed; being born in St. Charles in 1991. My parents are from North City/County, but they never mentioned this place! I hope and pray that during my lifetime this place will undergo a renaissance, of sorts. The state it’s in is such a shame. This should be an attraction in the St. Louis area. It’s so interesting to see that even the suburbs were cool in those days, not the strip mall hell of today. Just think of what it must have been like to live here during its heyday. Unbelievable.
[…] friend and fellow blogger Toby Weiss has published two wonderful articles on the history of the building, including this recent one with a load of interior pics. I’m […]
spinning salad recipe
Bob Cento March 17th, 2012 at 7:08 AM
Wow-what a joy just happening to find this site. My understanding was that my Dad(who worked @ Quick Realty too) was partner with Bud and John Defford in the building of this. I can’t remember the apartment # that my Dad lived in-but I did think that it was cool that he lived in a pie shaped apartment. And yes, there was supposed to be a second tower, and what I was told was that they ran out of money building the first one-or couldn’t get investment money for a second one. Going to the movies there-swimming in the basement pool-Going to Stelmacki’s for Deli meats-my drivers license test in 1970.. Brings back a lot of memories. I miss St Louis, but every time I come back to visit it’s a little more of a shadow of it’s former self. Sad, huh?
Bob Cento March 17th, 2012 at 7:20 AM
The partners stealing from each other story seems to ring a bell with me. My Dad told me(over and over) how someone who won’t be named here stole millions from him during the 60’s. That my Dad felt that he never got his proper share of things, and that he would’ve been worth millions if his partner didn’t do what he did. I couldn’t prove his allegations after he died in 1988-but it saddened me that my Dad and his partners ended up the way that they did.
Mike Reese June 14th, 2012 at 12:17 PM
My grandfather, John Cento and his partner, John Deford, were developers of the Towers complex. Their company, “Lewis and Clark Towers Project Development and Leasing, Inc.” developed the project.
I still have the business card he gave me as a kid, their offices were in the bottom floor, down the hall from the swimming pool. I always remember their number was Underhill 9-0200.
My Grandfather lived on the seventh floor. I also remember my sister getter her head stuck between the safety rails at the Top of the Towers restaurant when we were kids, they had to pry the bars apart to get her head back out. My grandfather was livid, but contained!
His business card has a rendering with the second tower in it. I beleive he always stated that their inspiration for the project was the Marina Towers in Chicago.
A picture of the tower is featured in the Science Center’s “Engineering” Display.
Just found a couple of old match books from this place. Glad to see the photos and to see that it had a lot of love over the years!
I was born in ’86, so to be fair… I never experienced it close up. In the early ’90’s, I thought the commercial aspect of it was sketchy at best, but in all fairness, I was far more interested in the McDonalds (which is now a Church, btw) just a block away.
The tower always had this strange significance to me. It seemed to mean something worth noting from my mom’s side of the family, as they were the ones to tell me about the restaurant up top and how cool it was. My memories, naturally, are from the back passanger’s window as we would constantly drive right by it on our way to a CYC game.
It was cool to discover it’s history, I never realized it was suppose to have 2 towers! I can’t imagine how cool that would have been, it always felt like there was something missing. I wish I would have had a closer look. I think the closest I got was in the front parkinglot which was an errand run, not anything cool like dining at the top. I think I would have gone back when I could drive, but it had really falling from grace once I hit highschool. Since then, I never bothered driving down that way.
I do remember driving my fiance to see my grandma and taking her through the Halls Ferry Circle, passed the Tower, but always pointed it out. Subconsciously, it was significant to me even though in reality I was less than impressed.
Also, Ponticello’s may only be around for 6 more months, the owners are getting ready to retire. I’ve been bothering them to get their pizza recipes just in case. Dang, now I really want pizza!
Thanks for the article, the pictures, and the adjoining stories!
Barbara May August 19th, 2013 at 8:05 PM
First time I have read your blog . . It started when I was looking up the
architect Armstrong Harris who designed a house in South City I was intrigued by. That led to your blog. Love your style and intent.
Sorry you are experiencing such negative events in your neighborhood.
To get to the point of this entry, I was driving in North County Saturday,
which I rarely do , and drove by the “Tower Building”.
I was curious about it and now by serendipity, I know all about it.
Thanks for the great blog.
barbara January 15th, 2014 at 9:07 AM
The next sad chapter:
Tom Wyrick January 20th, 2014 at 5:23 PM
I just ran across this blog entry, linked to a newer article showcasing a number of photos someone took of the inside of the Top of the Towers restaurant (or what’s left of it, anyway).
I got inspired to look for more information on this building after reading a note in the local paper that St. Louis City is about to condemn the whole building, if a number of repairs aren’t made in the next 30 days. (Apparently, the current building management and the city government are feuding right now, and the existing residents of the building are suffering as a result. I understand that among other things, the elevators are currently inoperable.)
My own memories of Top of the Towers don’t date back as far as some of you. For me, it was just a curious looking structure off I-367 I used to consider the marker telling me I “drove too far south” and was entering the “rough part of town”, when I lived in and visited friends in Florissant/Spanish Lake in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
In any case, around the 1991 time-frame, I played in a local band called “Rabbit with Habbit”. We did a number of shows at Club 367, which was located at 9973 Lewis and Clark Road, beside the Towers.
Before Club 367, it used to be a club called Animal House, as shown here:
I believe I was told the property was originally a bowling alley before that? In any case, Club 367 was a great place for a band like ours to perform. (Really large stage and overall large venue, which was good experience for bands likes ours, who’d normally only be booked at much smaller bars.)
I never actually went through the tower itself, but figured that given the restaurant on top, it must have been a nice place at one time. I am almost positive it never rotated though. I think people are getting it confused with the revolving restaurant located in downtown St. Louis, called Top of the Riverfront:
Lewis & Clark Tower was our first home (Apt. 604) when my wife and I moved to the area in 1969 after I took a job at The Alton Telegraph across the river.
Fond memories of Top of the Tower restaurant. We had many good meals there. At the movie theater, we saw a preview screening of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid there and many other films. As I recall there was a swimming pool in the basement right across the hall from the Missouri DMV office. We loved Stelmacki’s Supermarket.
Lived there until the mid-70s when we moved to Alton to buy a house and lived in Alton until moved on, with a new wife after a divorce, to Washington, DC in 1981.
Top of the Tower was never a revolving restaurant. The one that revolved as Top of the Riverfront on top of a hotel along the river in downtown St. Louis.
Mike Carosone February 16th, 2014 at 8:18 AM
Just came across this blog as I continue reading articles about the fate of Top of the Tower. I was a busboy at T.O.T. From 1967 to 1969, have lots of fond memories and would love to hear from former staff who worked there when I was there. I will reiterate that the tower DID NOT revolve, people always confused it with Top of the Riverfront downtown. Thanks to everyone for sharing your memories!
[…] In 1966, the place was 100% jumping with at least 7 floors of wedge-shaped residential apartments (now condominiums,) each with two sliding doors out to the continuous balcony, with its own swimming pool and gym in the basement. Businesses on the first two floors of the Tower included Alpha Interior Designer, Donton & Sons Tile Co., Figure Trim Reducing, King’s Tower Pharmacy and a Missouri State License office. (Top of the Towers) […]
Leave a Reply