DJ Kut’s afternoon mix on 95.5 The Lou inspired me to “bring home” the pieces I salvaged from the River Roads Mall demolition in 2007. DJ Kut introduced a song (which one? wish I remember!) as a favorite of the River Roads Mall Arcade crowd, and that kind of nostalgia is intoxicating.
So I took a few of the ceramic tile pieces that once graced the River Roads Stix, Baer & Fuller/Dillard’s building back to the spot they formerly occupied. It was easy to set them up in the place they once stayed because the spot remains an empty field, which is both depressing and annoying.
This Once Was What Was Here
The photo above is from 1961, while River Roads Shopping Center was still under construction. Wikipedia fills in some key facts. But even better is where I borrowed this photo from.
Dwayne Pounds has the River Roads Mall historical photo hook up! I encourage you to check it out here, and understand that I’ll be borrowing from this man’s excellent archival work. Dwayne even put them into YouTube format.
I took this photo in May 2006 just as demolition was beginning. There was nothing to be done about the destruction other than document what was left, which remained beautiful in decay.
Those of us who respectfully trolled the demolition site began referring to this lower level outdoor plaza in front of the former Stix as “the sunken garden.” On the left of the frame is what once was The Pavilion restaurant.
The Pavilion in 1961 before it opened, courtesy of Dwayne Pounds.
And what remained during demolition in October 2006, when destroyed walls made the interior visible once again. Lost Tables shares the ghost of Ladies who Lunched:
When the River Roads store opened in 1961, a separate adjacent building housed the Pavilion Restaurant, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Two live trees, eight feet and twelve feet tall, were featured in the glass-walled center section. A pool, with a sculptured marble fountain, added to the garden atmosphere. The main dining room was French Provincial in feeling, with antiqued walnut chairs and star-flecked, deep blue carpeting. An informal patio area had a flagstone floor and wrought iron furniture in pale blue. Lighting was rheostat controlled and could be focused on models when a fashion show was in progress.
The Ghosts Are Watching
After visiting the site with architecture in tow, I ran across this photo album with the Stix, Baer & Fuller price tag still in place.
My best guess of when River Roads changed from a Shopping Center to a Mall is the mid-70s, shortly after Jamestown Mall opened. They stilled billed it as Shopping Center when JC Penney opened in 1972; Jamestown Mall opened in 1974. The history of Stix, Baer & Fuller confirms they officially morphed into Dillard’s in 1984.
Though the corporate wheels were already churning, as this advertisement on a 1983 map of North St. Louis County shows River Roads splitting the difference between both Stix and Dillard’s. The actual map still names the site River Roads Shopping Center because cartographers are not required to keep abreast of the retail marketing landscape.
Also of note is that River Roads Mall only had Dillard’s for roughly two years before it permanently closed at this location. Seniority is why I continually refer to this building as Stix, Baer & Fuller.
I do believe (and please fill me in otherwise) this was formerly the exterior of Walgreens. This photo shows it on the far left in 1961. And while traipising around the demolition site in July 2006, I walked around the corner and saw…
…a good view of the interior of the mall promenade, without having to break in. The Walgreens signage is still hanging. And the clock tower remains!
I loved the architecture of the entrance into the mall between the Stix building and JC Penney addition (above). Whomever the project architects were (and that information has yet to surface) were liberally borrowing and paying homage to the Bauhaus modern masters, disguised as a way to keep shoppers dry as they hurried into the mall for new shoes.
As demolition began, they dragged the long-buried contents inside the Stix building out into the light. Like this pink chair from the beauty salon. I have shots of rusted hair dryers in the brutal summer sun that still delight.
This entrance on the northern side of the Stix building had become abstract art by May 2006.
When the demolition crew punched a hole in this same wall in October 2006, some of us were able to grab a few pieces of those gray and turquoise tiles. I deeply loved those architectural elements, and eventually turned them into borders for flower beds, which I dubbed the River Roads Memorial Garden.
Because I visit NoCo on a regular basis, I kept track of what became of the River Roads Mall site. By July 2009 (above) they’d cleared the western portion of the lot, and since the Food For Less (formerly Krogers) was now closed, it was moments away from being demolished.
9 years later on August 2018, Dollar Tree and a couple of other stores have taken their place, while the western edge remains empty and grassed over.
There had been all kinds of grand plans for the River Roads Mall site. During demolition, they erected senior living apartments along Halls Ferry Road, on the site of what once was parking for the mall. Then came the 2008 Economic Crash, and the original re-developers going bankrupt, and there’s White Flight Economics which neurotically devalues anything white people abandon, and…
Elliot Davis caught up with another thwarted development of the unused property in February 2017. It’s depressingly ironic that Kroger – who was the original grocery store at River Roads Shopping Center – wanted to come back and couldn’t.
The old Boatman’s (ghost) Bank at Halls Ferry Road and Cozens Avenue was demolished in Spring 2008. But the vast majority of the River Roads Shopping Center site remains a field of grass.
Stix, Baer & Fuller is a field of grass, making it easy to pull up to an unused curb and prop up old portions of the building that once was.
I understand the economic theory that decaying buildings have to come down to make it easier to entice new developers to the land. Though I dearly wish North St. Louis County would try out Historic Tax Credits for their iconic properties that now qualify rather than tear it down for a ghost town.
Think about this: if the Stix River Roads building remained standing until 2011, it would have most likely qualified for Historic Tax Credits and could have been remodeled into apartments. Which is a far better outcome than having remnants of what once was serving as ornaments in my carport container garden that took a nostalgic ride back in time.
River Roads was the second enclosed shopping mall in the St. Louis area, after the Town and Country Mall in Overland. Either one could fit into a corner of the Galleria.
Please tell me that that pink Eames / Herman Miller chair isn’t squished in a landfill somewhere.
Oh, I do remember when it was an old farm. We lived by Katz and the newly made circle. We spent so much time there in the the grocery store in the little cartoon theater. Getting toys under a $ 1.00 at wolworths and hanging out at the bowling ally. Once in the mall KMOX had Willie Crenshaw and Rookie Roger Whirli.
Lonely & thought provoking.
I know for a fact that River Roads was an enclosed mall long before the 70s, when Jamestown Mall opened because I remember shopping there with my parents as early as 1966 and it was an enclosed mall at that time. I spent lots of time at
River Roads and have fond memories. Woolworths was a favorite destination, as was Walgreens. I also always admired that wall of colorful blocks on the Stix building.
I know for a fact that River Roads was an enclosed mall long before the 70’s, when Jamestown Mall opened because I remember shopping there with my parents as early as 1966 and it was an enclosed mall at that time. I spent lots of time at
River Roads and have fond memories. Woolworth’s was a favorite destination, as was Walgreens. I also always admired that wall of colorful blocks on the Stix building.