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. I hope if the site is demolished, it is replaced with something that will help the surrounding community, and not more cheap, low income housing.