This is where I grew up.

Built in 1965, Northwest Plaza was my shopping mall. The one I grew up with, the one I roamed for no reason as a teenager. We called it “The Plaza,” since there was another mall in town (Town & Country Mall). Originally, the Plaza wasn’t an enclosed mall anyway, although since I left they’ve built a roof over it.

Northwest Plaza once was billed as the world’s largest shopping center. It is the region’s largest mall. More than 1.7 million square feet. An Edward Jones Dome worth of shopping. It opened in the mid-1960s as an outdoor mall with gardens and sculptured water fountains. The region’s only mall with four department store anchors. It went indoors in 1989 under a massive new canopy. Sales boomed.

Before we left town, there was a shooting or two at the Plaza. Crime continued to creep west out of St. Louis City and into the county. It didn’t used to be that way. I worked at the Plaza as a janitor for Sears, my first real job when I started college. It was fun, we worked very early in the morning.

I’m sad to see Northwest Plaza has fallen so low. But the older you get, the more things change.

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4 Responses to This is where I grew up.

  1. Kathy says:

    Yeah, when we lived near there I went to that mall one day (closest one with a Dillard’s, which I needed to visit to use a gift certificate) and I later mentioned the mall to someone who had lived there for awhile and I was surprised at the raised eyebrows the mention got. I was pregnant with B at the time and I got a stern warning that I should be more careful than to go there while obviously pregnant, which could invite purse snatchers because I’d be an “easy target”. Apparently there is a large contingent of people in the area who consider it part of the ‘hood. When I was there I just thought it was oddly deserted, probably because everyone is afraid to go there.

    For my money, there’s more “trouble” at the Mills, but the trouble there is usually of the nuisance variety.

  2. Kindralas says:

    Northwest Plaza is worse than you realize. They’ve lost 2 anchors, and as of right now there are, perhaps, 5 or 6 open stores inside the mall itself. There’s exactly one eating establishment in the food court, a KFC/Pizza Hut combo, and the theatre’s closed.

    Anyway, it doesn’t surprise me the looks and such that you would have gotten given Northwest Plaza’s reputation, though I think that the people you were talking to were dramatically naive to call Northwest Plaza “‘hood” in any fashion. Let me know who they are, I’ll take them on a trip through Wellston sometime. :)

  3. George Haberberger says:

    In 1972 I, and some friends from Jefferson College, (Rick Burchett was one of them), took a trip to Northwest Plaza. It was an event to anticipate. It may seem quaint or provincial to think of a trip to a shopping mall as an “event” but this was a big deal to us rubes from Jefferson County. This was over 50 miles one way. Yeah the South County Mall was closer but Northwest Plaza evoked an air of the exotic, the foreign. the alien. It probably still exudes that air but now that’s kind of a detriment.

  4. Kindralas says:

    One might also point out that “Northwest” Plaza is now somewhat central in St. Louis county, as it were, and is also not the most north or west mall that the county has. Jamestown is more north, Chesterfield is more west, and St. Louis Mills is more both.

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