Thursday, August 31, 2006

River Oaks Center Mall

Calumet City, Illinois - circa 1966

View looking towards a portion of the River Oaks Center Mall, around the time it first opened. A Fabric Mart store can be seen on the right, as we gaze past a central open-air court area. See the Wikipedia link below for the full history of this mall. Thanks very much to, Paul Mcvay, for submitting this great shot of a mall I've not yet covered here!

Mall history: 1966 - present
Developer: KLC Ventures
Current website: here
Current aerial view
Info from Wikipedia
Previous entries: none


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mall have a similar layout like Old Orchard and Oak Brook do? I've never been here, but it looks like it does.

Thu Aug 31, 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous didi said...

Love the layers of stairs. It is like entering an outdoor 60s mall heaven!

Thu Aug 31, 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, River Oaks' neighborhood/area is no longer safe. Last time I was there was in 1997, but I don't think I would go back now.

Thu Aug 31, 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous didi said...

Well, I am assuming that it had a similar layout to Old Orcahrd and Oak Brook since the wikipedia history gives us the tidbit that it was developed by the same group of people. But the mall is no longer enclosed now.
Reading the history it says there was orginally The Edward C. Minas Company. Can anyone tell me what that is/was?

Thu Aug 31, 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River Oaks was originally as you see in the picture an open mall, it was enclosed in the late 90's early 2000's. Today, it still has all of its original anchors, but most of the stores now reflect the changing neighborhood. The mall is in the South Suburbs of Chicago and it is actually not to far from the Dixie Square Mall (which is been empty since 1979). The mall is actually really busy most of the time, but many who used to shop there do shop elsewhere due to the high crime in the area and the changing neighborhood.
I remember going there as a child and playing by the two Giant fountains (one in front of Sears and the other in front of Fields). There was also a SS Kresge there that we always went to; that had a lunch counter in there. The original outdoor format was pretty nice, at Christmas time there would be little christmas houses set up along the courts, and there were also these really uncomfortable conrete chairs (anyone remember?) River Oaks is now part of the Simon Mall Group and is acutally one of the more few malls in the south suburbs of Chicago that actaully has all of its anchors and most stores rented! Thanks for the memories!

Thu Aug 31, 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River Oaks Mall was almost an identical to Oak Brook

Fri Sep 01, 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River Oaks was almost an exact replica of Oak Brook. The Marshall Field's stores both used the limestone exterior (though Oak Brook's is painted over) Up until 1993 the 60's era stairs and lights existed. After 1994 the mall was enclosed and the architecture changed dramatically (though there are a couple of sections that were untouched on the outer edges with the original overhangs). The mall does well today, especially since there are no competing malls nearby- Orland Square and Southlake are the closest though was fairly upscale a few years back and isn't as much now.

Sun Sep 03, 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue Sep 05, 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

As others have pointed out, this mall was enclosed in '93 and though it's still nice inside, it bears little resemblance to its open-air glory days of the late '60s and 1970s. The exterior of Marshall Field's (the southwest corner of the mall, facing Torrence Ave.) is the same as the old days -- even the east side, which now faces the inside of the mall, was left semi-intact, so you can still see the brick and concrete pillars that used to be an outdoor entrance, now indoors. Even this will change, however, as Field's gets converted to Macy's this Fall -- they'll change the signage and goodness knows what else (BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!)

But back in the old days, this was my family's favorite mall and the classiest mall in the entire South Suburbs. The open-air atmosphere set it apart from almost all other shopping centers springing up around that time, all of which were enclosed (you can see in the photo the massive sunken plaza area in the center of the mall, which was apparently built to feature concerts, etc., though I can't remember a single one ever being held there). It had a great upscale selection of Chicago-area chains -- Field's of course, but also Fannie May chocolates, Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore, Lyon and Healy pianos, and original anchor Minas, which was a department store -- though I seem to remember the River Oaks branch featuring mainly clothes; it was a nice store but not quite as well-rounded as Field's or Sears. The original River Oaks Theatre, located across the parking lot from Field's, was also the best theatre in the area -- huge screen, 1200 seats, and all the blockbusters of the day played there (Star Wars, Superman, Close Encounters...)

Anyway, a fabulous mall, fondly remembered by anyone who lived in the South Suburbs in the late '60s/1970s. Very similar to Oakbrook and Old Orchard as others have pointed out -- anyone got any more pictures? Would love to see more coverage on this GREAT center! Thanks!

Tue Sep 05, 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River Oaks was the mall I grew up with. I lived across the state line in East Chicago, IN, and it was a treat to walk through the mall's park-like setting. It was an oasis in a heavily-industrialized area that contained few spaces of this sort.

In answer to Didi's question about Edward C. Minas, it was a department store located in nearby downtown Hammond, IN (note: many of the stores there went to River Oaks once it was built). Minas opened a branch in the mall and was one of its anchors. The River Oaks store was focused on clothing sales, but the downtown Hammond store was locally famous for its selection of fabrics. Seamstresses came to the store from many points of the compass. When Minas went out of business, the River Oaks location became a Carson, Pirie, Scott store.

River Oaks, Oakbrook, and Old Orchard were of similar designs. Oakbrook and Old Orchard remain open-air malls, but River Oaks was enclosed and looks nothing like the original.

Sun Jan 28, 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This pictures is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of when the mall was such a great place to be. Enclosing River Oaks has been the single greatest mistake in its history. Now, the place is overrun with kids blocking aisles, just hanging out and not shopping. The place is not safe to go to anymore either. The neighborhood has changed, and so has River Oaks.

Sun Feb 11, 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Since so many people have pointed out the similarities between this mall, Oakbrook, and Old Orchard, thought you might be interested in the following information I got from an obscure book on Chicago-area architecture that I picked up.

All of the above Chicago suburban malls -- River Oaks Center (Calumet City, IL - 1966), Oakbrook Center (Oakbrook, IL - 1962), Old Orchard Shopping Center (Skokie, IL - 1956), and the even earlier Park Forest Plaza (Park Forest, IL - 1949)-- were designed by architect Richard Marsh Bennett and the firm Loebl Schlossman and Bennett, in conjunction with developer Philip Klutznik of American Community Builders. (By the time of River Oaks' construction, the architectural firm had become Loebl Schlossman Bennett and Dart, while Klutznik had formed a new development company, KLC Ventures, but the partnership between the two entities remained.)

The similarities are many: all four malls featured an outdoor layout with plazas, fountains, abundant landscaping, and canopied walkways to protect shoppers in harsh Chicago winters; all had Marshall Field's as a primary anchor; and all reflected the clean, Modernist style of Bennett and the firm. Period photos reveal many architectural details in common, such as the use of limestone, sculpted concrete, triangular pylons acting as signage, etc.

To recap what others have said in previous posts, however, only Oakbrook and Old Orchard remain outdoor malls today, and both have undergone renovation. River Oaks is enclosed, the surrounding neighborhood has decayed, and with the exception of part of the exterior of Marshall Field's (now Macy's), is unrecognizable as its beautiful former self. Park Forest Plaza has fared even worse: after a slow decline in business beginning in the '70s due to competing area malls, it was bought by the city and demolished (including its beloved clock tower) to create “Downtown Park Forest” in 1995, a mainstreet/town square shopping area and civic center.

So in other words, much of Bennett and Co.'s original handiwork has unfortunately been lost to time, but we have our memories! Bennett considered all four malls among his best achievements, according to a 1984 exhibition of his work at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Partner Jerome Loebl also looked upon the malls with pride, citing Oakbrook and Old Orchard as his two favorite projects during his career.

What can I say? After growing up with River Oaks (it opened the year I was born) and not knowing who was behind it or why it reminded me of other great centers in surrounding suburbs, it's great to finally appreciate Bennett's wonderful work (he passed in '96) and how he enriched the lives of me and all the fellow visitors to this blog who frequented one or more of these four pioneering Chicago-area malls. Long live Richard Marsh Bennett!

Tue Feb 20, 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Minor correction to my above entry: Loebl's first name is "Jerrold," not "Jerome."


Tue Feb 20, 02:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Sheesh - and it's "Klutznick," (as Keith has spelled correctly in his main entries on some of these malls), not "Klutznik."

OK, I'm through spot-checking for tonight!

Tue Feb 20, 02:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved River Oaks! It reminds me of my Grandma Kitty. She was an AWESOME person and I will never forget her. She lived on Buffalo in Calumet City. Shopping at this mall at Christmas time was a great experience. They really knew how to decorate it. Going to Kresge's and having lunch was an experience that you had to do everytime you visited. I miss the old days and Grandma!

Sun Feb 25, 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger anteries said...

Not sure if anyone is reading this topic anymore but my dad, Edward C. Minas and I are writing a history of the Edward C. Minas Company. Does anyone have any pictures, stories, articles, etc., of anything related to the Edward C. Minas Company?

Please contact me at

Sat Apr 05, 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really miss the old river oaks mall. I have a lot of fond memories there when I was a kid. They ruined it in the summer of 1993 when the remodeling started to put the roof over it. The mall is trashy and ghetto now, and it's a reflection of what cal city has become. I remember playing on the giant steps in the center court and walking along the big water fountains in front of sears and fields. And the santa houses and reindeer outside during Christmas season. Oh and who can forget those concrete chairs with the holes in them? And eating lunch at kresges, and reading books at kroch and brentanos. What about mall security driving around in those white go carts with the canopy? How about this? Who remembers the arcade room that sears had upstairs? Or what about the green bleachers/seats that were against the wall right around the corner from sears? People sat there as they waited for the bus. Those were the days. I have plenty of pictures of me and family in river oaks from back then. And even better, there are video tapes of me on 38 mm that my parents filmed when I was a kid running through the mall. I haven't seen those in years. River oaks was a fun, cool, and safe place to go back then. Now it is the car theft capitol of the suburbs. It is just a gangbanger hangout now. You get looked at hard, mocked, laughed at, and ridiculed for anything while walking through there. The teens just hang around the entryways or foodcourt and act tough as they try to recite some rap lyrics. And how many shootings have happened there already? If you do decide to come here, do so at your own risk. I miss the 80's and I miss the old river oaks mall. I can't stand and no longer visit this garbage dump. :(

Sat May 24, 05:54:00 AM  
Anonymous suzi said...

Oh my gosh! Can't believe someone sent me this website. It brings back many fond memories. I worked for Draper and Kramer/River Oaks Associates when I was in highschool. After graduation I went to work at Bank of River Oaks. Remember that round building? Who could forget? The Mall was awesome in the "good old days"! Many outdoor concerts, flower shows, the Easter Bunny, fashion shows.....activities for the entire family. I could go on for hours.

Sun Jun 01, 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Matthew said...

I was just at River Oaks Mall about 3 weeks ago. I have the video at River Oaks Mall on YouTube.

Next time when i go back to River Oaks Mall, I'll make a longer video.

Wed Jun 11, 11:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still shop at River Oaks Mall. It isn't that "scary". It is the only major mall within twenty miles. I can't figure out why I am not supposed to go there anymore.

Mon Mar 09, 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've attach the links to two articles regarding a book on the Edward C. Minas Company.

Former Minas employees, customers invited to be a part of history

Input sought for Minas book

Sun Feb 07, 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Online Pharmacy no prescription said...

It looks pretty good. It is the best mall over there but it is one of my favorite. Because the architecture that it has.

Wed Oct 05, 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the name of the pizza restaurant that was near the professional building in the mall? Went there many times, back in the day. Just can't remember the name of it. Thanks.

Mon Oct 24, 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a gorgeous mall when it opened in 1966-$35 million dollars was spent. Beautiful stonework throughout. The fountain by Field's was by a famous sculptor (Henry Bertoia).

Sat Jul 06, 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Patron Zero said...

River Oaks in it;s original outdoor venue bears a strong resemblance to Greenwood Center (now Greenwood Park Mall) in Greenwood, Indiana.

The stepped plazas and 'pyramid' fountains are near identical features of both facilities. Strongly suspecting the same architect-designer involved in both projects.

Tue Feb 10, 07:33:00 AM  

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