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Hoover Historical Society Releases First Book
Riverchase Galleria History
Hoover() The newly formed Hoover Historical Society has released the first book in what it hopes will become an annual series of publications. This first volume represents a complete historical record of all retail activity at The Riverchase Galleria since its opening in 1986. A timeline of major events is included from the first dynamite charge in 1983 to the closing of the Galleria 10 Cinema earlier this year. Much of the book details the daily lives of citizens who have shopped at the mall over the years. First hand accounts from the 1980s reveal a much different place, more innocent and carefree. "I'm from South Carolina, and I remember when I used to visit my cousin, we'd always head straight for the Galleria and Boardwalk Fries," says Robin Houser who the book describes as a typical 1980s teenager. "Then there would always be a trip to Oh Wow! at some point to get Pop-Rocks and BubbleTape. That is until it closed."

Many other retailers have come and gone over the years, and the book depicts these changes in a series of transparent overlays in the center. Gone too is the fountain that captivated diners in the central atrium food court. The glass atrium, one of the largest in the south, now houses a children's carousel among other things throughout the year. An inset feature shows the old location of Banana Republic, and describes the innovative jungle motif that was central to the store's philosophy. "I remember a lot of the retailers had their own look and theme," said Sandy Stahl President of the Society. "Shopping was a lot more fun and the Galleria was thought of as a kind of amusement park." Banana Republic has since moved across the walkway and now employs a much cleaner, more antiseptic design philosophy.

The book has inspired other local cities to explore their own histories. The city of Vestavia Hills has begun an ambitious retail archaeology project on the site of the new Vestavia Hills City Center. "We have gridded off a section of earth behind the parking deck," said Dr. Kenneth Cole, an anthropologist from Auburn University. "Yesterday, one of our graduate assistants found a menu from a place called Sandwich Chef in grid 1-3. Another found what looks to be an employment application for a place called Yielding. We are still trying to piece together how the people who came here may have lived, what their social order was like."

Researchers are fascinated by this 'proto-Wall Street Deli' culture that seemed to thrive for a time in a non-corporate centric environment. "Group norms were vastly different," said Cole. "Single entity points of commerce were much more widely accepted." According to recent findings, kinship relationships in this culture were also much more broadly defined, with greater numbers of fictival members in a given cohort. "It is fascinating to imagine how these people lived," said Cole. "Of course they had their slaves and multi-story death arenas, but it was a very sophisticated culture." The Vestavia project is expected to last through several more grant cycles.