Monday, June 25, 2007

Orphaned Houses

I came across these two houses in the so-called McKinley Heights neighborhood of south St. Louis. On the left, the traffic from I-44 rushes past, while across the street--where I'm taking the picture--is the parking lot of an old warehouse turned upscale liquor store. The challenge of reviving some parts of the city is that planners in the past made no effort to keep some neighborhoods as desirable as possible. Perhaps, however, these houses demonstrate the cost of living on the edge of a neighborhood; further in the streetscape is very well preserved and humanly scaled.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Old North St. Louis Mural

I snapped a picture of this mural on the party wall of an old house off of North Florissant Ave in Old North St. Louis:The houses are right up against the sidewalk, creating a sense of community and place. Also, it's hard to beat up and rob someone right outside one of these houses; the owners are more likely to notice a disturbance right outside their doors, thus contributing to safety in the neighborhood. The problem is that too few of these houses are occupied, leaving "black holes" where criminals can operate, whether inside abandoned buildings, or in front of them. Note the sign advertising redevelopment in the area. Old North St. Louis is a little too rough for me, but I laud the efforts of people risking their money--and in some cases, their safety--to renovate and take back these neighborhoods. The trick is keeping a balance between the original, law abiding residents--the ones who stuck it out during the bad times--and the new residents buying and renovating abandoned houses.

Delmar Blvd and Beaumont St

I stopped by the Scott Joplin House last Saturday just west of downtown St. Louis. Much has changed since he lived in the upstairs of the house on Delmar Blvd at Beaumont St.; what was once a thriving German and then African American neighborhood is largely vacant, with light industry creeping in from the south and east.

Standing on the northwest corner looking at the southeast corner:Standing on the northeast corner looking at the southwest corner:Standing on the southeast corner looking at the northwest corner:Standing on the southwest corner looking at the northeast corner:It's hard to believe that this immediate area once possessed tens of thousands of more people than currently live in a one mile radius of this intersection. But as can be seen below, the proximity to downtown is certainly an asset.You can barely see it, but the redevelopment of Washington Ave is actually just starting to reach this area. The wide open spaces are certainly easier for developers to work with; let's hope that they stick with the urban street-scape exemplified by the remaining buildings on the street.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Road Trip: Missouri Mines State Historic Site

There was a time when lead was a bit of a "wonder metal." And conveniently for the economy of St. Louis throughout its history, southeast Missouri has been the epicenter of world lead mining. I ventured over to the old St. Joseph Mine in Park Hills and visited the Missouri State Mines Historic Site to explore the ruins, abandoned since 1972 according to a former employee working as a volunteer at the site.

You can see a satellite image of the mine here.

Above, I took this picture looking into one of the engine rooms of the mine; perhaps this is where the giant pumps that kept the mine from flooding were kept.

Unfortunately, the docents weren't giving tours the day I was there, so I looked around the site myself. I have actually been down in a 300 hundred year old silver mine in Germany, so it was interesting to see the differences in the above ground facilities between the two countries. Below is the I imagine the superstructure of the elevator that brought ore up out of the earth.

The state of Missouri is slowly restoring each of the buildings and considering how big the place is, it will be quite some time before the entire site is open to the public. It's amazing to see how far buildings can deteriorate in just thirty years.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I recently discovered that St. Louis was planning a forty story skyscraper in downtown back in 1930. Seems like it probably fell victim to the Great Depression; it was designed by famed St. Louis architect Harris Armstrong. I'm going to see if I can get some plans of the building.

A Blog detailing the beauty of St. Louis architecture and the buildup of residue-or character-that accumulates over the course of time.