Monday, December 31, 2007

New This Year

This year I am launching my own website that will feature most of the material I've posted here, and dozens of extra shots that didn't make the cut for St. Louis Patina's photo essays.

I was also excited to pick up a copy of This is Our St. Louis, a book full of old photos of downtown written from the perspective of an obviously suburban minded individual in the late 1960's. I will see if I can get some "before and after" photos of some of the street corners depicted. It's already been done much better here, but I promise I will find some new and unique ones.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Outdated Form

Check out the hilariously outdated picture of the city of St. Louis on the top of the current police recruit form.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Search of Cragwold

It came to my attention recently that the Lemp family had a western outpost in St. Louis County named Cragwold, now in Kirkwood. You can read about the Lemp family here; Edwin Lemp, the last son, built the Cragwold Estate. The mansion overlooks the Meramec Valley on the edge of a cliff; it is a bit confusing to explain how to get to the Lemp Estate.Originally, Cragwold was reached via Lemp Road, off of Forest Avenue just south of Big Bend Road. Below is what I believe to be the original entrance to the estate; if you look carefully, you can see a stone house that was probably the caretaker's house.What has changed since 1911, when Cragwold was built, is the addition of a superhighway we all know well: I-270. Looking at this map, you can see that Lemp Road originally went straight towards Cragwold. First the interstate, and then a subdivision, slowly erased Lemp Road's original trajectory to the river bluffs. Look at a map of the area here; the mansion in the lower left corner is Cragwold. Lemp Road now makes an angled turn at the old gateway, instead of following a straight course through the gates.Cragwold is accessible from the aptly named Cragwold Road, but don't go trying to knock on the front door. The current owners have "no trespassing" signs posted along the road, so to catch a view of the mansion, you must head across the Meramec River to Unger Park, where the mansion comes into splendid view from the flood plains below. You can read more about the mansion here on page two of this pdf. The house is essentially one story, but clearly has a basement on the bluffs side of the house. The house is listed as having 9,015 square feet, five bedrooms and five bathrooms. An observation tower complements the house, providing what must have been stunning views of the valley before the Chrysler Plant was built.Here is a bird's eye view of the mansion, which is no longer owned by the Lemp family. Supposedly when Edwin Lemp died, he ordered his butler to burn all of the family heirlooms in an attempt to end the curse that had haunted the family for so long.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Downtown Doorways

Not enough attention is paid to the entries into buildings nowadays, in my opinion. Below is the door to the Paul Brown Building.Below is the door to the Southwestern Bell Building.Below is a building's door on the east side of Old Post Office Square, which is an excellent example of Classically inspired architecture.And finally, the door to the Arcade Building.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Castlewood State Park

Castlewood State Park was created back in the 1970's out of the remains of what was once a thriving resort community along the Meramec River. The name comes from the gigantic cliffs, once the edge of an inland sea, that dominate most of the park. The views from the top of the cliffs surely drew the first vacationers here.People would come out to the area via the train; they would disembark at the bottom of the cliffs and then either climb a long staircase or take a ferry across the river to Lincoln Beach.The staircase still clings to the side of the gully near the old railroad station--now completely gone--where it appears and disappears in the deep foliage. Originally there were various speakeasies and private clubs on the bluffs, some of which are now private homes.Further along the hiking trail, which was once a precarious road, there are the ruins of the reservoir that stored water for the resort. Every once and a while, a rusted pipe sticks out of the ground in the area, a remnant of the old water system.The railroad trestle that cuts through the park still bears the marking of the "Scenic Railroad" which brought the crowds out from the city.Up on the bluffs again, the ruins of a small cabin that could be rented for the weekend still remains on the side of the hill.Down below sits another cabin that is still in pretty good shape.Nearby and outside the park, the village of Castlewood still has some of the original inns and clubs that have now been turned into private residences.Apparently there was a fair amount of gravel dredging in the area back in the day, so much of the lowlands along the river are not the original topography. One can only imagine what it must have been like to come out on the train, through the wilderness essentially since there weren't any paved roads, and swim in the river or party in the clubs on the bluffs. What's pretty cool is that the modern borders of Castlewood seem to have been set at least over a hundred years ago when the bulk of the park was owned by "J. Kieffer for the use of C. Gratiot." Also note the plot inside the larger "Survey 1997," that there is a plot owned by "Nich. Destrehan." All three names are now streets in St. Louis or roads in the county. Note the off kilter tilt of the plot; most likely the strange dimensions are indicative of the plot being platted by the Spanish, who did not obsess with the grid system that permeates the land of the United States. Who the Spanish originally gave the plot to is a mystery.

Sadly, the history of Castlewood's life as a resort community is difficult to research; there is no one singular source that one can read for information on the area. Instead I have pieced this information together from talking to park rangers, local pamphlets and other books that detail the history of the county in general.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sun Theater

Grand Center has pretty much renovated the major institutions of the neighborhood, with the exception of the Sun Theater. It sits empty, with two trees and various vegetation sprouting from its roof.Read more about the theater here at Cinema Treasures. I'm not going to try and sort out all the different names this theater has had over the years, but it originally--like most St. Louis institutions--started out catering to the German community in the city.
Luckily the theater is in good shape structurally, and fits in nicely with Grand Center's current hopes for the neighborhood being an arts and entertainment district. If it were an old apartment building, I would have my worries about its safety. Of course, one could wake up one day and discover it demolished in the name of "progress," I suppose.It's worth checking out; the controversy about the large quantities of bird dropping left on the sidewalk has been ameliorated, so you won't get your shoes dirty.Update: Seems that the Landmarks Association of St. Louis seems to agree with me on the malaise currently affecting the Sun. Courtesy of Ecology of Absence.

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