Monday, March 3, 2008

The Ruins of an American City

On Sunday I returned with reinforcements to the spot where I had been chased by brick thieves months before. No one was to be found, but that is not surprising, as there is nothing left to destroy on the 1900 block of Montgomery. View a bird's image of the block here; nothing on Montgomery is still standing in preservable condition. The little house below, which I had originally snapped in a severe state of collapse, seems to have sunk even further into the earth.What is amazing is that even after the collapse, large parts of the building have managed to stay nailed together.Across the street, a strangely detached cement wall has now been almost completely consumed by overgrowth from perhaps decades of neglect.Below is the two rowhouse complex that was being "harvested" by brick thieves last fall when I stumbled across them. Standing in the shadow of this house is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The darkened attic looms like a giant's mouth, ready to reach down and swallow innocent passersby. The row is not an insubstantial building; the roofline is perhaps 40 feet from the ground, which makes the now ruined building all the more imposing.Upon closer examination of this building, it becomes obvious that this was by no means some sadly neglected house that had sat abandoned since the 1960's. Rather, the presence of much more modern building materials illustrates that this house had been cared for and even renovated in the last two decades.I was actually surprised at how good of shape many of the interior walls of this house were--there were no signs of graffiti (perhaps they're not that stupid to go in the now collapsing building) and the drywall almost looks immaculate.The missing walls have once been described as the "dollhouse effect" meaning that it looks like the interior of the house actually is supposed to be exposed, and is not the result of purposeful destruction. The rest of the pictures detail the last gasps of this two house row, and the strange static nature of the house even in its current precarious state--a chair here, a ceiling fan still hanging in place, to cabinets still hanging on the walls.

The life of this house didn't have to end this way; the building had been occupied until a few years ago according to Built St. Louis, and furthermore, there is no reason that these houses had to be essentially murdered for someone else's plans. Look at this link at Built St. Louis of the crime in progress; see how much of the outside wall was still there before they went to work on it?Read the fascinating story and theoretical plans developed to save this block. Sadly, the facts on the ground have now rendered these inventive plans obsolete.

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