Monday, September 29, 2008

Where does Church Road Go?

Back in college, I became friends with several people who lived in Wildwood. On several occasions, I drove by Church Road, which branches off of Strecker Road in far West County. I learned later that the road leads to one of the few remaining rural African American communities that sprouted up after the Civil War. There actually were numerous communities across the county besides Westland Acres off Church Road: Kinloch, Meacham Park and Hadley Township are just a few names amongst many others.

There are several great resources to read up on local, rural African American history, which is rapidly being destroyed in most of the county—and city for that matter. Hadley Township, in Richmond Heights, is one example of an historic community about to become rubble. John A. Wright seems to be the local authority on this fascinating aspect of St. Louis history, and you should pick up this book when you get a chance. See the Google Book preview here. While it leaves many questions unanswered, it will make you look at your local community with a new appreciation for those who lived here before.

Here you can see a great map of the area at the Chesterfield City website; the community straddles that suburb and Wildwood. The descendants of the original freed slaves who lived here are having trouble selling their land for development, despite the fact everyone else around them received no trouble from Chesterfield or Wildwood--I can't imagine why, can you?

Save Creve Coeur Park

I attended an open house last Monday where opponents of the ridiculous new development in the Howard Bend floodplain presented their opposition to the project. The open house featured great exhibits on why we don't need more sprawl in the Maryland Heights area, and by default--since the region fits together like a jigsaw puzzle--eastern Chesterfield as well. I was shocked to learn that Westport Plaza, already generating income for Maryland Heights, has some serious vacancy issues. Even more bizarrely, many of the proposed tenants of Howard Bend development already reside in Maryland Heights--so the city is already getting their tax dollars.

I know the reason: the Cult of the New, as I call it. Maryland Heights is terrified that companies and the general public have adopted a throwaway mentality for buildings, and not just fast food wrappers. Ten years old? Time to move on and discard the old.

View the group's website at Save Creve Coeur. Here is Maryland Heights's page on their project, and watch out for MoDot's unfunded plans for more sprawl connectors going through floodplains. Luckily, there's no money for the new roads.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Follow this Blog

There's actually a new feature that I think most people might have missed; you can add blogs that you read frequently to your "follow" list on Blogger. That way, you can have an up to date list of who has posted new entries.

Empire State from the Lower East Side

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the Feasiliblity of Adaptive Reuse

The McPheeters Warehouse on the Near North Riverfront was torn down recently, despite being in relatively stable condition. I can understand, I mean really, what possible use could there be in the year 2008 for an old 19th Century warehouse?

It turns out that there's all sorts of uses for 19th Century warehouses, even in the supposed "scary" and "dangerous" Near North Riverfront/Broadway corridor. I had the pleasure of joining my friend who trains at the North Broadway Gym in seeing various individuals fight out in the middle of North Broadway. Shady Jack's, a bar that reused an abandoned warehouse, cosponsored the event. A good time was had by all, and no one had to go to the hospital.

The owner of Shady Jack's renovated his building, even though (gasp) the building next door had been gutted by fire one time long ago.This beautiful row of buildings is only a five minute walk from Laclede's Landing.So abandoned warehouses aren't completely worthless after all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chesterfield Commons

I was stranded for six hours in the bane of my existence, Chesterfield Commons, while my car was having some installation work done at Best Buy. Those subwoofers that I always wanted are now fully installed, and prepared to annoy everyone in a four mile radius. I took the opportunity to photograph what has been described as the longest strip mall, or "lifestyle center" as they now call them now, on the planet.Supposedly the parking lot is the largest in the world as well, though I have to say I think the Indianapolis 500 probably has a larger parking lot, or even the Pentagon or Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey. Regardless, it is disgusting to behold, in all its blacktop banal glory.The car is king--no emperor--out here in Chesterfield, as illustrated above in the tiny right of way for pedestrians in front of Sam's Club. Below is one of the most dangerous intersections in the metropolitan area not just for pedestrians but for motorists. I literally had to run across this street to avoid getting hit. "Pedestrian" is code word in Chesterfield for "poor" and much like the Marquis de Evremonde from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, people don't break for poor people out here. "Pedestrian" is also codeword for "non-white" out this way.Below is one of those megaplex movie theaters, you know, the one no one really likes going to because of the interminable long lines and overpriced concessions. Remember the neighborhood movie? Oh, that's right, they're going the way of the dodo.This picture cracks me up; no one actually rides their bike out here--it would be suicide. I suppose they're attempting to harken back to the Leave It To Beaver days when children could actually safely bike somewhere. I could have sworn these were red a few months ago.Below is a fountain that no one can enjoy, let alone visit, because there really isn't any safe way to get there on foot. Likewise, people are too busy avoiding crashes on the roads to look at them anyway.

Above is what I really hate about the Chesterfield Valley--pseudo-historicist architecture. The name of the restaurant doesn't really matter; certainly it is mass produced and served to people in troughs like cattle. The whole complex is literally surrounded by a moat; Chesterfield Valley, also known as Gumbo Flats, is a flood plain of course, and is marshy most of the year. I like the implications of the fortress mentality that these uncrossable drainage canals convey.

Below I caught a vehicle rolling the stop sign, oblivious to the possibility that someone might actually be using it. Not that anyone ever does, though.
More crappy, pseudo-historicist architecture masquerading as French Provencal cottages.
The worst part about this gargantuan development is that it was built way too quickly and way too cheaply. In twenty years, these buildings will be in awful, rundown condition. Already, the signs of over-expansion are showing in this row of crappy, dollar store and thrift stores. I thought this was ritzy Chesterfield!?The best part about it is that you, the America taxpayer, get to pay for its rebuilding in ten or fifteen years when it floods again like it did in 1993! And now that I think about it, that's rather convenient, isn't it? Build structures that will only last until the next deluge, and then build brand new ones with federal handouts? Brilliant!

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