Monday, January 31, 2011

Hodgen Elementary Demolition Pending

Much of the Gate District, formerly the Compton Hill neighborhood, has been obliterated. But much to my delight, much of it still survives. If the St. Louis Public Schools system has its way, it will lose a critical component of the area that has stood since the late Nineteenth Century. Hodgen School, a simple, but stout Italianate school building that I've heard is the oldest school building left in the city of St. Louis, is slated for demolition in order to provide a parking lot for the new Hodgen School. A parking lot? Are they kidding?!So the Hodgen School might not make it into architectural history books, but its restrained style, with Tuscan pilasters and architrave cut an elegant profile in this corner of the city that so needs a sense of real style.The school's sign shows that the pediment was most likely not originally painted.The circular niche, an interesting oddity, seems to be awaiting the return of the bust that once sat on its plinth.On the facade, cut-stone rosettes accent the red brick walls. The detail might be a little rough after one hundred years, but they are still well-preserved.These windows must bring huge amounts of light into the classrooms. Speaking as someone who went to a high school that resembled a dungeon, I wish I could have attended school at such a light-filled space.The back side of the school, visible from I-44 (how I'm most familiar with the building) is an interesting mix of curved stairwells and what might be the curved back of the library.Below is what presumably is the outside of a staircase.I like this picture of the back of the building; what is the large, semi-circular structure sticking out of the back?Rather conveniently, a window has been left open, exposing the interior of the building to the elements.I include a picture of the new Hodgen Elementary: a boring, bland building that is so typical of the 1990's in American architecture. Where are the Michelangelos, Berninis and Sullivans of the past? I know, they're dead, but do we have to have such antagonism to solid, elegant and timeless architecture?Below, I have included a Sanborn map showing how dense the neighborhood once was, and how the elementary school fit in so perfectly into the fabric of the area.So you don't care about historical architecture? That's fine, but realize that Proposition S, passed by voters in November, specifically mentions only upgrades to public schools. Read the text here. As you can read at the Post-Dispatch website, Hodgen will be torn down in the wave of new repairs made with the money from Prop S. While it does say specifically if the District will use Prop S money to tear down Hodgen, but if they do, I believe they are violating at least the spirit, if not the law, of Prop S, and its purported use of taxpayers' dollars.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Post Office: Americana and the Reality of the Present Day

The Chicago Tribune, among other newspapers, reports that the Post Office will be closing 2,000 post offices in the next year. What will happen to all of those abandoned buildings, and what will happen to the social life that once clustered around them throughout America? I will never forget witnessing the arrival of mail on Tangier Island; just about everybody in town had come out and collected their mail, and proceeded to catch up on the latest gossip and news from outside their small island. It was truly a special moment.

That being said, my relationship with the United States Postal Service has rapidly declined in the last ten years. 95% of my mail is now junk mail, and I find myself excited when I actually get a bill nowadays, as it is something that is actually addressed to me. I expect the Post Office to be dead in the average American's lifetime.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pevely Farms

Pevely Farms, now gone and replaced by a subdivision and golf course, still manages to hold on to some traces of its past, such as this dilapidated barn, and this pasture.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

McKee's New Development in Near North Side

According to the Post-Dispatch, Paul McKee has learned his lesson from the demise of his original TIF, and has instead focused on smaller projects. Good, I say.

Pevely Farms Valley

Go west out I-44, get off at the Lewis Road exit, and go north, and pretty soon you'll come out into a valley that is one of the most beautiful areas of the Meramec River as it snakes its way through St. Louis County.Pevely Farms, a show farm that brought people out from the City, has now been transformed into a housing development interlaced with a golf course.In fact, there are lots of golf courses out this way, for some reason. But look closer, and you find the remnants of what once was clearly an idyllic area, relatively untouched by suburban development and sprawl.I can only imagine what it must have been like to take the train out from the city, follow the river out past Castlewood and then arrive at the bend in the river where you can see for miles in all directions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dead Subdivision

Where do subdivisions go when they die? Or more accurately, where do subdivisions go that never get off the ground in the first place?Only two houses were built in this subdivision, off of Crescent Road in southwest St. Louis County, before building stopped dead.Did we really have to destroy a little bit more of our natural or agricultural environment, considering the subdivision was obviously a bad idea?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Route 66 Bridge, Times Beach

The now-defunct town of Times Beach lies on the other side of this now closed bridge, which once served Route 66 as it headed out to Los Angeles. It has been closed due to structural problems, and will probably be torn down if money cannot be found to fix it. Next to it is an old roadhouse, which now serves as the maintenance facility for the Route 66 Park.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lewisburgh Church

The tiny town of Lewisburgh is in southwest St. Louis County, in that small corner that is north of the county line but south of the Meramec River.I'm not sure why the town is here, other than it must have served the local agricultural population that is drastically shrinking in this isolated part of the metropolitan area. The church, which is still in operation, must be a center of the town's life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sarah Lou Cafe Owner Dies

I just happened to overhear this on the news, and it helped me learn a little more about the history of the august Sarah Lou Cafe that I had photographed two summers ago. James Owens, Jr. had owned and operated the restaurant for thirty years. Sadly the storefront now sits empty; perhaps one day someone will resurrect Jimmy and his legacy. The Preservation Research Office reports that the building has suffered from years of abandonment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Main Post Office Murals

With the help of a reader, I now know the name of the two painters of the murals in the Main Post Office lobby.The first is an artist named Edward Millman, who came a Chicago area background.The second is Mitchell Siporin, who also was raised in Chicago.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post Office Lobby

They sure knew how to make lobbies back in the 1930's. The lobby of the main post office downtown is amazing, featuring original murals by WPA(?) artists.I like the texture of the stone used in the entryway.No detail was overlooked, as evidenced by the design of the letter writing desk. Small details, like the brass pen and paper holders, are missing from today's post offices.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Near South Side on Broadway

I have become fascinated with the view from the White Castle parking lot on Broadway just south of Downtown.The group of building on the east side of the street are great, and in good condition as I think they've been recently rehabbed or stabilized.I love how the buildings go right up to the MacArthur Bridge, which seems to post-date the building below its massive steel superstructure.If you look closely, it appears that the last bay of the building was truncated for the bridge. Nowadays the entire building would be demolished, but apparently one hundred years ago the building was such prime real estate that it stayed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clark County Courthouse Demolition Embroiled in Controversy, State Lawsuit

An alert reader informed me today that demolition of the modest but stately Clark County Courthouse in Kahoka, Missouri is underway. But while gutting of the interior has begun, Attorney General Chris Koster has informed Clark County that their demolition is not so simple. Apparently, as recently as 2008, the Clark County Commissioners accepted money from the state for rehabilitation, money that obviously now cannot be used or has already been wasted since the building is being demolished. Read the local Quincy newspaper's take on the situation here.

Northeast Missouri is by no means the wealthiest corner of the state, and I can understand the logic behind replacing an aging courthouse--if and only if the County really cannot afford to rehabilitate the old courthouse. But the article states that the price of rehab vs. new construction is very much open to debate. Furthermore, if the facts of the case really are as simple as Attorney General Koster states, then Clark County certainly violated the law by demolishing the courthouse.

On a personal note, and while I would imagine the Clark County Commissioners don't care what I think, I will state this. When my parents stumbled across Kahoka, still beautiful if a little rough around the edges, we marveled at what a quaint little town we had discovered. In fact, I have told many people about how fascinating Northeast Missouri remains, and how Kahoka would be a great town to capitalize on its historic past. Nearby Palmyra certainly has, with great success. With the demolition of the courthouse, I will assure anyone who asks that Kahoka is now a town that can be skipped.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Antelope House, Saint Louis Zoo

The original Antelope House is still standing at the Saint Louis Zoo, but it's changed appearances over the years.When the Zoo renovated the whole eastern portion of the park, the building became encased in the distinctive concrete "red rocks" that now obscure the building.But it's clear when you're inside you've stepped back in time.

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