Tuesday, January 31, 2012

U.S. Steel Building, Old Empire Brewery

On Sarah, just north of Clayton Avenue and the railroad tracks is this interesting building, decked out with some intriguing ornament.
Currently, a large metal shop sits behind the building, but it is clearly much newer than the tan brick building with wonderful neoclassical details.
The lion heads, most likely in terracotta, give this building its distinctive character. I looked around, and could not figure out what this building was used for, but it may have been the office for the Empire Brewery, which once sat on this site.The tell-tale U.S. Steel logo, which is affixed above the front door and most likely is original, points to the history of the building. I suspect that the famous steel company had a factory of some sort here, and the current metal shop is the descendent of the unique office building shown here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Roundhouse Remnants, Clayton Avenue

Finally, after weeks of waiting for the weather to break, I made it out to the only extant ruins of a locomotive roundhouse left in the City of St. Louis. It is weed choked, and even in the winter much of the form of the of the building is obscured. You can see the roundhouse below, in the Sanborn map from the early 20th Century.While the building is gone, the substructure is well preserved, and the actual turn table the locomotives would be turned on still survives. It seemed to be covered with blankets, but I saw no other evidence of people living on the site.
The large steel apparatus in the middle of the turn table perhaps provided electricity to the turntable, but I'm not sure.
What I found interesting is that I always had this image of the turntable being just that, a giant round disk that rotated all at once. In reality, the turntable, for lack of a better term, actually looks like more of a rotating bridge.
It is very cool to be able to see the round pit in which the turntable would have rotated, with a giant locomotive sitting on top of it.
It's hard to see, especially since dirt has been dumped on to of them, but the original concrete footings, presumably where the locomotives sat in the roundhouse, are still preserved as well. I know some roundhouses featured maintenance pits under the tracks, so the concrete may have been the sidewalks in between the rails. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating and forgotten relic of the past, right under the elevated lanes of Highway 40.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bismarck Street and Bad Planning

I love how Bismarck Street (now long gone due to urban renewal on the south riverfront in the 1960's) starts and stops thirty feet from its two ends. I know growing up, I assumed the City laid out all of the streets in a careful, Euclidian way, but in reality, just like modern suburban subdivisions, most of the streets in the city of St. Louis were laid out by private developers. In this case, it obviously suited the developer to put the orientation of Bismarck in a totally different place than the previous developer to the north. He also felt that Lyons Street should start at an alley as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chicago and St. Louis: Differences in Ecclesiastical Archtitecture

Recently, while in Chicago, Rob Powers and I drove around looking for all of the churches that I've always seen from the interstates and wondered what they were like. One in particular, right down in one of the oldest parts of the city is this church, which I suspect is a Jesuit church since their motto is emblazoned on the front. The aspect of this church that struck me most is that it is in a Baroque Revival Style, which is a revival of the style of architecture I studied in grad school. Typified by often ornate, and extremely dramatic decorations, the Baroque Style was perfected by one of my favorite sculptors and architects, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You can see an example of his architecture and sculpture at my other, largely inactive blog on Roman Patina.
As I was photographing this church, I realized something; Chicago has all sorts of churches inspired by Baroque architecture, but for the life of me, I can't think of a major church anywhere in St. Louis that is.
I know St. Louis has tons of Romanesque and Gothic Revival churches, and I wonder if it reflects the places in Germany, Italy and Ireland that many immigrants hail in Europe.
Conversely, while the Italy and Germany have plenty of Baroque churches, perhaps Chicago's large Polish population influenced the construction of Baroque Revival churches, as the country is well-represented in that style. Or perhaps, it simply came down to the taste of the particular archbishops who ruled over the two cities. Personality of patrons has influenced art history throughout the last several thousands millennia, so that may simple be the case here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Saint Louis Patina Wins Best Architecture Blog Award

I was elated to learn Tuesday night at the Riverfront Times 2012 Best of the Web Awards Ceremony at the Old Rock House that I won the Best Architecture Blog Award. You can read the write-up here, and also you can find me in the print edition available at your local coffee house or market. You can also see me accepting the award here; it's a funny picture because I almost never wear that shirt and it is clearly that I really need a haircut. My photograph in the article is from in front of the Washington Terrace Gates, which I featured earlier this week (It all makes sense now, right?). Jennifer Silverberg, the photographer, did a great job and really captured the essence of my website in the portrait. Please stay tuned; I have all sorts of great posts coming up in the next couple of weeks, focusing on hidden treasures around St. Louis.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcome (Back) to Saint Louis Patina

Maybe this is your first time here, or maybe you're a long time reader. Regardless, I want to welcome you to my site dedicated to the beauty, the patina of St. Louis. What began almost five years ago as a hobby has grown into an integral part of my life, and I want you to understand how lucky St. Louisans are to be blessed with some of the most stunning architecture in America.

I'm coming up on my 1500th post, so perhaps as a good way to start getting acquainted with my site is with these three tags, which break the city down into geographical parts:

North St. Louis

Central St. Louis

South St. Louis

If you have great memories, or even historic photos from the past of St. Louis architecture, I would love to hear from you. I have many contributors who have provided me with a wealth of fascinating stories about our great city.

In closing, I think my words I wrote a week ago, when speaking of the demolition of an historic church in Rock Hill, actually sums up perfectly the purpose behind this website:

I remarked to myself recently that Americans spend billions of dollars each year as tourists traveling to iconic, beautiful cities such as Rome, London or Paris in order to experience what humanity has accomplished in the fine art of building great, memorable and iconic cities. How sad it is that many Americans don't realize or care that we are free to make our own cities as beautiful as the aforementioned cities, but we choose a gas station over an historic structure. Let me ask you, would the city of Rome allow the demolition of an historic church for a gas station? If not, then why do we?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Washington Terrace Gate

I recently had my picture taken in front of the gates of Washington Terrace. The houses are just as architecturally significant and beautiful as any mansion on the more famous Portland or Westmoreland Places. The color of the brick, combined with the rich black stone creates a harmonious composition just south of the intersection of Union and Delmar.
Gates of these type are spread throughout the city, from Compton Heights to the old Vandeventer Place, to Washington Terrace.
Built right around the World's Fair, when the city was just starting to creep out to where the fair was located in western Forest Park, these houses supposedly housed visiting dignitaries to the fair. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but it makes for a good story, perhaps.
The combination of old world elements, like the rampant lion and the stark, "Norman Revival" architecture of the gatehouse itself, makes a stern message: the titans of St. Louis industry and politics live here, and you're not welcome.
Below is an historic photograph, showing the guardhouse before any of the houses have been built. It's so strange to see nothing but wide open spaces in one of the most intact portions of the city.
The two architects for the gate, Harvey Ellis, designed City Hall, Compton Hill Watertower and other notable buildings, and George Mann designed the recently featured St. Vincent's Hospital off of the Rock Road.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Aisle 1 Gallery, Cherokee Street

Aisle 1 Gallery, named in reference to its storefront's former use as a corner store, is one of my favorite art galleries in the city.
Part of the burgeoning art scene on Cherokee Street, galleries like Aisle 1 are possible because the hard work of its owners, Bryan Walsh and Jenn Carter, who live and maintain studios in the back of the gallery.
Filling an empty space with life, they've also spread out onto nearby buildings, such as the recently painted mural by Chicagoan Ruben Aguirre (with permission from the building owner, of course).
Come down and check out their opening this Friday at 7:00 PM.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fountain Park and Lewis Place North of Page

The area between Page Avenue and MLK Drive is a long suffering counterpoint to the better preserved areas to the south. This lone wood frame house is probably one of hte oldest houses on the block, built before the city came out this far.
Here and there, a few houses are left, and they're owned by fiercely proud people, several of who I had the opportunity to talk to while I was in the area touring the tornado damage last year.
Vacant lots, some with freshly planted grass, show that there has been substantial loss to the built environment. At what point does it become so degraded that everyone moves out? I've seen completely abandoned blocks further into the city.
But the good news is that the majestic church down the block serves as a reminder of what had been, and what can be here again. Well maintained and occupied, it's the type of structure that can anchor the revived neighborhood.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Patina on Just One House, Lewis Place Neighborhood

This is just one humble house on just another street in St. Louis, but just looking at the outside raises numerous questions, and wonder at how many stories it could tell. When did the porch get put in? When did the fake stone go up? When were the doors replaced? When was it abandoned? Who first built it?

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Neighborhoods Around Lewis Place

North St. Louis is just one gigantic wasteland, right? Wrong, particularly just north of the Central West End, around the historic Lewis Place, the streets are lined with houses just as stately as those to the south of Delmar.
In fact, the entire western end of the city, stretching to the city limits, was once the wealthiest part of the city. While Lafayette Square was full of boarding houses and factories, its wealthy residents long departed, the areas around the West End teamed with some of the most important leaders in St. Louis industry, including the DeWitts, who lived on West Cabanne Place.
These neighborhoods survived suburban flight, but they're now at a critical stage where many of the residents, having bought the houses in the 1960's, are now passing away or moving out of the neighborhood. As with all neighborhoods, the question remains: who will replace them? Will young, energetic people move in and update the houses for the new millennium, or will suburban slumlords buy them and turn them into decrepit rental properties that breed crime?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tan Brick Up North in the West End

I live on the south side; its north and south streets make it hard to get a sense of place sometimes in relation to downtown, unless you're on Gravois. But up north, the street grid is actually aligned not with the cardinal directions, but rather logically with the shortest, "as the crow flies" route. And because of that, the streets and avenues of the north side often times provide you with fantastic views of downtown.
Likewise, out by Fountain Park, Lewis Place and the West End (not to be confused with the Central West End), the brick starts to change from that ubiquitous red to tan.
Obviously, tastes and styles change, but I almost wonder if brick manufacturers throughout St. Louis felt that need to compete and try to find the next trend in brick. Regardless, it's an interesting change of pace to see an area so full of non-red brick buildings.
Even the red brick has evolved on this magnificent former synagogue; the brick has a different, richer red surface coat compared to the classical red brick deeper in the city.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rock Hill Presbyterian To Be Demolished

I normally don't get too controversial on this website, instead seeking to building consensus and appreciation for the saving of the historic built environment of St. Louis and its surrounding communities. For the planned demolition of Rock Hill Presbyterian, I cannot be diplomatic. Simply put, Rock Hill's cynical ploy to offer to save the structure if private citizens can magically find hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short period is reprehensible. Reading their offer, I realized I had heard the same such hollow olive branch from the owners of an historic mansion recently demolished in Kirkwood: "We're not bad guys, we love old buildings, but it's your fault, you crazy preservationists, because you couldn't come up with the money to move the building before our arbitrarily short deadline ran out."

Let's review some of the facts:

1) Rock Hill is allowing U-Gas to demolish a church built by slaves before the Civil War for a gas station.
2) Rock Hill already has three gas stations, which is already a violation of its own ordinance against having so many gas stations.
3) Rock Hill, infamous as a speed trap, has numerous abandoned store fronts lining Manchester Road.
4) Rock Hill currently has its city hall in a strip mall/run-down building.

I remarked to myself recently that Americans spend billions of dollars each year as tourists in iconic, beautiful cities such as Rome, London or Paris in order to experience what humanity has accomplished in the art of the urban environment. How sad it is that many Americans don't realize or care that we are free to make cities as beautiful as the aforementioned cities, but we choose a gas station over an historic structure. Let me ask you, would Rome allow the demolition of an historic church for a gas station?

Perhaps the church can still be saved, but it will require your help to do it. Start by visiting this site as well as their Facebook page and see what you can do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Luyties Monument, Bellefonatine Cemetery

This is most likely the grave of Dr. Herman Luyties, the pioneer of homeopathic treatments for aches and pains. His company still survives. On the day we visited, the protective covering over the statue had fogged over, leaving the woman's sculpture inside shrouded in a surreal mist. The Grave Hunter has some additional information on the statue here.
Photos by Jeff Phillips

Monday, January 16, 2012

Post-War North St. Louis Construction

There's often a prevailing view in St. Louis that nothing was built in the city after World War II except new skyscrapers downtown. In reality, out in the neighborhoods, corner stores were already being knocked down and replaced with gas stations such as the one below. Sadly, this trend continues, as the historic fabric of corners in St. Louis are degraded by the construction of parking dominated businesses such as Walgreens or Quiktrip. Also, new housing, known in local parlance as HUD housing, sprung up in neighborhoods of older housing stock, as can be seen above. These narrow houses actually fit into the street wall very well, but their poor construction has led many of them to be abandoned already, and demolished in many cases.
Photos by Jeff Phillips

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